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Former Laurel basketball standout thrives as coach

Damian Pitts was looking for a way to help finance his way through graduate school. He ended up finding a new career.

"After graduating from Goucher (in 1998) I was trying to determine what I wanted to do with my life," said Pitts, a former Laurel High basketball standout who also played at Division III Goucher College. "I was interested in history and was considering my options. I sent my resume to 100 schools in the region looking for a graduate assistantship (in basketball) to help pay for my degree in history."

Pitts heard back from two schools: a Division III program in New Jersey and Millersville (Pa.) University, a Division II program near Lancaster that is a member of the competitive Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC).

A former student at Bond Mill and Martin Luther King Middle School, Pitts was hired by then new head coach Fred Thompson at Millersville and was a graduate assistant from 1999 to 2002.

"When I got here I did not have many applications to pull from. His was pretty impressive," Thompson said.

"At that point it was a means to an end," Pitts said. "But I found out that I enjoyed coaching more than I enjoyed history. So I switched my major and got a degree in sports management"

He got his degree from Millersville in 2002 and a decade later is a full-time assistant coach under Thompson at Millersville, which began the season with a 93-92 loss at Ohio Valley on Nov. 9.

And the only history Pitts works with these days is the history of success of Millersville in the PSAC.

In 11 years as an assistant the Marauders have a record of 163-135 and have reached the Division II NCAA tournament three times.

So what took Pitts some time to come around to coaching?

"I worked basketball camps when I was in college, even though I did not get the coaching bug," said Pitts, who parents still live in Laurel. "I thought I was far too introverted to be a very good coach, especially when I was younger. But what I found is I tapped into a passion at the college level. Because I am so passionate about (coaching) it is really is not work for me. At the end of the day I wanted to pursue coaching as a career."

Pitts is actually in his second stint as a coach with Thompson at Millersville.

From 2002-04 he worked as event coordinator for Corrigan Sports Enterprises, a sports-marketing company based in Maryland. He marketed such events as the Charm City Challenge, a high school all-star basketball game, the Baltimore Marathon and the Toyota Pro Beach Volleyball Tour.

During that time he was also an assistant basketball coach at Mount Carmel High in Essex and in his second season helped the team to a record of 17-10 after a two-win season the year before.

Pitts then returned to the Millersville bench in time for the 2004-05 season.

Pitts is the main recruiter for Millersville and estimates that he spends five nights a week at games during the basketball season coaching his team or scouting high school players.

He is also involved in compliance in regards to NCAA regulations and working on tournaments.

Among the players he has coached at Millersville are Charlie Parker, a former PSAC East Player of the Year who has played in Iceland.

Another former MU standout, Makal Stibbins, signed to play in Luxembourg in 2010.

Pitts is the son of Samuel and Joyce Pitts of Laurel and product of the Laurel Boys and Girls Club basketball and football programs.

He lives in York with his wife, Meredith, and son, who was born earlier this year.

His coach at Laurel High, Dwayne Jones, is the now the school's principal.

"That was a good group of kids. Damian was a skinny forward who could do a lot of things," Jones said. "He could put the ball on the floor and he had a nice jumper. But the best thing about him is he is a good person. He was a good student and he comes from a good family."

Despite his success, Pitts is unsure he wants to move up to the Division I ranks.

"I don't know if I want to be a Division I head coach," he said. "The turnover is greater at that level. You have to travel all over the place. I have a young family and the environment at Division II and Division III appeals to me more. The campuses are a lot more intimate. We are not a small school but the community is very closely knit."

"The focus is different. It is always a student-drive culture," he said of Division II. "They want you to win, but they want you to graduate far more and have a good team grade-point average. Millersville is one of the best state schools."

He would be open to being a head coach.

"I would not be against it. It depends on what the situation would be. I have learned quite a bit from Fred," Pitts said.

Who is his best mentor as a coach?

"Fred Thompson is obviously the biggest mentor. I have been around him the longest," Pitts said. "I think I have learned from every coach I have been with, from coach Jones to coach (Leonard) Trevino at Goucher and coach Tom Rose at Mt. Carmel. They all had similarities and differences as far as coaching philosophy. Coach Jones was very intense. He was definitely very intense. At that time he was new to coaching himself. He taught us defensive concepts and the motion offense."

"He does coaching, recruiting and administration. He does a good job with all of them," said Thompson, who feels he would make a quality head coach.? "I think he has a great opportunity. The sky is the limit for him."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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