Mike Normand, Loyola Marymount's volleyball coach, is always blunt. He calls himself a straight-ahead guy who doesn't like the spotlight and hates the publicity that often comes with success in coaching.
During an interview in his cubicle office at Loyola, he tried desperately to focus on his team rather than himself. He leaned in a chair, clad in a white tank top that revealed well-defined biceps and a pair of blue shorts that exposed muscular legs, and said: "I'd rather you write something on my players and not me."
Through the years, however, Normand's successful athletic and coaching career has made it impossible for him to avoid the limelight. As a coach, the former UCLA all-American outside hitter has triumphed at practically every level: junior college, four-year university and age-group clubs.
Even now, in his second year at the helm of a small-time program in a big-time league, Normand can't avoid recognition. Last year he led the Loyola men to their best record ever (4-16) in the tough Western Intercollegiate Volleyball Assn., and this season he topped that with the best mark in school history (9-10) and a No. 8 national ranking.
Breaking into the top 10 was a difficult feat for little Loyola, since the 12-member WIVA includes powerhouses such as UCLA, USC and Hawaii. Most teams in the league are fully funded, which means having five scholarships and a full-time coach.
Loyola has neither. The Lions have only two full scholarships and a part-time coach who took a huge pay cut because he believes that the program can be turned around.
Normand left an assistant coaching position at UCLA and a teaching job at Crozier Junior High in Inglewood to take over at Loyola.
"I gave up $80,000 of money to work for less than $20,000," Normand said.
The 41-year-old coach says Loyola has many obstacles to overcome before it can be a contender in the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. He hopes to change that with the help of Athletic Director Brian Quinn, a strong supporter of volleyball.
"In real life," Normand said, "to be successful at a Division I college in any athletic event, the No. 1 thing you need is a good coach. The No. 2 thing is that it has to be fully funded. Then you have to have the ability to get an athlete into the school and keep the kid in school.
"Once you have all that, you can win it all, or at least you have a chance to win it all. We've proven that in basketball. It's fully funded and we made it to the Sweet 16. Same with baseball. It's fully funded and we're in the top 20."
Normand, whose budget won't spring for an assistant, says he'll do his best with what he has. He's determined not to let insufficient funds get in the way of success.
"I'll go out there and beat the bushes," he said, waving his index finger, "but I'm going to win the NCAA."
For now, that sounds far-fetched, but Loyola seems to be headed in the right direction. The much-improved Lions have defeated several higher-ranked teams this season like crosstown rival Pepperdine, Stanford, UC Santa Barbara, San Diego State and Brigham Young University.
"He does a real good job," said Pepperdine Coach Marv Dunphy, who has led the Waves to two national titles. "He's a real plus, and he's made a great impact on the team over there. The kids look real strong and they look well-conditioned."
Dunphy, who coached the U.S. men to a gold medal in the 1988 Olympics, played at Pepperdine when Normand played at UCLA.
"He was real good in all skills as a player," Dunphy said. "I really respect his volleyball knowledge. It's great."
Normand is also a great motivator, according to his players. Senior middle blocker Chris Young says his intensity and competitiveness have played key roles in the team's success.
"Basically he gives us confidence," Young said. "He teaches us great techniques and to believe in ourselves. He makes us believe that no one in our league is unbeatable."
Young says there's a big difference between former men's Coach Rich Rosales and Normand.
"Mike is a lot more disciplined," Young said. "He sets his rules and you have to follow them. It's all more structured now. We have a very rigorous weightlifting and conditioning program. As a result, I feel much stronger this season."
Normand also brought immediate success to the Loyola women's team. He led the Lions to a 7-7 mark during his first season in 1989.
He won't coach the women next year, in order to dedicate more time to the men and pursue an administrative position in Loyola's athletic department. Junior setter Anita Irwin says he will be missed.
Irwin said Normand did wonders for the women's team, which posted a dismal 2-12 record in 1988 under former Coach George Yamashita.
"At first it took some adjusting," she said, "because he's a very demanding coach, both physically and mentally. But that helped almost every aspect of my game, from jumping to my stamina. He's a great coach and he knows the game so well."