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New coach Jim Ferry looks to build on recent success of UMBC men’s basketball: ‘We’re going to be the aggressor’

When athletic director Brian Barrio introduced Jim Ferry as UMBC’s new men’s basketball coach Wednesday, he noted the usual prerequisites every school looks for when making a hire.

There was the need to successfully recruit, to help develop student-athletes both on and off the court and to successfully engage with the school’s larger community.

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“At UMBC, specifically, it was a priority to find somebody who had genuine care for our student-athletes, somebody who’s going to develop great lasting relationships,” Barrio said. “We want coaches — and I tell our coaches this all the time — we’re going to be invited to weddings several years after students graduate from college. We want that type of relationship to develop.”

After a brief national search to find a successor for Ryan Odom, who left earlier this month for the head coaching vacancy at Utah State, the school is confident it has found everything it wants in Ferry.

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In becoming the 10th coach in program history, the 53-year-old Ferry brings 20 years of experience as a head coach at the NCAA Division I, II and III levels, compiling a 325-279 mark. He led LIU Brooklyn — his first Division I stop — to consecutive Northeast Conference titles in 2011 and 2012.

Last season, he served as interim coach at Penn State after Pat Chambers resigned in October and led the Nittany Lions to a 11-14 mark. It was his fourth year in the program, previously serving as the offensive coordinator in the first three.

“I’ve been following the success and the growth of UMBC, as a university, as a basketball program, and when I saw Ryan had left, it was something I was really excited about — the possibility of having an opportunity to get to meet with Brian and everybody here, because I’ve always looked at it as a place that you could have great success at, do it the right way, have great kids,” Ferry said.

“And obviously following Ryan, he did such a fantastic job with this program doing it the right way and recruiting the right kids. I just felt I was a really good fit for it, and for it to transpire over this past week and for me to be sitting here today, it really hasn’t hit me yet, but I’m just really excited, really looking forward to working with these guys, these players. Good kids and a really good basketball team, seem to be unselfish guys. And this is what I want to do, where I want to be.”

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Ferry inherits a UMBC team that went 14-6 last season, including a 10-5 mark in the America East that earned the Retrievers a share of their first regular-season title since 2008.

Consistency was a program trademark in Odom’s five years as the team went 97-60 with four winning seasons.

His tenure was highlighted by a historic campaign in 2017-18. After capturing their first league tournament championship since 2008, the Retrievers became the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA men’s tournament when they stunned Virginia, 74-54, on their way to a program-best 25 wins.

With the notoriety that came with the monumental win, the three-year-old UMBC Event Center and last year’s successful season, UMBC offers Ferry plenty to work with as he looks to build on the program’s recent success.

“There’s been great success here — great things going on here. You got to talk about what Ryan Odom and his staff has done in bringing in these kids, building this program and doing it the right way,” said Ferry, who has yet to begin assembling his staff. “And I just can’t say how honored I am, happy I am, and excited I am to help this program take the next step, because at a place like UMBC, where you can tell the commitment is all around, we can compete for championships every year, and that’s what I’m here to do.”

In his opening remarks, Barrio mentioned Penn State’s two wins against Maryland under Ferry’s watch this past season in addition to the Nittany Lions’ 81 points in a win against defensive-minded Wisconsin. Ferry promises to bring a fast-paced brand of basketball that will be exciting to play and watch at UMBC.

“We’re going to be the aggressor in everything we do — the guys are going to love playing this style of basketball. It’s going to be up-tempo. It’s going to be fast. We’re going to be playing with great pace,” he said. “We’re going to defend with toughness and aggressiveness. This league is a great league — great players, great coaches — you have to defend with great toughness to give yourself a chance to win in this basketball league.”

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