The Longwood Lancers only joined the top tier of college basketball in 2007 and head into the NCAA Tournament this week as the 14th seed.
It’s a different kind of T14 for Longwood coach Griff Aldrich, who always dreamed of coaching basketball but took a detour along the way to attend UVA Law and end up in Biglaw.
Aldrich hoped to start his coaching career straight out of college, having accepted a graduate assistant position with Dave Odom at Wake Forest. Unfortunately, Aldrich also hedged his bets with a law school application and Odom withdrew Aldrich’s coaching offer upon learning that the graduate had a chance to go to law school, a reminder that everyone thinks it’s great to be a lawyer, except the lawyers themselves.
After a year of trying to pay off T14 loans with D-III coaching, Aldrich realized it was time to get a real job, joining Vinson & Elkins in Houston. From there, he moved into the oil and gas industry and held a senior position in an investment company. He earned around $800,000 a year.
But basketball kept coming back for him. He created an AAU team to help the children of Houston. And when his best friend from college – Dave Odom’s son Ryan – took over as head coach at UMBC, Aldrich called and asked for help.
He joined UMBC as director of basketball operations with a salary of $32,000/year.
After UMBC entered the national consciousness as the first and so far only 16 seeds to upset a 1 seed,
Aldrich was ready to move into a leadership position. The Longwood school president – who straddled Aldrich at UVA Law – lined up Aldrich with a $150,000 salary and an opportunity to finally be the DI head coach he always wanted to be.
A dominating season in the Deep South ended with a conference tournament win and a tournament bid. Some burst bubbles over the weekend helped the school climb to line 14.
The Lancers will face SEC Tournament champions Tennessee this Thursday at 2:45 a.m. Eastern.
He left a lucrative legal career to coach college basketball. Now he’s in the big dance. [Washington Post]
 In the men’s tournament. It should be noted that in the NCAA Women’s Tournament, 16th seed Harvard defeated first seed Stanford in 1998.
Joe Patrice is an editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email tips, questions or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe is also Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.