Aki Thomas enters his third year as head coach of the UMBC men’s basketball program, earning the permanent title on the eve of the 2013 America East Tournament. Thomas served as acting head coach since Oct. 10, 2012 after five previous seasons as a Retrievers’ assistant coach.
With the victory over eventual America East champion Albany on February 12, 2014, UMBC secured its ninth victory, the most for a Retriever side since the 2008-09 team won 15 games. The Retrievers also played a school-record five overtime contests, tying an NCAA Division I mark by playing four consecutively, and could have easily entered America East play at or better with a .500 mark or better.
The Retrievers also did a much better job of protecting its home court in 2013-14, posting an 8-5 record at home. Defensively, UMBC led the America East Conference in steals and fell just 12 steals short of setting a new single-season school record.
In 2012-13, despite losing three post players due to injury, Coach Thomas and his staff led the cohesive Retrievers to a victory over third-seeded Hartford in the quarterfinals of the league championships, and led Vermont for much of the first 32 minutes of play before bowing in the semis. Despite the loss of the primary interior presence of their defense, the Retrievers allowed five less points per game (71.5) than they did in the previous season.
Off the court, Thomas and his staff bolstered the hopes for the future by bringing in a strong, locally-based recruiting class for the 2013-14 campaign. It immediately bore fruit, led by 2013-14 America East Rookie of the Year Rodney Elliott. The Retrievers added four additional, talented Maryland natives for the 2014-15 season.
Thomas, now age 35, was the 11th-youngest NCAA Division I head coach in the nation in 2012-13.
“I want to thank UMBC for allowing me the privilege to continue leading its basketball program,” Thomas said in October of 2012. “I would like to give special thanks to President Hrabowski, Dr. Brown, Dr. Young and I would like to convey my appreciation for all of the support I've received from my colleagues during the year.
“I have a tremendous staff in John Zito, Jay Greene, and Brian Johnson that any coach in the world would love to work with. Our team will continue to improve every day and represent this wonderful institution well.”
Thomas came to UMBC in the summer of 2007 and has been a member of the Retriever coaching staff for six seasons. The New York, N.Y. native was also serving as the staff’s recruiting coordinator.
He had previously worked as an assistant coach at Howard University from 2004-07.
Thomas played professionally in Venezuela before accepting the position at Howard under then-head coach Frankie Allen. Prior to that, Thomas was a standout for the Bison in 2000-01, when he helped lead the team to an 18-13 mark and the finals of the MEAC Tournament. Thomas averaged almost 12 points and eight rebounds per game en route to being named to the All-MEAC second team.
Before Howard, Thomas played for three seasons at the University of Colorado. His tenure with the Buffaloes was highlighted by a selection to the All-Tournament Team of the 1998 Puerto Rico Shootout. He was a member of a pair of CU teams which earned berths to the NIT, and he was selected to the Commissioner’s Big 12 All-Academic Team.
Thomas was a two-time league rebounding champion in the Venezuelan LPB League (2003-04) and earned the same title during a stint in the Colombian Federation Cup League (2004). He played his prep ball at New York city’s Manhattan Center, where he was selected All-City his junior and senior seasons. He was also named Manhattan PSAL Player of the Year and Honorable Mention All-America during his senior campaign.
Thomas received his degree in sociology from Howard in 2002. He married the former Gayna Lacy in 2009 and the couple welcomed a son, Lexington Luther in September of 2011. The Thomases reside in Greenbelt, Md.