Looking to promote a “smooth transition” within the program, Riverdale Baptist School Athletic Director Terry Terrill said former assistant Sam Caldwell was selected to coach the nationally ranked Crusaders girls basketball team. Caldwell takes over for highly successful coach Diane Richardson, who left the Upper Marlboro school earlier this month to take an assistant coaching job at George Washington University.
“We wanted to keep a smooth transition in the program,” Terrill said. “The girls are already familiar with him. We didn't really want to open it up and have a drawn out interview process.”
Caldwell, an assistant of Richardson's for the past three seasons, guided Riverdale Baptist to the ESPNHS National High School Invitational title this past season through a 63-59 win against Phillips (Fla.) in the championship game at Georgetown Prep High School.
Richardson, who was named the Women's Basketball Coaches Association District High School Coach of the Year, did not attend the ESPNHS tournament because she was chosen to coach in the WBCA All-America game in Denver during the same weekend.
“I think it's a good fit to continue the tradition and the success the program had under Diane,” Terrill said. “He took the kids to the ESPN [tournament] and won that [and] he ran a lot of practices. Diane gave him the freedom to do that.”
Caldwell brings extensive coaching experience to the position, including four combined Armed Forces championships while coaching both the men's and the women's All-Navy Basketball programs, a combination of active duty members, many of whom have collegiate playing experience.
He also has had assistant coaching stints at Bladensburg, DuVal, Northwestern and Eleanor Roosevelt, where he was on head coach Rod Hairston's staff for four of the Raiders five consecutive state titles (2005-2009). Caldwell played professionally in Greece, Spain and Italy.
“Obviously I'm humbled to death, really, to continue to be a part of the Riverdale Baptist program,” Caldwell said. “Obviously, I have some vested interest and sweat equity in the program. Certainly, I don't take the honor lightly.”
Caldwell takes over a team that is losing seven seniors who will play Division I college basketball next season, but the cupboard is not bare. Rising juniors Auteonne Gilmore and Chloe Jackson and rising sophomore Dejane Boykin are among the leading returnees.
“Losing seven seniors, whether it's high school or college, is a lot,” Caldwell said. “Losing seven Division I players is a lot but we're very excited about the young talent we have. Auteonne Gilmore and Chloe Jackson are top 50 players returning from the national championship team. I'm very, very happy about that.
“We do believe we have some awesome young talent. Those kids all played critical roles on the national championship team.”
Richardson coached at Riverdale Baptist from 2001-06 and then returned for the program's last three seasons and finished with an impressive 234-32 overall record. She coached 12 All-Americans and 42 Division I college athletes. The Crusaders went 37-2 this past season and finished the year ranked No. 3 in the nation by USA Today and No. 5 nationally by ESPN.