BALTIMORE – Coppin State University announced today it will not renew the contract of head men's basketball coach Ron “Fang” Mitchell.
The all-time winningest coach in Coppin State men’s basketball history with 429 victories and six-time Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Coach of the Year, Mitchell accomplished plenty during his 28 years at the helm of the Eagles. Overall, Mitchell won 656 games during his career, which included eight seasons at Gloucester County College.
He guided the Eagles to a share of nine of 10 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference regular-season titles during the ‘90s, equaling the most won by any NCAA Division I program in the decade, four NCAA Tournament appearances (1990, 1993, 1997, 2008), an upset of South Carolina as a No. 15 seed in the first round of the 1997 NCAA Tournament, two NIT bids, including a first-round win over Saint Joseph’s in 1995, six 20-win seasons, 11 straight winning seasons from 1988 to 2000.
This past season, the Eagles advanced to the semifinals of the MEAC tournament after upsetting No. 2 seed Hampton in the quarterfinals. Coppin State also defeated Oregon State on the road on Nov. 10, 2013. The men’s basketball program, under Mitchell’s direction, was one of three CSU athletic programs that had a grade point average of 3.2 or better during the Fall 2013 semester. The men’s basketball team earned a 3.263 term GPA, which was the second consecutive term that the men’s basketball team has earned above a 3.2 term GPA.
In addition to his own personal success, Seven CSU athletes have been named MEAC Player of the Year seven times under his watch, and 78 players have earned all-conference honors.
Mitchell, who served as a coach for the 1995 USA Basketball National Team trials, helped Coppin State garner a 107-11 mark in MEAC regular-season play during the 1990s.
“We thank Coach Mitchell for the time and service he dedicated to Coppin State,” Director of Athletics Derrick Ramsey said. “The University decided to move in a different direction with our basketball program. We appreciate his service and wish him well in his future endeavors.”
Mitchell came to Coppin State from Gloucester County College in Sewell, N.J., where he had an outstanding career as a player and a coach.
In Mitchell’s first three seasons with the Eagles, the team showed steady improvement with overall records of 8-19, 13-14 and 18-11, respectively.
During those seasons, Mitchell competed with holdovers as he gradually recruited his own players.
The program really took off in 1989-90, Coppin State’s first squad comprised entirely of Mitchell recruits. The Eagles finished 26-7 to register their best mark since moving to Division I and claimed their first-ever MEAC championship.
Along the way, Coppin State upset Creighton, Toledo and Maryland, all on the road. The Eagles won the MEAC tournament crown to earn their first NCAA Tournament berth. Mitchell was named coach of the year by Black College Sports, Inc. (BCSI), and the MEAC, as well as most outstanding coach at the MEAC Tournament. In addition, the team was honored as BCSI’s team of the year.
In 1990-91, for the second straight time, Mitchell was named MEAC Coach of the Year after guiding the Eagles to a first-place conference regular-season finish (14-2 record). Despite a disappointing loss to eventual champion Florida A&M in the MEAC tournament, the Eagles received a bid to the National Invitation Tournament.
In 1993, Mitchell surprised MEAC followers by directing Coppin State to its second league tournament title in four years after being picked seventh in a preseason poll by conference coaches and sports information directors. The feat earned Coppin State its second trip to the NCAA Tournament, as Mitchell earned MEAC Coach of the Year honors.
With no seniors and only four juniors, the Eagles finished with a 16-0 MEAC slate, marking one of just three undefeated conference seasons in league history. Coppin State repeated the deed in 1993-94.
Twelve years ago he guided the Eagles to their third straight 20-win season and a berth in the NIT. Coppin State posted the school’s first-ever postseason tournament victory since moving to NCAA Division I with a 75-68 overtime win over host St. Joseph’s in the first round.
In 1995-96, Mitchell, despite losing all five starters and returning only two players, steered his team to a league-record fourth straight MEAC regular-season crown, tying South Carolina State for the honor.
And in 1997, Mitchell’s Eagles shocked the nation and ruined numerous office pools with their 78-65 victory over South Carolina in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
In addition to his own personal success, Eagle athletes have been named MEAC Player of the Year seven times under his watch, and 76 times his players have earned all-conference honors.
Mitchell’s unorthodox path to a basketball coaching career began at Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, N.J., where he was a three-sport standout.
However, a lack of money for college out of high school sent him into the work force, and he did everything from washing dishes to toiling in an aluminum factory.
He eventually matriculated to Gloucester County College and joined the basketball team.
As a sophomore at Gloucester County College, Mitchell averaged 23 points per game and was named team most valuable player and a regional all-star.
No stranger to hard work, Mitchell juggled a grueling schedule of classes, basketball and a job on the graveyard shift at a local bank as a computer operator while at Gloucester.
After his time at Gloucester, he spent a year at Rutgers-Camden before economics forced him back into the business world, where he turned in stints as the East Coast trainee manager for a shoe company and a printing salesman.
He eventually started his own business in Glassboro, N.J., called Mr. Fang’s Athletic Attire, which began as one store and soon became three.
It was during that time in 1978 that he applied for the head coaching position at his old school, Gloucester County College, whose program was sputtering at the time.
After being named to the post, he turned things around immediately, leading the Roadrunners to a 19-11 mark his first year.
Over the next seven seasons, Gloucester won no fewer than 26 games each year. His teams won 30 or more games four times and participated in the National Junior College Tournament in 1980, 1981, 1985 and 1986.
During his time at Gloucester, he began working at Temple’s basketball camps and seeking out the advice of John Chaney.
The two soon became good friends, and Mitchell’s philosophy mirrors Chaney’s in many ways, especially in his intensity and fondness for good defensive play.
He had an overall record of 227-45 at Gloucester, and his teams won 10 tournaments, five Garden State titles and four regional championships, and he earned numerous coach of the year honors.
While at Gloucester, Mitchell also earned his bachelor’s in business administration from Edison State College in 1984.
Mitchell has since completed his master’s degree in adult and continuing education from Coppin State (‘94).
Coppin State will immediately begin a national search to name Mitchell’s successor.