Coach’s life journey


photo by AACC Athletics Department

Joseph M. Snowden is entering his fourth year as Men’s Basketball head coach.

James Whitley, Reporter

For most of the 38 years Joe Snowden worked as a supervisor in the AACC mail room, he doubled as an assistant basketball coach.

Three years ago, he retired from his mail room career. A few months later, he became the Men’s Basketball head coach.

Athletic Director Duane Herr says hiring Snowden as the head coach was a “no-brainer.”

“He is a fantastic coach,” Herr says. “He knows the game extremely well. He is very good administratively in terms of communicating with us about needs and logistics.”

His journey to the top spot began in 1977.

Snowden was figuring out what he wanted to do with his life after he graduated from Annapolis High School. He took a job as camp counselor at YMCA Camp Letts in the summer of ’78 and met former AACC engineering professor Sandy Lane, who suggested that he go to AACC, where tuition was cheaper than his first-choice school, Bowie State University. Lane got Snowden a work-study job at AACC’s bookstore.

Snowden never left AACC.

Over the years, Snowden has been assistant coach for both Men’s and Women’s Basketball. He was head coach of Women’s Basketball for three years in the late ’90s.

Coaching, Snowden says, came naturally: He played basketball, football and baseball in high school, which eventually led him to start coaching in a recreational league at age 16.

“A friend of mine at the time said, ‘Joe, man, you’re really fun with kids and all; let’s do a little basketball,’” Snowden says. “We had 8-year-old [kids] and I said, ‘Man, I don’t know if I’m dealing with some damn 8 year olds’; I’m 16 years old. I don’t want to deal with 8 year olds running around acting nutty.”

That’s when he realized he has a knack for coaching.

“These little kids ain’t bad,” Snowden says. “They’re actually listening to me and they do this and they do that.”

Christopher Wirth, AACC’s bookstore manager, graduated with Snowden from Annapolis High School and worked with the coach all those years ago.

Wirth says his first impression of Snowden was a good one.

“Very friendly, easy to get close to,” Wirth says. “Very trustworthy. He is one of those guys that can be a confidant. He is a good role model in particular. He really makes the point of giving each person individualized attention.”

Wirth says Snowden has always been “super-engaged” with athletics.

“He is a real go-to person as far as that goes. He’s got a real zest for it.”

Snowden got promoted from the bookstore to supervisor of the mail room in 1984.

Snowden says while he was coaching, he learned a thing or two about it from Bruce Springer, who was the Men’s Basketball coach at AACC in the ’70s.

“My first year here in ’78, I would come up there and cheer him on,” Snowden says. “I would look at him and go, ‘Hmm, that’s a cool way to say that as a coach.’ I would see the opposite coach and I would look over and say, ‘Man, that guy is really doing this, doing that.”

Snowden learned how to recruit athletes as he continued to coach in an Anne Arundel County recreational league until the early 2000s.

“My foresight was not getting the best talent, but getting kids that wanted to play,” Snowden says. “You see the parents bring the kids in, and they’re all trying out for all these teams there. But I would always notice the little kid standing there, bouncing the ball. And I would go over and say, ‘What? Your mom brought you here and you didn’t want to come and play?’ I would grab him on my team and I would grab a kid that is over there, a little shy but he could dribble a little bit. …. You look at a rock and then you see if you can buff it up to be a diamond.”

Snowden says he didn’t start coaching at AACC until ’94 when Tom Smith got the head coaching job for Women’s Basketball.

“Tom Smith and I knew each other from out there in the basketball world,” Snowden says. “He asked, ‘Hey Joe, man, can you help me? I’m going to Anne Arundel to coach the girls’ basketball team.’ …He knew I was a decent coach and I knew he was a decent coach.”

Snowden says he retired from the mail room in November 2014 to help his brother, who had cancer, and to concentrate on being a full-time assistant Men’s Basketball coach the following year.

When Smith stepped down from the Women’s Basketball head coaching position in 2015, Snowden moved into the job.

Herr says he is professional and teaches players how to live a respectful life.

“We had students come into meetings and he is … on top of them in terms of, ‘Yes sir and no sir,’” Herr says. “That is [a] big [deal] outside the realm of basketball.”

Deandre McNeil, who plays center on Men’s Basketball, says Snowden is “a good, kind-hearted man.” “He’s a really good coach” and an “old-school” type of guy, McNeil says.

Former Men’s Basketball forward Marcus Dentley calls Snowden “strict.” “He’s firm and didn’t take stuff from anyone,” Dentley says.

Snowden says AACC has treated him well since 1978.

“Anne Arundel is great school to work for and a great school for students to come to, and I’m not just saying that. … You can see that it’s genuine,” Snowden says.

At the beginning of each semester, students can find Snowden on his old stomping grounds. He works part-time at the bookstore helping students with his old friend, Wirth, who is still the store’s manager.