New coach, new team, new era!

By The Columbia Chronicle

It’s been 35 years since Loyola danced atop the college basketball scene as the 1963 NCAA National Champions. Thirteen years have passed since The Ramblers were invited to partake in the Madness of March. And after last season’s 15-15 record, the time had come to improve what has become a dismal past for the men’s basketball program. Loyola University’s Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, Chuck Schwarz, began a search for a coach with a proven track record of being a winner.

“I wanted an individual who had a successful career who could teach the game and be a role model for our student-athletes. Mostly I wanted a coach who could take our men’s basketball program to the next level,” said Schwarz at a press conference early this year.

On May 20, 1998, Schwarz and company got their man, naming Larry Farmer the new head coach of the Loyola men’s team.

Larry Farmer brings an abundance of experience to this year’s team. During his playing days under John Wooden at UCLA, Farmer racked up three NCAA National Men’s Basketball Championships and three PAC-8 titles. By helping the Bruins to an 89-1 record during his three seasons as a player, Farmer achieved the best three-year record of any player in the history of the NCAA Division one men’s basketball. Under Jim Harrick as assistant coach, Farmer helped guide Rhode Island to the NCAA Elite Eight in 1997. From 1981 to 1984, he was the head coach of the UCLA men’s basketball team, where he had an overall record of 62 – 23.

The nucleus of last season’s .500 team is still intact as Loyola returns four starting players. MCC Player of the Year candidate Javan Goodman, who scored in double digits 29 of the 30 times he stepped on the court last year, is back to help lead the Ramblers’ arsenal attack. With the coaching ability of Farmer, the play of Goodman, and the ever-growing maturity of the rest of the team, Loyola appears ready to battle for the Midwestern Collegiate Conference title and a chance to dance along the side of the 63 other college basketball teams in March.

Head coach Larry Farmer and yours truly sat down on Media Day in the Joseph Gentile Center and discussed a range of issues about the upcoming season:

You bring a wealth of experience to the Loyola Ramblers basketball program, with your days as a player and coach at UCLA, and coaching at Rhode Island. How will your coaching skills help you make the transition easier?

” In coaching I keep what I call encyclopedias where I’ve got every practice, on a day-by- day basis, added into a whole year in notebooks. For example, preparing for this first week of practice I can go back to practices in the ‘70s, and look at those practices and say, ok, this is a new coach with a new team. How much time initially did they spend on defense. You draw from all those experiences. Last year being at Rhode Island, a new coach with a new team, leaves a role to me now, because here I am again. It’s all fresh in my mind, some of the things that happened at the beginning of the year. I was reminded of how patient you have to be, so I turned around a year later, and it’s too fresh in my mind to think that I am going to get this done right away. I can be patient and they have got to know this right now, because it won’t happen that way.”

Entering this year as the head coach of the Loyola Ramblers, what are some of the goals you have set for yourself in the beginning of your era?

“The goal is to get these players in great shape, play as a team, and get them fundamentally sound. To do those three things, its going to take hard work every day. Drilling and re-drilling of the fundamentals of the game. Everybody working toward that same goal of being the best team we are capable of being.”

What areas of your team needs improvement to reach the MCC title game and an appearance in the tournament of 64?

” The focus has to be on [the] team. We’ve got to be a good team, we’re not as good a player as Javan is. We’ve got to be a better team. I like to relate my football analogies. It’s like having a Terrell Davis but you also have to have a line. You got to have an Elway and you have to have a defense. There’s all these other components. We’re a blue collar team, and I think that if we all work hard as a blue collar team, and this team will work hard on learning this new system. Expecting I am patient when they struggle, and they are patient with me when I struggle. We have the talent to be a very good basketball team. Is that good enough to win the league this year? I sure hope it is. We’re going to find that out. But it’s an awfully tough league, and I never want to put that kind of pressure on the team. They think that I’m going to be disappointed that they don’t.”

How do you want each of your players to remember you as he develops in your system and eventually moves on?

“As a guy that everyday, he came to practice and really tried to out work his players and he was always prepared, and I never came out to practice, and took a day off. Everything that I asked them to do, and give on the court, I did and gave them, sometimes the players did and didn’t think you were fair or maybe they would have like to play a bit more. And that’s probably true in some cases, but as long as they know that you’re honest, and see that you made your results, you made them for the better, for the team and you came out and you tried to do your job. If that’s all they remember you by, then I would have been a success.”