Former Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach Jeff Ruland was hired to lead UDC’s men’s basketball program on August 18, 2009. In a press conference, President Allen L. Sessoms, Ph.D. praised the work of Athletic Director Patricia Thomas in finalizing a multi-year deal that brings Ruland to UDC for at least five years.
“Coach Ruland is the perfect choice at the perfect time,” said Dr. Sessoms. “As we continue to strengthen and raise the profile of this institution, athletics is a serious component, and adding quality leadership like that of Jeff Ruland creates a strong foundation well into the future.”
Ruland inherited a depleted squad of just nine players, a few of them walk-ons, and had to endure a 1-20 season in his 2009-10 debut season. However, the veteran coach has the program headed in the right direction as he guided the Firebirds to an 11-15 mark in 2010-11 which included a 109-106 victory over the eventual East Region Champion, Bloomfield College on January 22, 2011. In the 2011-2012 season, the Firebirds posted an impressive 22-6 overall and earned a trip to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 25 years.
Ruland is looking forward to taking the UDC men's basketball program to the next level in 2012-2013 in its inaugural season in the East Coast Conference (ECC). The Firebirds will look to play a fast-paced style of basketball featuring a high scoring offense with an emphasis on tough defense and the transition game.
The Firebirds return six key players, including ECC Defensive Player of the Year, Dyrek Jones. The 6-foot-8, 230 lb. forward had 93 blocks last year and ranked 4th in the NCAA for blocked shots per-game (3.44). The Firebirds will, however, have to replace their three top-scorers from last season in departed Division I transfer guards: Brandon Herbert, Nigel Munson, and Dishawn Bradshaw. The team added five new additions to the team, including three Division I transfers, one Division II transfer, and one Junior College All-American.
Ruland came to UDC with more than 30 years worth of professional and collegiate playing and coaching experience. He has played professionally for teams in Washington, Philadelphia and Detroit, and spent nine years as the head coach of his alma mater, Iona College in New Rochelle, New York.
“It has always been a dream of mine to return to Washington, DC,” Ruland said upon being hired in 2009. “UDC presents a perfect opportunity to mesh my coaching philosophy with that of an institution undergoing a rebirth. The Firebird is definitely rising again!”
Jeff Ruland was drafted by the Golden State Warriors as an undergraduate in the second round (25th overall) of the 1980 NBA draft. He opted, however, to play one season of professional basketball in Barcelona, Spain, where he averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds per-game. Ruland spent five pro seasons in Washington, DC and led the then Bullets in rebounding and field goal percentage each of those five years. He was selected to the 1984 and 1985 Eastern Conference All-Star teams and named to the 1982 NBA All-Rookie squad. His best season in Washington, and as a professional, came during the 1983-84 campaign when he averaged 22.2 points and 12.3 rebounds while shooting 57.9% from the floor. Ruland also played professionally with the 76ers and with the Detroit Pistons before leaving the NBA in 1992 following an injury.
Ruland returned to the 76ers the next year as an assistant coach, but would soon leave to join his alma mater, Iona College, as an assistant coach in 1995 and then head coach from 1998-2007. In August of 2008, Ruland again returned to the 76ers as an assistant coach, where he has served a year before coming to UDC.