The following is the column for this past weekend's The Washington Post ------------
On one wall of the University of the District of Columbia's gym hang the school's two significant banners - one from the Firebirds' 1982 Division II men's basketball national title, the other from the program's runner-up finish a year later.
The banners serve as a reminder of past glories at UDC, bringing back memories of Earl Jones, Michael Britt and a packed Physical Activities Center. Now, as Firebirds Coach Jeff Ruland gave his team final instructions before their game Thursday night against Livingstone, his voice could be heard clearly in every corner of the near-empty gym.
"You have to get back on defense, work on defense," he said, repeating the mantra of almost anyone who has ever coached basketball on every level. "Have good ball movement. Let's go."
The hands went into the huddle and a few seconds later the ball went up to start the 21st game of Ruland's second season as UDC's coach. This is where his journey has brought him: from his mother's bar on Long Island; through a recruiting frenzy that included Bob Knight, Joe B. Hall and Jim Valvano; to three life-changing years in college at Iona; to eight NBA seasons in Washington and Philadelphia; and finally into coaching.
Ruland spent nine seasons as the head coach at his alma mater and thought he would spend the rest of his career there until he was fired in 2007. Now, after a stint in the NBA D-League and another year in the NBA as an assistant coach, he finds himself riding the buses of Division II, coaching in empty gyms and getting frustrated with the junior college referees who work a lot of UDC's games.
"Okay fellas, we got the three stooges tonight," he said to his players during one timeout. "Let me take care of it."
Click here for the rest of the article: UDC basketball coach Jeff Ruland gets another shot at redemption