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Loyola star Keith Smith on departure of coach: 'Every year I've been here something has happened. . . . This crept up on me.' : Lions' Lynam's Last Hurrah Is Over Before His First Cheer

June 20, 1985|ALAN DROOZ | Times Staff Writer

Jimmy, we hardly knew ye.

The Jim Lynam Era at Loyola Marymount University will be little more than a footnote when his record is judged in years hence, but the former Loyola basketball coach, who left Loyola before ever coaching there, is being treated remarkably well by those he left behind.

Maybe it proves you can go home again.

Lynam, the coach at Loyola for about 2 1/2 months, resigned over the weekend when he was offered a job as assistant coach with the Philadelphia 76ers. Lynam cited the chance to return to his hometown and to be reunited with new 76ers Coach Matt Goukas--as well as the chance to get back into the National Basketball Assn. with an outstanding team--as his prime reasons for leaving.

'Not Going to Judge'

New Loyola Athletic Director Brian Quinn, an alumnus who officially returned to the campus last week, said, "I heard from Jim Sunday. He hoped I would understand. He said, 'You know how good you feel about returning home.' His family's back there. That meant a lot to him.

"I'm not going to judge anyone on the decisions they make in life."

Keith Smith, the team's star player, said the team was "very shocked," but Smith said Lynam called him from the East Coast to explain his motives. "It was an opportunity, something he had to do," Smith said. "After I thought about it, I agreed. I couldn't feel bitter at all."

Lynam, who was fired by the Los Angeles Clippers in early March, was named to replace Ed Goorjian at Loyola on April 4. The Rev. James N. Loughran, Loyola president, who hired Lynam after considering applicants from around the nation, said in a prepared statement, "I am extremely disappointed by his decision, but I wish him well."

Some Bad Times

Loughran envisions a competitive program and healthy attendance for Loyola basketball, but the program has gone through a series of hard luck, controversies and bad timing that would rival a soap opera.

Smith put it in perspective: "Every year I've been here something has happened. I was looking over my shoulder and (this) crept up on me."

A brief Loyola basketball chronology:

- 1979: The school decides to upgrade the program. Bill Mulligan is hired as coach from Saddleback College. Within days, Mulligan resigns, citing family problems. Ron Jacobs is hired from El Camino College. Mulligan later takes a job at UC Irvine.

- 1980: Jacobs and assistant Goorjian lead the Lions to a surprise 14-13 season and second place in the West Coast Athletic Conference. Because WCAC champ San Francisco is on probation, Loyola represents the conference in the NCAA Tournament.

A few weeks later the school discovers an impropriety on a player's transcript, reports itself to the conference and fires Jacobs. Jacobs files a suit charging defamation of character. The suit is settled out of court, clearing Jacobs of wrongdoing. Goorjian is hired as head coach. Jacobs becomes coach of the Philippines national team. Two starters loyal to Jacobs leave the team.

- 1981: Star 6-9 transfer Dennis Still, who has nearly completed his redshirt year at Loyola, leaves school to become the star for the Philippines national team.

Jacobs and Goorjian drop each other from their Christmas card lists.

- 1982: Junior college transfer Tim Garrett, 6-8, fails to gain entry and transfers to New Mexico, where he becomes a starter. Center Leonard Agee, 6-11, after a promising season, flunks out.

- 1983: Two-year starter Johnny Brown fails a class and the school refuses to let him take it again. The administration deems him unable to carry the academic load. He transfers to New Mexico and is their star in the 1984-85 season.

- 1984: Preseason All-American senior forward Forrest McKenzie, the defending conference scoring champ, is declared ineligible by the NCAA after a conference opponent reports an inconsistency in his ninth-grade transcript. After a threatened suit, the NCAA allows him to stay on scholarship and says he can play in 1985-86.

- 1985: Goorjian, who has suffered through five straight losing seasons but has built what appears to be a solid nucleus, is fired. Lynam is hired a few weeks later. Then the 76ers job opens. Exit, stage right.

Loughran and Quinn are expected to discuss new candidates when Loughran returns from vacation next week. Smith said, "I don't think it should be dragged out too long. It's like a circus around here."

Quinn, who doesn't even officially begin until July, said, "Several people have said, 'That's Loyola.' It's a heck of a way to start a job. I'm going to keep my sense of humor and my optimism. We will attract a top-quality coach. It is a good job."

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