When Coppin State needed someone to take over the women's basketball program after long-time head coach Derek Brown retired, it turned to DeWayne Burroughs, who had just guided the University of the District of Columbia women to a 21-9 record last season.
Even though that was just his first year as the UDC head coach, the Coppin State job proved too enticing to pass up.
"It was a tough choice, but ultimately, it was one Division I job that I couldn't turn down because it was Coppin," Burroughs said. "I was back home. My [athletic director at UDC] was very supportive of everything, and she understood."
Burroughs played baseball at Coppin State and also served as a student manager on the women's basketball team from 1986-1991. He coached at area high schools and colleges starting in 1996-97, and all his work has been with girls' and women's teams. He served as a head coach at Northwestern High School in Baltimore and at St. Paul's School for Girls for one year each before running the Woodlawn High program for six years. After that, Burroughs worked as an assistant coach at Bowie State from 2006-2010 before going to Chesapeake College for one season, also as an assistant.
His assistant career continued for four more years at UDC, before taking over the program last season.
When Burroughs took the job at Coppin, he faced the tough task of replacing Brown, who became head coach during the 1999-2000 season. Brown's Coppin State teams won 20 games five times and made the NCAA tournament in three seasons. The Eagles also earned two trips to the WNIT. Burroughs hopes to have similar success.
The transition back to Coppin State has been made easier because Burroughs is familiar with the school and the many people involved with it.
"I know a lot of the people who were here when I was here," Burroughs said. "It's still that family-type atmosphere, and it helps tremendously. You look forward to coming in every day, and it definitely adds to the fun of it."
The players also noticed Burroughs' connection and commitment to Coppin State.
"He's comfortable here," said senior guard Keena Samuels. "His heart was already in it. He's pretty much already instilled in the program. He already knows the program, and it definitely helps him."
Burroughs is trying to help the young team grow this season. Coppin State had just six players come back from last year's group that went 16-16 and made it to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship game before losing to North Carolina A&T State.
In addition, just two of the returnees even saw much playing time last season. That's one reason the Eagles lost their first seven games this year. Slow starts are not unusual for MEAC schools, which usually play bigger teams on the road until conference play begins -- Coppin State started 2-9 last year.
Burroughs wanted the team to play more consistent basketball during its early struggles, but he liked the way the Eagles worked and played despite the losses.
"I just need us to compete every single time we touch the floor in practice and in games, wherever we are," Burroughs said. "When we touch the court, we're about business. They're really buying into working hard all the time."
Tiara Goode is a graduate student who came over with Burroughs from UDC and said he's pretty much the same coach he was in Washington, asking the team to do whatever is needed to win. The forward, who scored 28 points during a 69-65 loss at Towson Dec. 3, said the team is coming together.
"I think it's a pretty hard task to come into a program that somebody else created and basically try to get everybody on the same page," Goode said. "We're definitely getting way better than when we started playing. It's definitely progressing."
Burroughs said he wants the program to return to the heights it reached for several seasons under Brown. The new coach is working hard at recruiting, looking for guards, shooters and post players, and trying to build a well-rounded team in the coming seasons.
In addition, Burroughs is hopeful Coppin's Physical Education Complex, which opened in spring of 2010, can serve as the kind of strong recruiting tool that can help smaller Division I schools.
"The facility speaks for itself," Burroughs said. "It's just a great atmosphere."
For this season, though, the job is grooming and teaching a younger team, helping the players grow and become competitive. One thing has been certain in these early days, and it's that Burroughs enjoys being back at Coppin State.