Summer 2024

Firm in his faith, Griff Aldrich leads Longwood men's hoops to its first NCAA Tournament

Griff Aldrich may very well not be preparing his Longwood Lancers for the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance if not for one of the greatest upsets in March Madness history.

>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<

Speaking to the media after Longwood’s dominant 79-58 win over Big South power Winthrop in the conference tournament championship game Sunday, Aldrich pointed to his faith and echoed a message that’s been a guiding principle in his atypical path to the small school in Farmville, Virginia.

“Faith is huge to me,” he said. “The results are going to be what they’re going to be. God’s going to control what the outcome will be. We need to just control what we can control and do our part.”

Aldrich was in the midst of an 18-year law career that included becoming a partner at a law firm, founding an oil and gas company, and serving as the chief financial officer at a private investment firm when he got a call in the summer of 2016 from a close friend and former teammate at Division III Hampden-Sydney College (Hampden Sydney, Virginia).

The friend’s name was Ryan Odom, and he’d just been hired as the head coach at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). Seeing the opportunity as an answer to his prayers, Aldrich became UMBC’s director of recruiting and program development.

“The Lord was really working on my heart for well over a year, maybe several years, to prepare me so that I would have the confidence to do that and maybe even clarity enough to know that He was really calling me to move from the private sector and go into college coaching,” Aldrich told Sports Spectrum in 2020.

The 16th-seeded Retrievers’ historic upset of No. 1-seed Virginia in the 2018 tournament put the school on the national radar, and drew the attention of Troy Austin, Longwood’s athletic director at the time. Four days after UMBC lost to Kansas State in the second round, Aldrich was announced as the Lancers’ new head coach.

Aldrich was never far away from basketball as he pursued his various career paths, briefly serving as an assistant coach at his alma mater and starting a Christ-centered AAU program called His Hoops in Houston’s inner-city Third Ward. NBA veteran DeAndre Jordan is among those who came through the program.

“I knew as soon as I stopped coaching — because I loved coaching at a D-III school, my alma mater, instead of practicing law — I knew I didn’t completely want to leave the game,” he said in his interview with Sports Spectrum. “For whatever the reason, I truly believe it was a spiritual calling that the Lord placed in my heart, a desire to coach and work with the urban youth.”

Basketball basics took a back seat to being a Godly influence for the players Aldrich was coaching, many of whom didn’t have a consistent father figure in their life.

Aldrich took a team that went 7-26 the season before he arrived and led it to a 16-18 mark in 2018-19. The Lancers went .500 in conference play the next two years before posting a 26-6 overall record and losing just one conference game this season.

They followed up their Big South regular-season title with the tournament title to book their place in the Big Dance. Longwood will have to wait until Sunday’s selection show to learn who its opponent will be.

Longwood’s Griff Aldrich follows God’s unique path to become Division I basketball coach
Adam Flagler gives ‘all glory to God’ as he leads Baylor on quest to defend national title
Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe preaches in church day after career night on the court
Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe ‘so thankful to God’ that mother will get to see him play
First-year UNC coach Hubert Davis reaches 20 wins with Christ as ‘foundation of who I am’