Almost 20 years ago, the late Mike McGlinchey, then a Salisbury State assistant football coach, persuaded a young man named Sherman Wood to leave big-city Norfolk and attend the Division III school on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
While he never thought he would be back in Salisbury, Wood, 38, will be trolling the sidelines in Sea Gull Stadium tomorrow. He'll be coaching Salisbury State in its season opener at 1 p.m. against Alfred, 15 years after he graduated from the school.
This time he intends to stick around.
"It's not a steppingstone position," Wood said. "I plan to be here as long as they'll have me. I have 10-12 more years until retirement in the state. My goal is to be here and do everything to put the program where it belongs."
Wood's career move seems unusual at first glance. He was doing fine at the Division II level above Salisbury State, taking a Bowie State program that had finished 1-10 the season before he arrived in 1993 and guiding it to the school's first winning seasons since 1989.
To go from a successful Division II program to a Division III program that went 3-7 in 1998 doesn't fit popular notions of career advancement.
Wood sees it differently. First of all, he would say that the athletic resources at Salisbury and a lot of smaller schools would compare favorably to Bowie State's. Secondly, he felt a pull to a place where he met his wife, Tonya, and where he served as a volunteer and graduate assistant coach under McGlinchey from 1984 to 1985.
"I have a lot of feelings for Salisbury State from when I played and when I was a student coach," said Wood, who was a defensive back for the Sea Gulls from 1980 to 1983. "I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to be involved in any type of change or turnaround at my alma mater."
Wood's opportunity came when the previous coach, Joe Rotellini, was promoted to assistant athletic director earlier this season.
He'd taken the Bulldogs as far as they'd been in 10 seasons, but he felt that it was as far as they could go under his watch.
"I felt that I'd done all I could at Bowie State," Wood said. "I did not know the direction administratively that Bowie wanted to go in terms of football. There were no clear goals constant changes in administration."
Wood had the ideal resume to approach Dr. Michael Vienna, Salisbury State's athletic director. He could have bleated -- in "Hey look at me" style -- about being a former Sea Gulls star who'd been a successful coach at a higher level.
But Wood simply mailed his resume and references in time to beat the mid-March deadline.
"He put it in by the book as we requested. Knowing what we know about him now, it wasn't surprising at all," Vienna said. "That's the way I am," Wood said.
Both Wood and Vienna pepper their speech with praise for Rotellini, whom Wood credits with making his transition much easier. But when the two use the phrase "turnaround," it's hard not to notice that while the 1980s were a boom period for the Sea Gulls -- with three NCAA playoff seasons of 10 wins or more -- this decade has been a bust.
In the 1990s, Salisbury State has seen 25 wins, with the lone bright spot being Rotellini's 7-3 squad in 1995.
"I don't know if that's fair to [Wood's] predecessors," said Vienna, who insists that only the promotion kept Rotellini from coaching this season. "We've been very close. We haven't had the winning seasons, but we've been on the cusp."
Indeed, in five of the seven losses, Salisbury entered the fourth quarter with a chance to win. That optimism flows to the new regime, with 16 returning starters, including tight end Ryan Brooks and defensive end Khalid Attia.
"I truly expect a hard-playing, tough, football team," Wood said. "I think these kids are hungry. They have the talent and desire to win."
UMBC and Towson square off in women's volleyball Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Towson.
The Retrievers (1-3) have owned Towson (1-4) over the last nine seasons. UMBC's coach during that stretch was Catherine Lavery, who went 11-2 against the Tigers. She's now coaching Towson, while former Maryland assistant Felix Hou guides UMBC.
Elsewhere at UMBC, the men's soccer team is buoyant after winning its own tournament for the first time last weekend. Ty Engram was named Player of the Week in the Northeast Conference, scoring five goals in two Retrievers wins. Giuliano Celenza had four assists. The team's 10 goals against The Citadel were a school-best against a Division I opponent.
Luke D'Alessio, successful in six seasons at Catonsville Community College, is taking over the men's basketball program at Bowie State, school president Dr. Wendell Holloway said. D'Alessio, who had a record of 124-52 at Catonsville, takes over for Taft Hickman, who had a 31-101 record in five seasons (including a 6-21 finish last season).
Leslie Kerhin won her first game Wednesday as Towson's women's soccer coach, beating American, 1-0. Melissa Mueller's goal in the 73rd minute gave the Tigers (1-1) the 50th win in the program's history.
The Mount St. Mary's women's soccer team, looking for its first road victim since 1996, found one last Saturday. The Mountaineers (1-2) used goals by freshman Katie Holahan and senior Robin Coveleski to beat High Point, 4-1. The men's soccer team at Johns Hopkins moved up to No. 5 in the latest NSCAA rankings, the team's second highest appraisal in school history. The Blue Jays play host to Goucher tomorrow. Loyola's cross country teams found success last week at the Sea Gull Invitational in Salisbury. Jen Aversa's second-place victory led the women to a win in the meet, while the men finished second.
Pub Date: 9/10/99