On a partly cloudy day with a brim of sunshine, the UMBC community was put in a state of disbelief with the shocking news that former women’s basketball head coach, Phil Stern, had resigned. The news broke Friday morning on the Retrievers sports page. The atmosphere on campus had an eerie feeling, with the confusion surrounding Stern’s decision and the thought of what is next for this young Retrievers team. There have been multiple speculations on what has transpired between Stern and the administration but nothing is concrete. One fan found the news “shocking but not surprising.” Stern had been on leave since December 13.
Phil Stern spent the last 17 years of his coaching career here at UMBC. In his time here, he accumulated over 200 victories and four postseason appearances including an NCAA tournament appearance back in 2007. When Stern first arrived at UMBC, he looked to implement his patented Princeton offense. In 2011 Stern was named Coach of the Year where he coached the Retrievers to their first-ever America East regular-season title and a berth in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. In the 2018-2019 season, the Retrievers were off to their best start in school history going 6-0 before dropping their last four prior to his absence.
Stern has coached a number of players, many of whom have gone on and lived successful lives, including active head coach Carlee Dewey. Dewey has been named as the head coach for the remainder of the season as stated by athletic director Tim Hall. Dewey played under Stern during her four years as a player, including the NCAA tournament appearance, before graduating in 2010 and being named as an assistant in 2012. This decision affects not only Stern and his family but the players as well. He recruited seven freshmen who looked poised to have a promising college career under his tutelage. There are even some parents who were completely stumped on this unraveling story.
Parents of freshman-forward Kayla Jackson felt that this was a disservice to some of the players. “I feel for the girls that he recruited, he brought them all here and then gets put on leave,” said Jackson’s mother, Angela Penson. Another Retriever fan said when he woke up and heard the news he could not wrap his mind around the whole thing. “I felt like it was gonna happen because of how long he was gone, he was doing so well here with the team going 6-0 and then he left and it all turned to shit,” he said.
Since Stern’s absence, the team has lost 13 of their last 16 seemingly falling apart at the seams. Whenever news of this stature breaks, teams tend to come together and stand united to show that this distraction will not deter them from handling their business on the court. This is exactly what transpired Saturday afternoon as the Retrievers came out on top of Albany proving that they can win no matter who is calling the plays. With only two games left in the regular season, there are questions as to what will become of the coaching staff and who could be picked as a replacement.
Phil Stern was unavailable for comment.