SAN DIEGO — For Hank Egan, University of San Diego basketball coach, it was great having four senior starters and two more seniors playing key roles off the bench when the 1986-87 college basketball season began last November.
Now that USD's season has ended--its last game was two weeks ago, a 62-61 loss to Auburn in the first round of the NCAA tournament--it's not so great.
Scott Thompson, Nils Madden, Paul Leonard, Mark Manor, Steve Krallman and Eric Musselman all played key roles in the Toreros' most successful season in school history.
Thompson, USD's 7-foot center, is expecting to be drafted in late in the first or early in the second round by the National Basketball Assn. this June. Thompson led USD in scoring and was named the West Coast Athletic Conference's player of the year after leading the Toreros to a 13-1 conference record and the regular-season championship.
Madden, a strong 6-9 forward; Manor, a deadly three-point shooter, and Leonard, a nifty point guard, formed the hub of an experienced team that won a school-record 14 consecutive games over the second half of the season.
"It was the best group of players I've ever been associated with," Egan said.
The Toreros won six of seven road games in WCAC play and ended up leading the nation in field-goal percentage defense.
"This team came closer to reaching its potential than any group I've ever had," Egan said. "The players understood their strengths and weaknesses, and they understood they had to work hard.
"All of the teams I have in the future will now be compared with this team."
Starting with next year's team.
Since USD is losing six players, many are expecting it to fall back in the WCAC pack next season. Of those returning, only Danny Means, a guard who will be a junior next season, and Marty Munn, a reserve forward, played a significant number of minutes for the Toreros this season.
"It was great having a lot of experienced players until the season was over," Egan said. "Now, it's not so great. Hopefully, the younger kids who were a part of the team this year but didn't play much saw what it took and will help establish a tradition of success at this university."
Egan's list of returning players after Means and Munn is neither long nor experienced.
Craig Cottrell, a backup guard, played in just 13 games this season, and Jim Pelton, a reserve forward, played in only 12. Neither averaged more than eight minutes of playing time per game.
Mike Haupt, a backup guard who will be a junior next season, was used sparingly because of various injuries.
"Next year is definitely going to be challenging," Egan said, "because there are so many of the pieces of the puzzle that need to be put back together."
In November, Egan signed two front-line high school players to letters of intent--John Sayers, a 6-7 forward from Bellerman High School in San Jose, and Keith Coleman, a 6-8 forward from Chico High School in Chico.
Egan also said he has received oral commitments from two other players, both from Southern California. Because of NCAA rules, Egan was not able to name the newcomers.
"We have inked two and we have received verbal commitments from two," Egan said. "Now we need to find two others."
Egan has received some criticism for his recruiting, as USD's conference championship team this season was made up mostly of players recruited by former USD Coach Jim Brovelli. Thompson, Madden, Krallman and Musselman were recruited by Brovelli in 1984.
However, Egan, in his three years at USD, has brought in players such as Means, Manor and Pete Murphy, an all-conference guard in 1986.
"We've recruited some good ones," Egan said. "Sure, next year can be described as a rebuilding year, but we're going to have some good recruiting years, especially this year."
Egan conceded that it is unlikely that USD will enjoy the success next season that it had this one, but he's looking forward to the challenge.
"I can see why people would say there's going to be some slippage next season," Egan said. "My job is to make sure that we don't slip too far."