Many observers will point to March 16, 2018, as the date that UMBC Athletics came of age. But there are numerous, more subtle signals that #RetrieverNation is maturing in intercollegiate athletics.
In short order this past spring, UMBC doubled the number of former student-athletes who have risen to the pinnacle of the coaching ranks and become Division I head coaches. Temple University hired Brian Rowland ’03, economics, as its head men’s soccer coach, while America East rival Binghamton University tapped Bethann (Shapiro) Ord ’89, psychology, (pictured above) as its head women’s basketball coach.
The duo joins Michael Casper ’00, psychology, and Jen (Kasper) O’Brien ’05, psychology, who have previously directed their charges against their alma mater. (Ord will when Binghamton plays at UMBC on February 13, 2019.)
Pride and Competitive Spirit
For all of them, coming back to coach against their own team brings a mix of pride and competitive spirit.
Casper, who played for head soccer coach Pete Caringi, Jr., led his St. Francis Pennsylvania side against UMBC in September 2009, dropping a 3-1 decision to the Retrievers. O’Brien, who scored 86 goals as a fouryear starter for UMBC women’s lacrosse, brought a first-year program from Virginia Commonwealth University into UMBC Stadium in February 2016, and the more experienced Retrievers prevailed, 20-5.
Rowland made his head coaching debut against his former mentors in the 2018 season opener for both squads. UMBC scored a late goal to prevail over Temple, 1-0.
“It was nice that [my debut] was here. It was familiar,” said Rowland, who starred as a goalkeeper for UMBC from 1999 to 2002, and was inducted into the UMBC Athletics Hall of Fame in 2014. “[The UMBC staff] are great coaches, great examples. Pete was always a fantastic players’ coach. I’ve always remembered that and try to emulate it as much as possible — the understanding of the player.”
Ord returns to her home state of New York after serving as head coach at Weber State for the past seven years. “I’m excited to be [coming] back and see all the changes on campus, including the new gym,” she said. “It has been a long time and I look forward to seeing a lot of my [former] teammates and people that still work at school.”
O’Brien and Casper both vividly recall how they dealt with their emotions in those games versus UMBC.
“Every time I face UMBC, at home or away, I am filled with an immense amount of pride, appreciation, and love,” O’Brien said. “I am so proud to be a Retriever. I am grateful for the opportunity [head coach] Monica [Yeakel] gave me and I absolutely loved my time at UMBC with teammates that became family.”
Casper said he really wanted to win against UMBC — for a variety of reasons.
“I was excited to bring our team [St. Francis] to campus and compete against my alma mater,” he said. “I really wanted to show Coach Caringi, and Coach Anthony Adams [’97, history], who I have a ton of respect for, that we were a good team, and that I was a good coach.
“I was disappointed we lost, but at the same time, had we won the game, I think it would have been hard to really be excited about the win. I remember leaving [and] thinking, unless we play in the NCAA tournament, or I get a job in the same conference, I never wanted to play [UMBC] again. It is hard to compete against a school, a coaching staff, and a team that you love, that you still feel connected to, and really respect.”
— Steve Levy ’85
Image: Casey Staff, Binghamton University