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New Coach Brings Winning Ways to Baseball at Loyola

February 27, 1986|BRIAN LANDMAN | Times Staff Writer

Lining the walls of baseball Coach Dave Snow's office at Loyola Marymount University are plaques, photographs, a congratulatory letter from President Reagan and newspaper and magazine clippings.

But those mostly commemorate his days as an assistant at Cal State Fullerton and as the head coach at L.A. Valley College.

"Not too many from LMU," Snow said with a smile. "We're going to have to do something about that."

Snow, 35, in his second year as Loyola's head coach, is doing just that.

Loyola, which has not won a league title since 1973, is off to its best start ever at 12-1. The team is ranked 13th in the Division I poll by Collegiate Baseball and owns two wins over Arizona State, a perennial power.

But then winning is nothing new for Snow.

As an assistant at Fullerton (1973-77 and 1982-84), he participated directly or indirectly in two NCAA championships. The Titans won the NCAA title in 1979 and although Snow was gone, many key players were his recruits. In 1984, the Titans won the college world series on the strength of an eight-man pitching staff--all of whom were selected in the major league draft.

Snow was the pitching coach.

He took the head coaching job at L.A. Valley College in 1977, stepping into a program that was 10-21 the previous year. He reversed that record in his first year and his team almost won the conference title, losing in a playoff game.

In his five seasons (1977-82), he compiled a 156-41 record (.792 winning percentage), won four consecutive Metropolitan Conference titles and, in 1982, was named the California State JC Coach of the Year as he led his team to a state championship.

Arriving at Loyola, Snow found himself in a situation similar to that at Valley College.

Snow replaced Marv Wood, fired after coaching the Lions for 15 years, and inherited a team that finished 23-28 overall. The Lions finished seventh in the eight-team Southern California Baseball Assn. with a 10-18 record, 12 games behind Cal State Fullerton.

Loyola improved to 27-28 and 12-12 in the West Coast Athletic Conference, which it reentered last season. But the improvement was not enough for Snow, who thrives on success.

"Being around winning teams like I was, last season was a real tough experience for me to go through," he said. "But it was actually good for my motivation.

"Someone who is as dedicated and driven as I am is going to work that much harder when faced with adversity."

He said the Lion's major problem when he arrived was that the players lacked the confidence of a winning team. He said instead of thinking victory every time they took the field, they merely hoped to win or at least not embarrass themselves.

Snow knew changing that attitude would be his biggest challenge and the key to turning the Loyola baseball program around.

"Winning is a habit," he said. "It's something you strive for all of the time. But you have to work your tail off to be successful. There are no shortcuts.

"And developing that attitude toward winning and the mental toughness to be a winner regardless of the outcome of the game has been the backbone of every program I've been around."

Snow took a page, if not a chapter or two, from his old coach at Cerritos Junior College, Wally Kincaid. Kincaid, whose enlarged picture from a Sports Illustrated "Faces in the Crowd" feature hangs on the wall behind Snow's desk, is the most-winning junior college coach in California history with 674-162 in 22 years of coaching (1957-1980).

"He's like John Wooden to a lot of us," Snow said of Kincaid, whose son Mike is one of Snow's assistants. "My personal belief system as far as playing the game comes from him."

Like his mentor, Snow established standards that defined the role of each coach and each player. He said such a system is conducive to team play which leads, ideally, to team success.

"As a coach, you try to provide the direction and plan toward success," he said. "Then it's the player's opportunity to get the credit for the success by going out and performing as a team and not letting adversity stand in the way.

"We're playing like a group of guys who had sand kicked in their faces long enough."

For example, against cross-town-rival UCLA two weeks ago, Loyola came from behind late in the game for a 7-4 win. Trailing 4-2 going into the bottom of the seventh inning, the Lions scored five times, four coming on Chris Donnels grand slam to right--his second home run of the game.

"There's nothing like experiencing success," Snow said. "That shows there's a substance to success, a plan and goals that go into it. I think it's given us more strength to keep working on the things we've done for two years."

One thing the Lions haven't had to work on too much is hitting. They led the WCAC in that category last year with a .329 team average.

And although the hitting has dropped a little, down to .305, it's still strong, thanks largely to Billy Bean and Donnels.

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