A Slow Grind
Fang didn’t arrive in Baltimore empty-handed. He brought William Crandall, a 5-9 sophomore guard nicknamed “The Wizard” with him. Also following Fang down I-95 was Phil Booth (father of the current Villanova star with the same name), a talented scorer from Philly’s Northeast High School, who played for him as a freshman at
Mitchell’s first-year record wasn’t impressive overall, 8-19, but it went 7-6 in the MEAC.
Things got better in Year Two. The Wizard disappeared, but Booth hit the court running, leading the MEAC in scoring and averaging 20 points and 6.8 boards per game. Derrick Orr chipped in 17 a game and was a constant outside threat. The team went 13-14 and inched forward with an 8-7 record in MEAC play, and things were starting to look up.
By the time Coppin showed up for its first MEAC Tournament in Greensboro that spring, it showed it was a serious player. Playing in its first-ever post season game as a member in the NCAA, and first overall in 13 years, Coppin beat A&T 71-58. The win ended A&T’s seven-year stranglehold on the MEAC and its NCAA Tournament bid.
That was a coming out game for young Larry Stewart as he put up 17 points and 17 rebounds in the win. The 6’7 strong man from Philly was an emerging force down low for Coppin, one that would leave his mark on the program. CSU would go on to lose 76-74 to eventual champion FAMU, but the win over A&T signaled a changing of the guard in the MEAC as the 80s turned into the 1990s.
Coppin State may have shocked the MEAC world at the end of the 1989 season, but it started the 1990 season with an even bigger upset. Coppin State pulled off a 70-63 upset of the University of Maryland on Dec 12,
The ACC squad was in shock, exemplified by the comments of Maryland’s Jerrod Mustaf.
“This is one of the lowest feelings, one of the worst losses I’ve ever had. It’s
“We knew who we were, but the public didn’t,” Mitchell said. “I hear jokes every time we come into a place to play. They make fun of our name. They question why we are on the schedule. They don’t know if we’re a junior college or a low Division III school.”
“Our guys have a lot of pride and self-esteem,” Mitchell said. “We don’t have a lot of things that other schools have. Our players know that their hard work will establish the program for the players in the future.”