By Steven J. Gaither
The 41st “law” in Robert Greene’s seminal classic book “48 Laws of Power” has always been one of my favorites: Avoid Stepping into a Great Man’s Shoes.
“What happens first always appears better and more original than what comes after. If you succeed a great man or have a famous parent, you’ll have to accomplish double their achievements to outshine them.”
Almost three years ago, Keinus Boulware found himself stepping into the shoes of Connell Maynor as he took over Winston-Salem State’s program. Maynor had just led WSSU to three-straight NCAA Division II playoff appearances with a 45-6 record and an appearance in the D2 National Championship before taking over the head coaching job at Hampton.
Boulware came into the job as an accomplished defensive coordinator and highly-regarded recruiter, having won at every stop he made prior to becoming head coach for the first time. The first two years were filled with ups-and-downs, but after a strong finish to the 2016 season, Boulware has left his mark on a program accustomed to success for much of the past four decades.
After finishing the 2016 season 9-3 with a second-consecutive CIAA Championship, the 12th in school history, WSSU appears to be ready to lock Boulware in long term. WSSU AD Tonia Walker told The Winston-Salem Journal that she and Boulware will have discussions about extending his contract, which is set to expire after the 2017 season.
“Coach Boulware has done a phenomenal job,” Walker said. “He continues to grow the program and I’m very pleased with what he’s doing. We’ll have conversations about the future and where we go from here.”
Boulware has reconstructed WSSU in his image. Whereas the Maynor era was built largely on players left over from WSSU’s mid-2000s attempt to join the FCS and transfers from FCS and FBS schools, Boulware’s teams have added more high-school recruits, which take longer to develop but also give the players more time in the syste.
For instance, the Rams starting quarterback (Rod Tinsley), leading rushers (Kerrion Moore and Te’Vaughn Hurse), top receivers (Canard Brown), and sack leader (Jarrell Bright) are all sophomores and juniors and should be back next season.
Boulware’s cool, laid-back demeanor is also a noticeable contrast to Maynor’s animated, rah-rah style that many players, as well as fans and alumni, became rather fond of.
The former North Carolina player has never seems to get too rattled or too excited, and his team mirrors that. Sometimes it borders on nonchalance, and the team’s play seems to reflect that, allowing teams it should blow out to stick around. Other times, like the past two CIAA Championship Games against Bowie State, it appears to have kept them grounded and business-like when the games really matter.
Stylistic differences aside, Boulware is 24-10 in three season with three Southern Division titles and back-to-back CIAA Championships under his belt.
Considering WSSU’s coaching history, WSSU should try to lock Boulware up long-term and hope that he sticks around for a while. Three of the last four coaches in WSSU history were hired to coach programs in the MEAC (Bill Hayes, Maynor) and SWAC (Pete Richardson) while a fourth, Kermit Blount, was hired by Delaware State after being let go by WSSU in 2009.
For now, though, Boulware appears to be happy at WSSU, and WSSU appears to be happy with him.
“Regardless of the length of my contract I’m not going to change,” Boulware said. “Even if it was a one-year-at-a-time deal, I’m going to work to win games.”