Rowan Women’s Basketball Coach Demetrius Poles passes away

Rowan University Athletics is deeply saddened as it mourns the sudden loss of head women’s basketball coach Demetrius Poles, who passed away on Saturday night.

Information on services will be announced on this site and on Rowan Athletics’ and Rowan University’s social media platforms once they are finalized.


“Demetrius was a man of great substance. Goodness, in all ways, defined him. He was always honest, caring and kind,” said director of athletics Dr. John Giannini. “As a coach, he was passionate and highly successful. As a player, he was an extraordinary passer and made the biggest basket in Rowan history in our national championship season. He is beloved by his teammates and friends. More than anything Demetrius loved his family. We will do all we can to support them through this most difficult time.” 

Coach Poles, a Rowan alumnus, guided the women’s basketball program for four seasons, leading the Profs to two NJAC Championships and two berths in the NCAA Tournament. Named Rowan’s head coach in September 2019, he promptly led the Profs to their first conference title since 1998-99 and a national ranking of #18, while being chosen as the 2020 NJAC Coach of the Year.

When the Profs returned to action in 2021 after a season canceled due to the pandemic, Coach Poles was facing his own personal health challenges, but still led his team to the NJAC Semifinals and 17 victories. In 2022-23, he took his team back to the top of the league as the Profs captured the NJAC Championship and made another trip to the NCAA Tournament. For his efforts, he was again honored as the NJAC Coach of the Year.

In three seasons of competition, the coach led the Profs to a 62-22 record, for the second highest winning percentage (73.8) in the program’s history.

Poles, 50, was the starting center and leading rebounder on Rowan’s 1996 team which captured the NCAA Championship, the only title in the history of the men’s basketball program. He had transferred to Rowan after one season at Saint Joseph’s University, where he was named to the 1992 Atlantic 10 Conference All-Rookie Team.

After college, he embarked on a professional playing career overseas that spanned seven years and took him to more than 10 countries.

He transitioned that into a successful coaching career, serving as head coach in Sweden and Italy for 10 seasons, which included him being named the 2012-13 Coach of the Year. Additionally, he worked with players at the highest level, at the Reebok/adidas Eurocamp in Treviso, Italy, coaching close to 90 players who participated in the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympic Games, as well as more than 80 were drafted into the NBA from the Eurocamp.

Coach Poles came back home making his return to Rowan in 2013, joining the Profs’ men’s basketball staff as an assistant coach for three years, and then moving to assist the women’s basketball program in 2016-17 until assuming the role of head coach.

A local legend, having grown up in Glassboro, Demetrius starred at Delsea Regional High School, being named the South Jersey Player of the Year as a senior and helping the school to the NJSIAA State Group 2 Championship. He was inducted into the South Jersey Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017 and in 2020, Delsea Regional bestowed its highest honor upon him when it retired his uniform number (44), making him the first athlete in school history to receive the distinction.

Demetrius was a caring father, husband and son who is survived by his young sons, Jelani and Jayden, his wife Sandra, mother Linda and stepfather Marvin.

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