Richard Williamson, St. John Properties with Ryan Odom, Head Coach, UMBC Men's Basketball.
“The work that you do in the dark will reveal itself in the light,” relayed Ryan Odom, head men’s basketball coach at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) to the commercial real estate brokerage professionals attending an event at 11155 Dolfield Boulevard in Owings Mills. “You just never know when this light will hit. Conversely, the work that you don’t do will also reveal itself.”
Odom’s team, which engineered the biggest upset win in the history of the NCAA basketball tournament when his 16th seed Retrievers beat the #1 seed University of Virginia, traced his personal upbringing and basketball travails to the audience. Odom intertwined powerful messages and lessons learned into this retelling of events. “Everyone faces adversity in life,” Odom said. “The difference is how we each answer the bell and deal with this adversity.”
Kevin Haus, JLL; Gail Chrzan, Blue & Obrecht Realty; Henson Ford, The MacKenzie Companies; Bill Whitty, The MacKenzie Companies.
Odom was raised in a basketball family. He has fond childhood memories of riding his bicycle after school every day to watch the University of Virginia basketball team practice. His father, Dave Odom, a long-time head coach, was working in Charlottesville as an assistant coach at the time. “I had the unique opportunity to watch how high character guys go through their day. It made an enormous impression on me,” Odom initially believed he would enter the financial industry and work on Wall Street but, when it came time to give up basketball after a star-studded career playing Division III athletics, he could not fathom a life without basketball.
After several stops, he worked on the staff of the University of Charlotte basketball team for five years before an illness to the head coach elevated him to interim coach. At the conclusion of his sixth season, the entire coaching staff was terminated. Odom also learned at that time that his son was dealing with a life-altering condition. “Talk about facing adversity,” Odom said. “My life was at a crossroads.”
He quickly was hired by Division II Lenoir-Rhyne University and inherited a team that won seven games in the previous year. A turnaround season of 21 wins followed, culminating with a loss in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division II tournament. After that one year, he accepted the head coaching position at UMBC with a team that was coming off seven straight 20-loss seasons.
After upsetting top-seeded Vermont in the American East Tournament and receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, UMBC and Odom learned they would be playing overall #1 seeded Virginia (the university he grew up rooting for) in Charlotte, North Carolina, at an arena that was “just a bike ride away from where he lived for six years.”
David Paulson, Blue & Obrecht Realty; Terri Harrington, The MacKenzie Companies; Christopher Bennett, The MacKenzie Companies.
“What were the chances of this?” Odom asked his team. “I told them, we got it,” and the team promptly provided Virginia with a quick exit of the tournament with a 74-54 win.
“Things like this just don’t happen,” Odom said. “You don’t luck into it. Our season and this win was the result of a strong work ethic, combined with an undeniable belief in one another. We were willing to be totally unselfish, manage our roles and work hard for every guy on the team. Personally, I came from my darkest, deepest moment to my highest triumph in Charlotte.
“I don’t want to do that (pull an upset) again. Next time, I want to be a significantly higher seed. My core value is passion. It is impossible to succeed at anything without passion.”