New North Carolina A&T head men's basketball coach Cy Alexander made the S.C. State men's basketball program the envy of the MEAC as its head coach in the mid 90's. He then moved on to Tennessee State in 2003, and despite leading the Tigers to the Ohio Valley Conference championship game in 2008, his overall success in Nashville was not as prosperous as his time in Orangeburg, S.C.
Yet, after leaving TSU in 2009, Alexander could have comfortably retired with his five NCAA tournament appearances, his more than 300 career wins and in retrospect; his career would have been placed in a positive light. But Alexander wasn't ready for retirement.
Throughout his brilliant career, Alexander had grown accustomed to winning. And even after 22 seasons, he wanted another opportunity to win again. When the head men's basketball position at North Carolina A&T came open in April after Jerry Eaves' nine-year stint ended, it seemed like the perfect match.
A&T is a program with fans who have grown accustomed to winning after numerous MEAC Championships won in the 70's, 80's and 90's. But A&T has not made a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 17 seasons. The Aggies last appearance in the MEAC championship game came in 1997.
Alexander and the Aggies were once adversaries. They are now linked in an attempt to return to the winner's circle.
"I felt like there were some things in my career I still have not accomplished," said Alexander, who is looking for his first NCAA Tournament win. "I felt this was the perfect program to accomplish those things because they have a fan base that is hungry to win again. They know what winning feels like, so I feel like the support is here to return this program back to its winning tradition."
There were other factors in Alexander's decision to come to Greensboro. Alexander is from Winston-Salem, N.C., and a graduate of Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C. Despite his North Carolina roots, he has not been a resident of the state in 36 years. A return home was appealing along with the fact that his 92-year old mother still lives in Winston-Salem. An opportunity to be closer to her was a huge incentive.
Once in place, he started taking steps to build what he believes is a winning formula. His first day on the job included a history lesson for the Aggie players. He peppered them with the names of legendary players such as James Sparrow, Joe Binion and Al Attles. He then talked about the legendary coaches such as Cal Irvin and Don Corbett. Alexander recalled the many years when he was an assistant at Howard, and had to suffer defeat in the MEAC Tournament Championship game, to a Corbett-coached team.
After helping the players understand the traditions to which they were playing under, he hired a piece of the legacy to his staff in Corbett's son Darren.