College hires new interim men’s basketball coach

Last fall, after over 25 years of roaming the sidelines, Lynn Ramage decided to take a break from coaching basketball. The 53-year-old said he wanted to focus on getting his master’s degree in executive leadership and management through an online program at Liberty University, based out of Lynchburg, Va.

But when he saw a head coaching vacancy for men’s basketball at Emerson last week, he jumped at the opportunity.

“I saw the situation and put in for it,” Ramage said. “I sent my resumé up and offered my services as soon as I could.”

Just two weeks ago, Ramage said he was grilling steaks in the warmth of his Greensboro, N.C. home. Now, while he is admittedly a bit colder, he is excited to be the Lions’ third head coach this season.

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The Lynchburg, Va. native took over for Stan Nance, the associate director of athletics. Nance had coached the previous four games after Hank Smith suddenly departed the head coaching position on Jan. 21.

Smith, a 16-year veteran, guided the team for just over one-half of the season until the college made the decision to no longer have him lead the squad.

Ramage, who will continue to work on his degree, has a career college record of 108-121 with time spent at four different schools, according to NCAA records.

His most successful season came in 1999-00 when he guided Connecticut College to a 19-5 mark and was named the New England Small College Athletic Conference coach of the year.

Ramage’s experience ranges from Division 3 schools like Connecticut College to noted Division 1 programs such as Morgan State (1994-95) and University of North Carolina-Greensboro (2002-04).

Most recently Ramage was the head coach of Halifax County High School in South Boston, Va. There, he guided the Comets to an overall record of 33-30, including two 12-win seasons, according to the Gazette-Virginian, a newspaper in the area.

The coach said the Emerson vacancy was big news.

“People knew about this all the way to California,” Ramage said. “I think this is one of the better jobs in New England. It’s as good as any and better than most. I’ve coached in the NESCAC and this is just as good. I’m just happy to be here.”

Ramage said his plan for Emerson basketball is simple.

“I would like to get these seniors to play as many games as we can,” he said. “That’s what we said in the locker room here just a few minutes ago. We would like for you to go out in the best way possible. The kids have been very receptive to me so far, and I really appreciate that.”

Players seemed pleased with their new coach.

“I like Lynn right now,” said Bilali Mack, a sophomore animation major. “He’s been motivational for us, telling us to keep our heads up and things like that.”Junior forward Carlos Negrete agreed.

“So far, so good,” said Negrete, a broadcast journalism major. “His practices have been pretty mellow, and it’s definitely nice that he’s trying to support us and he’s understanding the situation.”

But while early returns on Ramage’s coaching style were positive, the situation proved difficult for many players.

“It’s pretty hard man,” Mack said. “It’s the third coach we’ve had this season. I don’t even know if this has ever happened to any basketball program before. It’s pretty hard; we’re a strong team, and we’ll play hard. But we don’t really know what happened with our coach, and we try to move on and keep it about basketball. Coach Hank [Smith] taught us how to fight.”

Smith’s departure sparked controversy after the college originally said he had left “to pursue other interests.” But just a few days after the statement was released, William P. Gilligan, the vice president of information technology who oversees athletics for President Jacqueline Liebergott, said the college had a hand in his exit, but gave no reason for the decision.

Smith has not been reached for comment.

Ramage will guide his new team for the first time tonight in an in-conference matchup at Mount Ida College. Negrete said that while his team is looking forward to the challenge, it will take some getting used to.

“It’s pretty tough, I’ve never gone through a coaching change midseason in my entire life playing basketball, so for it to happen a third time, well, it’s kind of strange,” Negrete said. “It’ll take a lot of getting used to. We are going to have to kind of feel our way through.”

Ramage said he’s not going to try to change anything drastically, but rather focus on the system that’s already in place.

“We’ll keep it the way it is,” Ramage said. “Just navigating the ship that’s already in place. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”