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Local coaches call out UMES men's hoops program, endorse Jareem Dowling for head coach - Apr 12, 2019

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The University of Maryland Eastern Shore men's basketball program is looking to find its head coach of the future.

After cutting ties with four-year coach Bobby Collins in March 2018, the Hawks promoted associate coach Cliff Reed to the interim position, announcing a national search would be conducted following the 2018-19 season.

UMES recently finished the year with a 7-25 overall record.

But there are members in the community who are hesitant to believe the university will hire an individual who can return the program to its winning ways.

Before Reed and Collins, recent UMES coaches included Frankie Allen (42-139), Meredith Smith (4-28), Larry Lessett (13-75) and Thomas Trotter (36-78).

Only one coach, Rob Chavez (29-26), has finished with a winning record since 1990.

Longtime Wicomico High School boys basketball coach Butch Waller remembers when the Hawks were the talk of the town, advancing to the National Invitational Tournament in 1974.

'They were national news,' he said. 'We'd sometimes laugh when we saw them interviewed on TV, thinking 'Don't say that!' But they were good, and now, kids around here don't even want to go play there.'

Waller and other high school and AAU coaches throughout the area hope the university brings in a coach who will look at local talent, connect with the community and help the Hawks' program become something the Shore can be proud of.

Throughout his 53 years at Wi-Hi, Waller said just once a UMES recruiter has come to watch his players.

He's not alone.

B.J. Johnson, head coach of the Stephen Decatur boys basketball team, said the Hawks have missed out on several local athletes who have taken their game to the college level.

The face of the future?
Jareem Dowling (198-F-81) is currently an assistant coach at the University of North Texas.

A product of Howard High School in Wilmington, Delaware, Dowling began his college career at Cecil, where he helped the team to a 51-11 overall record. In 2003, he transferred to UMES and was a two-year starter, earning his degree in sociology. He averaged 5.75 points and 3.8 rebounds during his time with the Hawks.

After college, Dowling found his niche in coaching, assisting Bill Lewit - who played basketball at Salisbury University - at Cecil College. In three seasons on the sideline, his coaching and recruiting helped the team to a 97-6 overall record, which included two regional titles and a NJCAA Division II national championship in 2006.

He then coached at Slippery Rock and helped the program to three consecutive winning seasons. After one year at Morehead State, Dowling set up shop at Southern Mississippi, spending three seasons as an assistant and recruiting coordinator.

He helped the Golden Eagles to an appearance in the NIT quarterfinals in 2014, posting a school record of 29 wins.

Dowling also served as the head coach of the Scotland Performance Institute, a prep school, and assistant at Arkansas State before landing the job at North Texas in 2017.

'He's taken good care of people from this area,' Miller said. 'Overall, a really good guy and great coach with a lot of connections. He knows we've had successful guys have successful careers (from around here.)

'If someone is going to represent UMES, why not kids from around here?'

Many of the coaches believe Dowling would represent the change needed at UMES, having the track record as a player, coach and recruiter.

He helped bring James M. Bennett grad Jorden Duffy to North Texas - who averaged 10.3 points a game the past season - and recently extended an offer to Voyles to join the Mean Green.

'All they do is hire recycled MEAC coaches (at UMES),' Brown said. 'Jareem and I have a great relationship. He recruits local kids and had great stats in college. None of these kids here have ever heard from UMES he'd change that.'


While the coaches' primary focus is the Hawks' program, Salisbury University, which is located just over 10 miles from UMES, currently holds just one local athlete on its roster; Decatur grad Gary Briddell. Over the past few years, only a handful of Eastern Shore players have suited up for the maroon and gold.

But Salisbury has produced a winning record, advancing to the NCAA tournament in four of the past five years. Johnson and Waller also said they've seen the Sea Gulls' coaches at multiple high school games throughout the years, looking for local talent.

Given Salisbury is a Division III school, athletic scholarships are not offered and a roster spot isn't guaranteed. The Sea Gulls head coaching position is also open, but the focus remains on UMES.

'SU beat UMES (in an exhibition game on Nov. 1), so they're fine,' Johnson said. ' (Gary Briddell) could play for UMES in a heartbeat.'

At one point, the Hawks were ranked the worst team in Division I college basketball the past season, and although a turnaround won't be completed over night, the right coach will be a step in the right direction in the eyes of Johnson and others.

While no one is asking that the entire roster be filled with local talent, basketball fans throughout the area are hoping for some Shore representation - something that could help increase attendance and community support.

Whether it's Dowling or another coach that can transform the program and have a presence in local high schools, coaches and spectators throughout Delmarva appear to have the same thought:

Something different needs to be done at UMES.

'A good coach changes the game - a great coach changes lives,' Waller said. 'This is a basketball town, and we've got the talent. I just hope they get the right person in there to change some things.'


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