Rob Chavez, who transformed a near-moribund basketball program at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore into a winner in two seasons, accepted a similar challenge yesterday when he signed a four-year contract to coach at the University of Portland.
After inheriting a 3-25 team at UMES, Chavez led the Hawks to a 12-15 record in 1992-93 and a 16-12 mark last season, when UMES finished second to Coppin State in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Hawks lost to eventual champion North Carolina A&T; in the conference semifinals.
He also became a historical footnote as the first white head coach at a predominantly black college.
Before coming to UMES, the Colorado native posted a 136-24 record at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Ore., including a 33-0 mark in the 1990-91 season. He was twice voted Northwest Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.
Chavez faces many of the same problems at Portland he confronted on his arrival at Princess Anne: sagging attendance and community apathy. The Pilots, members of the West Coast Conference, have not had a winning season since finishing 17-10 in 1971-72.
"There is a tremendous excitement going through me right now," Chavez told The Oregonian. "It's an important position that I'm not taking lightly. We have to connect with the institution and community."
Unlike UMES, where he started rebuilding almost from scratch, Chavez retains three of Portland's key starters from last season's 13-17 team. Returning are leading scorer Caanan Chapman (16.4), 6-foot-10 center Curt Ransa (14.0) and guard Ray Ross (12.1).