New Loyola Marymount University basketball Coach Jim Lynam was inactive as the official college signing day arrived Wednesday, but star forward Forrest McKenzie offered some opinions as to what the team needs.
It didn't involve more players--and Loyola has so many returning that only two scholarships are open.
After the press conference announcing Lynam's assignment last week, McKenzie made what may be his longest public statement in four years at Loyola, and certainly his most provocative.
The quiet senior, who red-shirted and sat through a frustrating 11-16 season, said, "A lot of people think we're really gonna be good. . . . I think our team is very immature mentally about what it takes to win--that's something our players aren't really aware of.
"It takes a great deal of maturity to ascend, and once you get there you have to stay on the peak. You cannot go up and down like we did. One thing our team is in dire need of is discipline, mentally and physically."
Quick Action Needed
Lynam will have to have the Lions ready quickly next season; they play UCLA, Fresno State and the University of Detroit in a six-day stretch in December. McKenzie, one of two defending league scoring champions on the Lions, suggested that the coach work on defense.
"I don't know if the fellows are ready for the preseason schedule," McKenzie said. "We've been known for our scoring, but despite our offense, defense will be the key. I came out of a high school (Pasadena) that stressed defense. They made me a big scorer here but I think defense is the strongest part of my game. As a senior I'm gonna try to get the players to play some tough defense."
Meanwhile, Lynam said he would talk to his predecessor, Ed Goorjian, about the recruiting situation and the two open scholarships. The Lions reportedly had a high school star and a junior college player lined up, but Loyola's decision to change coaches and athletic directors so close to the signing date probably changed things.
The school may have a signing to announce by the end of the week, but Lynam indicated at his press conference that Loyola's tough admissions standards will not be drastically changed under the new leadership.
"There's been a longtime problem of the outstanding athlete-borderline student; you have to be somewhat selective," said Lynam, who comes from a parochial-school background, having played and coached at St. Joseph's in Philadelphia. "I would like to think the recruiting would reflect that."
Lynam, who was released as coach of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers last month, should have a strong nucleus to work with at Loyola. His squad will feature the 6-8 McKenzie at forward or a wing position, all-conference guard Keith Smith, the ninth leading scorer in the nation (25.1 average), in the backcourt, with sharpshooter Steve Haney and 6-9 Marquette transfer Vic Lazzaretti in the middle. Forwards Mike Yoest and Mark Armstrong, who started for much of the season as freshmen, should be improved, and Fred Bradford and 6-8 Darrin Levy, who red-shirted with a leg injury, should push them. And 7-foot Lawrence Irwin, who saw limited action under Goorjian, returns for his senior year.
It is Loyola's most attractive roster in a decade. Lynam says that how rapidly the team develops in his new program will be a matter of "how quickly we can assemble the parts . . . if we can put it together in a hurry we could be in there right away. But some luck is always a factor. The past has taught me things have to fall into place for you."
Despite his problems guiding the Clippers, Lynam said he had no doubts about his ability to coach. "If you look at the Clippers, the best player on the team is Derek Smith," Lynam said. "We developed Derek Smith. This is a guy who, coming out of college, they said wouldn't make the pros. Now he's the best player on the Clippers, and we developed Derek, plain and simple.
"As far as understanding (the game), I have no doubts."