UMBC announced Tuesday that Aki Thomas has signed a two-year extension that will keep him as head coach of the men's basketball team through the 2015-16 season.
Thomas, who at 34 is one of the youngest coaches in Division I, expressed his gratitude for the university's faith in him.
"It tells me that they like the direction that we're taking the program in right now," said Thomas, who succeeded Randy Monroe on Oct. 10, 2012 as acting head coach before earning the permanent title on March 4. "They see some really good things happening, which makes me feel good about the job that myself and the staff have been able to do so far. We still have a long way to go, but I also think we're moving things in the right direction. We've got some really good players here, guys who are willing to work hard and are really good students and citizens. It definitely makes me feel good about the things that we have."
After Monday night's 64-59 win against UMES, the Retrievers are off to a 3-5 start. But in a written statement, athletic director Tim Hall said Thomas has been a positive presence in the program.
"I really like what I see from Aki in all areas of our men's basketball program," Hall said. "It is clear he is intelligent, hard-working, focused, a good communicator and an individual with high integrity. The young men within the program are really responding to his guidance and that of his staff."
"This extension will give Aki and me a better opportunity to forge a stronger working relationship," Hall added later. "Additionally, it will allow us to build the necessary infrastructure that is so important to have in order to successfully compete within the mid-major level."
In his first season, Thomas guided UMBC to an 8-23 record. The eight wins were the most accumulated by the school since 2008-09, when that squad went 15-17.
Thomas said the goal is to return the Retrievers to a level of relevancy nationally and within the America East.
"We talk a lot about improving and making progress," he said. "We don't want to take steps backward, especially in the win-loss columns. We want to keep improving. We want to make sure our guys are graduating, our guys are being good student-athletes all around. But we want to win games, too. We want to compete and be competitive. We had eight wins. Now we want to get more. We want to continue to grow each year. That's the goal for our staff, that's the goal for our players, and that's the goal for our administration."
The extension provides stability for Thomas, his staff and his players.
"There's no more pressure than to be acting head coach and not having a contract going into another season," he said. "That could just be me and my inexperience talking, but I think if anything, this relieves some pressure. I think it helps me and my staff to work with more of a clear head and it helps in recruiting a great deal and it helps with the players currently in our program, to give them some feeling of stability."