At 58, Ed Goorjian is coping with unemployment for the first time but is remarkably sanguine toward the administration at Loyola Marymount University, which said last week he would not be rehired for a sixth season as basketball coach.
Goorjian, who had known only success in a long career as coach at Crescenta Valley High and one season at Glendale College, said this week his dismissal was "a shock . . . a little tough at first--it's the first time I've been out of a job since high school."
But he said his five-year, 45-91 record at Loyola eventually overshadowed the problems he had putting together a program to play a Division I schedule. Goorjian's status was the subject of rumors last year, and they increased this year.
"That comes with the job, especially with my record," Goorjian said. "If you look at their record, the longevity of the coach there has not been good." Goorjian went to Loyola as an assistant to Ron Jacobs and replaced him a year later. The Lions have had seven coaches in the post-World War II era.
Stiff Entrance Standards
Goorjian's problems were compounded, however, when the school emphasized basketball and built a new field house--but maintained tough entrance standards that made it difficult for Goorjian to get academically borderline student-athletes, particularly inner-city players.
Loyola players have led the West Coast Athletic Conference in scoring the last three seasons, and Goorjian lost more stars--after getting them into school--than he kept. He had to play this season without star forward Forrest McKenzie, who sat out the season after a controversial grades dispute with the NCAA.
Despite personnel problems, Loyola has a solid contingent returning next season--including potential All-Americans in McKenzie and Keith Smith--and Goorjian had hoped to make some noise in the WCAC next year. "The way we played all year, I was real pleased with the kids. We got a big win in our last game against San Diego. I was real proud of them in the last Pepperdine game. They played hard all year. With McKenzie back I was very optimistic about developing a team next season."
He may have set the table but a new face will be ordering from the menu. Goorjian was given word of his dismissal by the Rev. James N. Loughran, who came from Fordham in New York City to become Loyola president this school term and said he wanted to bring in "my own team in athletics." Loughran also announced the reassignment of Athletic Director Robert Arias as head of athletic programs and fund raising.
'Great Year Considering'
"I was very shocked. I thought we had a great year considering," Goorjian said, referring to the team's 11-16 record with three freshman starters. "I think the next person the president brings in will get a secure job, maybe a three- or four-year contract. I'm very impressed with the new president. I just wish he'd been president when I got the job. He's been very fair with me. It was a difficult decision on his part. He felt he wanted to bring in his own people. I was expecting it but it's still a shock."
Despite the problems, Goorjian said there were positive aspects to his tenure. His son, Greg, led the WCAC in scoring two years ago. McKenzie led the conference a year ago and Smith maintained the pace, averaging 25.1 points to top the league this year.
"I think the program has got some national recognition," Goorjian said. "We had some kids in the top 10 scoring. We played some good schools. I think we're right on the step, like Loyola of Chicago."
Loyola may name a new coach by the end of the week or early next week. Whoever it is will be expected to take the next step and fill the 4,100-seat Gersten Pavilion.
Goorjian still talks about the team that might have been two years ago. Dennis Still, a 6-9 power forward with star potential, and 6-8 Tim Garrett were transfers targeted for the team that would have McKenzie and Johnny Brown, plus Greg Goorjian. Instead, Still and Garrett never played a minute in a Loyola uniform and Brown is now starring for New Mexico.
Could've Been 'Cinderella'
"I don't want it to sound like an excuse or sour grapes but I thought we could've had a Cinderella-type team with Still, Garrett, Goorjian and a young McKenzie and Brown," Goorjian said. "Just once I'd have liked to go with a full deck."
Instead, Goorjian's watchword became "maximum utilization of available resources." Goorjian did a fair job of that but the available resources didn't win a lot of games or fill Gersten Pavilion often.
"I'll take some time and decide what I want to do," Goorjian said. "I've just got to make some adjustments. I have no regrets. I have not lost confidence in my ability to teach and coach.
"I sure hope I can stay in basketball. I still love it."