Former La Salle aide preaching hoops as grass-roots level

Photo: DON BLAKE Ex-La Salle assistant Randy Monroe, now at Brandywine High.
Photo: DON BLAKE Ex-La Salle assistant Randy Monroe, now at Brandywine High.
Posted: February 05, 2014

WILMINGTON, Del. - Randy Monroe was standing at midcourt, surrounded by his basketball players at a recent practice. "If you're not sweating and panting . . . " he began. Finishing the thought, his players chanted, "You're not working hard enough."

This wasn't a college practice. Monroe, a former outstanding Roman Catholic, Philadelphia U. and Cheyney player, is in his first season as head coach at Brandywine High. Before Brandywine, Monroe was the head coach at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County for eight seasons, and an assistant at La Salle University for five (1988-93) under Speedy Morris.

Monroe, 51, faces a huge task at Brandywine; his inexperienced team is 0-13.

In their second game of the season, the Bulldogs failed to score in the first quarter vs. St. Mark's High. Monroe insists this confidence-deflating development didn't make him question his decision to coach at Brandywine.

"This is a growth process," Monroe said. "It's understanding team concepts and playing in an organized fashion. It takes time to break bad habits."

Several Brandywine players are playing organized basketball for the first time.

"They all want to win," Monroe said, "but things have to be in place. You have to focus on getting better as a team and as an individual player. It doesn't happen overnight. You have to be disciplined and execute plays on the offensive and defensive ends, and in transition.

"I tell them not to worry so much about end results. They forget things need to be done in the present time. They have to have short-term memory: If they make a mistake, they can't have the possession over. They have been giving effort."

While his players are frustrated by not winning, "They are trying and want to do well," Monroe said. "They are listening. We tell them we are not giving up on them. They're smart enough to see their coaches are still working.

"They're used to doing things a certain way. When they get in a jam, they resort to old habits. We tell them to stick with what we're trying to tell them and eventually we'll break through. We're getting there."

While Monroe is coaching hoops during practices, he's also stressing life lessons with his players. He frequently mentions discipline, focus and commitment.

"A lot of young people don't feel they'll be successful," Monroe said. "You have to give them a blueprint. You want them to understand they can make a difference if they work.

"We emphasize being good teammates. If they get in trouble in school, they'll hurt their teammates. We want to create good habits in the classroom, the community and on the basketball court. We want them to be proud of their school."

Monroe said a friend alerted him to the Brandywine coaching vacancy.

"It was kind of late," Monroe recalled, "but my friend said, 'Give it a shot.' I enjoy going to Brandywine [from his Philly home] every day."

Joe Rapczynski, a former La Salle player, coached Brandywine to its 1998 Delaware state championship. Since Rapczynski still teaches at Brandywine, Monroe uses him as a consultant.

Brandywine athletic director Rick Shea was an assistant coach on the Bulldogs '98 title team. Shea is more than pleased to have Monroe coaching at the school.

"Randy is a class act and a great coach," Shea said. "We return no starters from last year's team [that went 15-7], so he is laying the groundwork for a fine program for years to come. How many high school programs can say that their head coach has coached in the NCAA Tournament?"

Monroe guided UMBC to the 2007-08 America East Conference title and its first NCAA berth. However, in the following four seasons, the Retrievers were only 28-94. Monroe resigned 2 days before practice began for the 2012-13 season.

Now he's back coaching at the grass-roots level of basketball and enjoying it.

"At the college level, I think I impacted a lot of lives," he said. "It feels good when [ex-players] want you at their weddings, or want you to be a godfather to their children."

Monroe conveys a sense that he also will impact Brandywine players and that the wins will start happening as the players learn teamwork. In the meantime, he has a lot of coaching and teaching to do.

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