What VCU's new head basketball coach's first job will be for the Rams: 'I view it as a reponsibility'

What VCU's new head basketball coach's first job will be for the Rams: 'I view it as a reponsibility'
Posted at 6:18 PM, Mar 31, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- Ryan Odom’s last trip to the Siegel Center was much less joyous.

Odom came as an assistant coach at American University all the way back in 2001, a Rams 71-61 victory.

“It’s going to be nice to win in this building for once, isn’t it?” joked VCU Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin.

Odom has won and won plenty wherever he’s gone. As a head coach, he has led three different programs (Utah State, UMBC, Lenoir-Rhyne {Div II}) to the NCAA tournament.

At UMBC, he famously guided the Retrievers to the first-ever upset of a number one seed (Virginia) by a 16 seed. Any future NCAA wins by VCU won’t be quite as dramatic but will be just as welcome.

 “He knows how to take a program that’s had some success and take that success to an even high level,” McLaughlin said.

“I don’t view it as an opportunity, I view it as a responsibility,” Odom explained. “When you think about all the former coaches who have walked the sidelines and all the players that have played here, our staff feels a major responsibility to continue it and elevate it.”

Odom inherits a program that won the A-10 title and made its third NCAA appearance in the last six years. But he currently has a team with just five players on the roster after seven have entered this year’s NCAA Transfer Portal.

Replenishing the ranks will be job one and that may include welcoming some of the players who are looking elsewhere.

“We can’t give up on the guys who have put their names in the portal,” Odom said.

Players have until May 11 to withdraw their names from transfer consideration.

“These transitions are hard. Coach Rhoades did such a good job here. The portal is an important part of our game but you don’t want to forget the high school and international players either. You want to make sure you’re putting the puzzle together. My most important job right now is to gain the trust of the guys that we have right here.”

“Ryan has been in this situation before” McLaughlin added. “At Utah State most recently, guys wanted to transfer when he came in and they ended up staying. The biggest thing is for him to come in and re-recruit the team that we have.”

Odom has spent the majority of his playing and coaching career in the Mid-Atlantic. He grew up in Charlottesville when his father, Dave was an assistant at UVA under Terry Holland. He played for Tony Shaver at Hampden-Sydney and other stops included American, Charlotte and Virginia Tech.

“My career has surrounded Richmond,” Odom said. “It’s awesome to be right in the middle. It’s great to reconnect with folks here in the area and a really special time for us.”

The last five VCU head coaches have all left for Power 5 programs that have successful football programs that bring in a tremendous amount of money to the athletic department. VCU does not have that, and while their NIL collective is up and running, it may take some time before it starts to truly embolden the Ram program keeping players and coaches from seeking other opportunities.

McLaughlin and his staff know the reality of the current college game and VCU’s role in it and are working to help ensure that Odom can be successful and that they aren’t in this same position five years from now with another new head coach.

“The only thing we can do is give (Odom) the platform to win,” McLaughlin said. “Continue to add to our program to make sure he has every tool that he needs. I like to think that if we can continue to do that, he will do a good job with it and want to stay. The bigger focus right now is to make sure he has everything he needs come November.”

Former head coach Mike Rhoades is contracted, as other previous coaches have been, to bring his new team back to the Siegel Center to face VCU within three years of his departure.

VCU and Penn State are already scheduled to play in the same event in Orlando later this year, so PSU’s trip to Richmond likely wouldn’t come until the 2024-25 season. The Rams do have six open spots on their schedule for this coming season as of today.