The UMBC Retrievers Just Pulled Off The Greatest Upset In NCAA Tournament History — Here’s Who Leads Them

America, meet Ryan Odom and Jairus Lyles.

Jairus Lyles needed to be a graduate student to play another season for the UMBC. He leads the Retrievers in scoring. UMBC is the first 16 seed to win an NCAA Tournament game.
Chuck Burton / AP Images

America, meet Ryan Odom and Jairus Lyles.

As the first 16 seed to win an NCAA Tournament game, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Retrievers pulled off the largest upset in the history of the men’s tournament Friday, doing so even in a casual romp of top-ranked Virginia, 74-54.

But who steers this ship?

Second-year coach Ryan Odom last year earned the Joe B. Hall award, given each year to the best first-year coach in Division I, according to UMBC athletics.

Jairus Lyles leads the team in scoring, at 20.4 per game, and is second in assists and rebounds, according to ESPN. He’s the game guy who dropped 28 on the Cavaliers, on 9-of-11 shooting.

Capsules on each are below.

Ryan Odom

Two years ago, the Retrievers posted an abysmal 7-25 record.

Then Odom took over.

Last season, UMBC won 21 games and enjoyed its first winning season in nine years, and also played in the NCAA Tournament. The Retrievers completed the season as the third-most-improved team in the country — its +13 increase trailed only UCLA and Minnesota, according to UMBC athletics.

UMBC had never a won a postseason game prior to last year. But Odom quickly ended the futility by winning three games in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. It meant that the Retrievers became the first America East team to win three postseason tournament games.

UMBC also shattered single-season records for points and 3-point field goals made, UMBC athletics reported.

UMBC Athletics Director Tim Hall was complimentary of Odom after he won the first-year-coach award.

“Ryan is an excellent coach, but a better person,” Hall said. “He has laid the foundation this year for sustained success. This award is confirmation that he is the right leader for Retriever men’s basketball.”

CollegeInsider.com’s Angela Lento also had kind words.

“Ryan Odom brought a new attitude and a new style to UMBC,” Lento remarked. “He changed the culture and won more games this season than the program had won in the previous three seasons combined.”

Odom was the head men’s basketball coach for the 2015-16 season at Lenoir-Rhyne (North Carolina) University. The Bears went to the NCAA Division II Regional Finals for the first time in school history and won 20-plus games in a season for the first time in eight years.

Also, Lenoir-Rhyne led the nation in 3-point field goals made per game (12.4) and ended the year ninth in the country in scoring, at 90.1 points per game, according to UMBC athletics.

Before coaching Lenior-Rhyne, Odom coached at UNC Charlotte from 2010 to 2015. During that time, the 49ers earned a bid to the NIT, in 2013.

Odom was then named interim head coach during January, 2015, and went 8-11, coaching Torin Dorn to Conference USA freshman-of-the-year accolades and Pierria Henry to third-team all-conference honors, UMBC athletics reported.

When hiring Odom, Hall said that “Ryan is the right fit due to his training and temperament.”

“He has enjoyed success in all facets of his career thus far. Above all, Ryan is a teacher who has a strong commitment to academic success and the welfare of his athletes,” Hall remarked. “I am confident that Ryan will move us towards a more comprehensive level of success.”

Before his time in Charlotte, Odom was on Virginia Tech’s coaching staff for seven years, and was part of a team that went to the NCAA Tournament in 2007 and defeated Illinois in the first round.

Odom also was an assistant coach at American (2000-03), UNC Asheville (1999-00), and Furman (1997-99) and was an administrative assistant briefly at South Florida (1996-97), according to UMBC athletics.

Ryan Odom made the UMBC Retrievers the first 16 seed to win an NCAA Tournament game. They won just seven games the season before he became head coach.
  Gerry Broome / AP Images

Odom earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Hampden-Sydney in 1996 and was a four-year starting point guard. In his senior season, he was a team captain and guided Hampden-Sydney to an 80-30 record during his playing career. That included two trips to the NCAA Division III Tournament.

Odom also completed his career as the program’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made and finished fourth in assists, reported UMBC athletics.

Ryan is the son of Dave Odom, who retired in 2008 after being the head coach at South Carolina. Dave Odom was recognized as SEC Coach of the Year in 2004, and at Wake Forest, he was ACC Coach of the Year in 1991, 1994, and 1995.

Odom has a wife, Lucia, and sons, Connor and Owen, according to UMBC athletics.

Jairus Lyles

Jairus Lyles is a graduate student, getting a master’s in education. That enabled him to compete athletically for his fourth year. He is UMBC’s career leader in scoring average, at 20.5 points per game — and his average actually dropped from 23 to 18.9 points per game from his second to third years.

Lyles was also just one free throw short of being a UMBC leader in another category: single-season free throws made (139), UMBC athletics reported.

Lyles’ honors are also impressive.

Last season, he garnered America East second-team recognition and was the Retrievers’ co-Most Valuable Athlete.

In 2015-16, He earned America East second-team recognization and was the AE and College Sports Madness Player of the Week on Feb. 7 and an AE winter-spring honor roll member.

Lyles, whose parents graduated from Virginia, earned bachelor’s degrees in psychology and sociology last year, according to UMBC athletics.