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Notebook : Saudi Arabia Proves Mecca for Former Loyola Basketball Coach Ed Goorjian

June 25, 1987|Alan Drooz

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is not the Mecca of basketball--Mecca is about 200 miles east--but for former Loyola Marymount University Coach Ed Goorjian it beats unemployment.

Goorjian, one of the most successful coaches in Southern California high school history, didn't have as good luck in five seasons of trying to breathe life into the Loyola program. He was dismissed two years ago, just in time to see prize recruits Keith Smith and Forrest McKenzie drafted highly in the NBA that season, and spent the season as an assistant coach at Cal State Fullerton.

When that position wasn't renewed last year, Goorjian began scanning the want ads in the NCAA news and noticed a curious one: A top Saudi club team was looking for a coach. Goorjian knew the trainer, an American, and decided to apply. "I got it. I figured it's an adventure," Goorjian said last week from his La Crescenta home.

Goorjian's adventure meant coaching an all-Saudi team in the country's top division for six months. "It's not (U. S. college) Division I, but it's pretty good," he said.

Goorjian said the adjustment to an Arab culture "was difficult--the life styles are very different," but the players were willing, the travel was exotic and he was treated well. "It's a good deal," Goorjian said. "The people have been nice to me and (the society) is family-oriented."

Goorjian's team plays 22 to 28 games--about the same as a U. S. college schedule--and his players range in age from 20 to 32.

"They love to play and basketball is picking up there," he said. "We play in great facilities--like Pauley Pavilion." Goorjian explained that each club is supported by the oil-rich government and the better teams have wealthy sponsors as well. Goorjian's team is sponsored by a prince from the royal family.

One of the best aspects for Goorjian was picking his assistant. He chose his son, Kevin. Goorjian also receives a round-the-world plane ticket. He used that last spring to visit another son, Brian, who coaches in Australia.

Goorjian is spending the summer taking it easy and working at a few basketball camps and clinics. He worked at Jerry Tarkanian's camp over the weekend in Las Vegas and will work Magic Johnson's two-week camp this summer.

The Saudi team will open with a European tour, so Goorjian will get in some traveling, then meet the team in Germany and play there before going back to Saudi Arabia in mid-September.

Goorjian, who was discouraged when Loyola fired him, is following the bouncing ball back to a happy basketball career.

"Things worked out for the best," he said. "I feel good about myself. I'm doing great."

Several CIF leagues involving South Bay teams will be all shook up in 1988--particularly in football--thanks to the CIF's latest releaguing plan for 1988-90.

The most radical change will affect El Segundo, which will join the up-to-now entirely parochial Camino Real League but will play football in the Santa Fe League. Mary Star of the Sea will compete in the Camino Real League for girls' sports but will be in the Sante Fe for boys' activities. Bosco Tech of Rosemead will join the Camino Real but will not play football.

St. Bernard will shift back to the Camino Real to join traditional rivals Serra, Verbum Dei, St. Anthony's, Pius X and St. Monica.

With El Segundo leaving the Pioneer League, that collection will again drop to five teams--Redondo, Miraleste, Mira Costa, Culver City and Centennial.

Morningside also leaves the Pioneer League, shifting to an enlarged seven-team Bay League that includes the four Torrance schools, Palos Verdes and Rolling Hills. The Ocean League, which loses Culver City, will become a five-team group, keeping Hawthorne, Inglewood, Leuzinger, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.

The releaguing will not become official until the CIF's council meeting in late September. The releaguing committee representative for the South Bay is Joe Rotcher at South Torrance High.

El Segundo athletic director and baseball Coach John Stevenson said his school's shift is an attempt to make football competitive at a school whose enrollment has dropped from around 1,000 to 620 next season and a projected 540. The school hopes, though, that the Eagles will be placed in a different league for basketball. The Camino Real League is probably the strongest 5-A basketball league in the CIF.

"Our school's always been the smallest in the South Bay, now by a great deal. I think we've held our own, but there was potential for a problem," Stevenson said. "We asked the CIF to take a look. We didn't request anything. It's not our goal to become competitive in football at the cost of something else. We're trying to make a move that's good for the whole program."

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