Monté Ross begins his ninth year as the head coach of the University of Delaware men’s basketball program for the 2014-15 season.
Ross, who pronounces his first name “mon-tay”, is the 23rd head coach in University of Delaware men’s basketball history and currently ranks second in school history with 115 career victories. This is his first head coaching position after an outstanding career as a Division I assistant coach for 13 seasons.
After two successful years in 2011-12 and 2012-13, Ross led the Blue Hens to one of the best seasons in school history in 2013-14, when he was named the Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year, NSSA Big House Gaines Division I Coach of the Year, and NABC UPS District 10 Coach of the Year.
Delaware finished the season 25-10, tied for the second most wins in a season in school history, and won its first 11 regular season conference games en route to the program’s first CAA regular season title. The Blue Hens secured their eighth regular season league title in school history, while UD’s 14 conference wins tied for the second most in a single season.
UD won 13 consecutive games from Jan. 1 through Feb. 12, tied for the second longest streak in school history, while the Blue Hens’ 11 road victories on the year also ranked second in program history.
Delaware then won three straight contests in the CAA Tournament in Baltimore, including a dramatic 75-74 comeback win over William & Mary in the final, to claim the fifth conference tournament title in school history.
The Blue Hens earned the No. 13 seed in the East Regional, battling fourth-seeded and 11th ranked Michigan State before falling to the Spartans, 93-78, in an NCAA Tournament second round game in Spokane, Wash.
Ross was instrumental in the development of guard Devon Saddler, who set a school record and currently ranks sixth in CAA history with 2,222 career points. Saddler earned All-CAA honors during all four years of his career, and was named to the 2014 Lou Henson Mid-Major All-America Team.
Saddler was joined on the first team All-CAA and All-District 10 teams by fellow senior Davon Usher, who set a UD single season record by scoring 679 points during the 2013-14 season.
The Blue Hens’ resurgence began in 2011-12 when Delaware posted a record of 18-14, finished fifth in the CAA with a record of 12-6, and qualified for post-season play. Ross led the Hens to the post-season for the first time since 2001 with a first round meeting with two-time defending NCAA runner-up Butler in the College Basketball Insider (CBI) Tournament.
The individual awards were plentiful for the Blue Hens as Saddler, the league’s second leading scorer at 18.8 points per game, and Jamelle Hagins each earned second team All-CAA and second team NABC All-District laurels while guard Jarvis Threatt earned a spot on the CAA All-Rookie team.
Hagins, who set the school record for career blocked shots, was named to the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Defensive All-American team while Threatt earned a spot on the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Freshman All-American squad.
Ross followed up that successful campaign with an even better showing in 2012-13 as the Blue Hens finished 19-14 overall, placed second in the CAA with a 13-5 league mark, and advanced the CAA Tournament Semifinals for the first time in 10 years.
Included among those victories was a win at Virginia, the program’s first over an Atlantic Coast Conference school in 50 years, as Delaware advanced to the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden.
Saddler led the CAA with 19.9 points per game, while earning first team All-Conference laurels in addition to NABC and USBWA All-District honors. Hagins, who became the school’s career rebounding leader, was tabbed the CAA Defensive Player of the Year while also earning second team All-CAA and NABC All-District accolades.
Hagins was selected to participate in the prestigious Portsmouth Invitational following his outstanding career.
Taking over a program that had lost 20 games each of the previous two seasons, Ross had his struggles in his first season at the helm of the Blue Hens in 2006-07 as a young and depleted squad posted a record of 5-26 and went 3-13 in Colonial Athletic Association play to finish in 12th place.
But Ross guided an impressive turnaround in Year Two and made a strong case for CAA Coach of the Year honors. Still guiding a young squad, the Blue Hens were the second most improved squad in the league, posting a mark of 14-17 overall and placing seventh in the CAA standings with a record of 9-9.
The Hens improved nine games from the previous season, tripling their league win total and posting just as many overall wins as the previous two years combined. Ross also led his team to a first round CAA Tournament victory as the Blue Hens knocked off long-time rival Drexel 60-51. Leading the squad was third team All-CAA forwards Herb Courtney and Marc Egerson, CAA All-Rookie pick Alphonso Dawson, and one of the league’s top point guards in Brian Johnson.
Delaware won its first five league games during the season and among its CAA wins were a home win over league champion and NCAA Tournament participant George Mason, a home win over regular season runner-up UNCW, and an early season road win over tournament runner-up William & Mary.
Delaware went 13-19 overall and 6-12 during the 2008-09 season, but the year included impressive home victories over VCU and George Mason. The Blue Hens also posted an overtime win over Drexel, while Egerson was named first team all-conference and all-district. The following season, the Blue Hens posted a record of 7-24, including wins over America East champion Vermont and Patriot League runner-up Lafayette.
Delaware posted a seven-win improvement during last year, going 14-17 overall and placing seventh in the CAA with an 8-10 league mark. The Blue Hens won five straight games early in the campaign, including an impressive home victory over eventual league champion Old Dominion. Delaware advanced to the CAA Tournament Quarterfinals following a victory over Northeastern in the first round, while freshman Devon Saddler was named the league’s Rookie of the Year.
Ross, 44, served as an assistant coach under Phil Martelli at Saint Joseph’s University for 10 seasons before taking over at Delaware, helping to lead the Hawks to a record of 262-141, six NCAA Tournament appearances, and three National Invitation Tournament appearances. The 2003-04 team went 30-2 and advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight.
“This means a lot to me and my family,” said Ross, who spoke to a full room that included family members, friends, Saint Joseph’s University staff and supporters, and media members when he was hired. “This is such a great opportunity and I’m going to cherish it. I can promise that I will work hard and make all of you proud. I’ve been preparing for this opportunity for a very long time. Working with someone like Phil Martelli has prepared me well for this. I want to make sure that our players’ experience here is memorable and that they get what they signed on for. We want to create a love affair with the community and the campus and have a positive impact in everything we do. We will play hard every night and bring a winning attitude and create a winning culture.”
“We are excited to have Monté join the University of Delaware men’s basketball program,” said then UD Director of Athletics Edgar N. Johnson on his hiring. “During the interview process, we learned that Monté’s contacts and success in recruiting young men from the Mid-Atlantic Region are truly superior. He knows the region and its players and coaches, our University, and the Colonial Athletic Association. Most important of all, Monté is a talented, personable, hard-working young man who has great rapport with his players.”
A 1992 sport management graduate of NCAA Division II Winston-Salem State where he played for legendary head coach and Basketball Hall of Fame member Clarence “Big House” Gaines (828-447 record in 47 seasons from 1946-1993), Ross has been surrounded by championship basketball throughout his coaching career.
During his 13 seasons as an NCAA Division I assistant, Ross helped lead teams to nine winning seasons, seven campaigns with 20 or more victories, and a winning percentage of .650. His teams advanced to the NCAA Tournament six times and to the NIT Tournament three times while capturing five conference championships.
After beginning his career as an assistant at Lehigh in 1993-94, he spent two seasons as an assistant at Delaware’s top rival Drexel, leading the Dragons to consecutive North Atlantic Conference titles and NCAA Tournament berths in 1995 and 1996 under head coach Bill Herrion. The 1995-96 squad, led by current NBA veteran Malik Rose, posted a record of 27-4 and upset Memphis in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
Ross joined the Saint Joseph’s staff in 1996-97 during Martelli’s second season as head coach. The Hawks rose to national prominence under Martelli, participating in post-season action seven times, including each of the Ross’ final six seasons on Hawk Hill. During Ross’ tenure, the Hawks won four Atlantic 10 regular season titles, one conference tournament title, posted five seasons with 20 or more wins, and averaged 23 wins over his final six seasons.
The Hawks advanced to the NCAA Tournament four times during his tenure, including a memorable 2003-04 season when Saint Joseph’s posted a 30-2 record and advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight. The Hawks were a national story, going through the regular season undefeated and earning a No. 1 national ranking late in the season.
Ross also helped Saint Joseph’s advance to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1997, to the NCAA second round in 2001, and to the NCAA first round in 2003. In 2005-06 Saint Joseph’s went 19-14, advanced to the Atlantic 10 Tournament championship game, and advanced to the second round of the National Invitation Tournament. Saint Joseph’s also made a run to the NIT title in 2004-05, going 24-12 and falling in the championship game. The Hawks won the Atlantic 10 title and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 during Ross’ first season on Hawk Hill in 1996-97.
Ross, who served as the Hawks’ recruiting coordinator and worked with the team’s point guards, was instrumental in bringing three current NBA players to Saint Joseph’s, including two first round draft picks in 2004 consensus National Player of the Year Jameer Nelson and Delonte West.
Ross’ tenure at Saint Joseph’s was the third longest in school history for an assistant coach and he was honored in 2005 with the William J. Bennett Award, recognizing dedication and loyalty to the Saint Joseph’s men’s basketball program. He shared the award with fellow Saint Joseph’s assistant Mark Bass.
In addition to his duties as an assistant at Saint Joseph’s, Ross was active with the prestigious Sonny Hill League, serving as a head coach in the summer college league and as an assistant in the high school league.
In September, 2006, Ross visited Dakar, Senegal to conduct youth basketball clinics and a coaching seminar as part of a United States Department of State-funded International Basketball Initiative. They worked in conjunction with Basketball Without Borders Africa, a community relations outreach program of the NBA and also with the Senegalese Basketball Federation and the nonprofit organization Sports for Education and Economic Development in Senegal.
Ross and his wife, Michelle, reside in Media, Pa. with their son Justin, 15, and daughter Lauren, 13.