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UCI Finds Its Coach in Bakersfield

Basketball: Douglass, winner of three Division II titles, hired to direct men's program.

March 27, 1997|CHRIS FOSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

IRVINE — Pat Douglass, who won three NCAA Division II national basketball titles in the last five seasons at Cal State Bakersfield, was hired as UC Irvine's coach Wednesday.

Douglass, who has never had a losing season, led the Roadrunners to a 29-4 this season. They defeated Northern Kentucky, 57-56, Saturday for the championship. He is now asked to pick up the pieces of a program that has hit bottom.

"I look at adversity as a challenge and a chance to improve," Douglass said.

He'll have ample opportunity to test that philosophy.

Irvine, which has had only one winning season since 1988, went 1-25 last season under Rod Baker, whose contract was not renewed.

The Anteaters lost seven games by 30 or more points, including a 62-point loss to USC and a 50-point loss to Pacific. Attendance at games plummeted: Only 490 showed up for the Anteaters' game against North Texas.

"I hope to turn this around as soon as possible," said Douglass, who was given a five-year contract.

If nothing else, he does have the resume.

Douglass, 47, was 257-61 in 10 seasons at Bakersfield. His teams also won national titles in 1993, 1994 and 1997. He was 119-57 in six seasons at Eastern Montana.

"I've seen Pat do his thing," Irvine Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said. "Pat created a monster at Bakersfield. Winning a national title on any level takes work, commitment and a great coach. It's obvious Pat knows his craft."

It will be Douglass' first Division I job. That and Irvine's academic standards won't be a problem, he says.

"I can recruit athletes I never had a chance to at a Division II school," Douglass said.

Irvine was the third Division I job Douglass has pursued since 1992. Douglass was a finalist at Cal State Fullerton in 1992 and Long Beach State last year. He attended one Irvine game this past season and made contact soon after Baker was fired.

"He has won everything and now he's going to bring that here," said freshman forward Brian Johnson, who attended the press conference. "I'm not saying we're going to go out and beat Kentucky tomorrow or anything like that. But he's going to get the best out of us."

Douglass' hiring was announced less than 24 hours after he interviewed for the job. Northern Arizona Coach Ben Howland, Riverside College Coach Bob Schermerhorn, Utah assistant Donnie Daniels and Irvine assistant Joe Cravens also interviewed.

A year ago, a Bakersfield television camera crew followed Douglass when he came to Long Beach for an interview.

After Wayne Morgan was hired as the 49er coach, Douglass said he had been led to believe he was the front-runner. Douglass said Long Beach Athletic Director Bill Shumard had assured Douglass that he, "was his guy for the job."

Instead, Douglass went back to Bakersfield and won a third national championship.

"That was a long time ago," Douglass said. "I have to focus on what I have to do here and not worry about one bad experience."

Douglass will attend the Final Four, then meet with the team and assistant coaches Cravens, Darren Lax and Jason Levy Tuesday. Douglass will then work on signing players. The late signing period extends from April 9 through May 15.

"I think we need some players who can shoot the ball and we need some rebounders," Douglass said.

"There's only one way for Irvine to go."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

The File on Douglass

Here's a look at Pat Douglass, hired Wednesday as UC Irvine men's basketball coach:

* Won three NCAA Division II titles at Cal State Bakersfield, including this past season.

* First national championship team, in 1992-93, finished the season 33-0.

* Reached the Division II playoffs in each of his 10 seasons at Bakersfield.

* Has career coaching record of 376-118.

* Coached six seasons at Eastern Montana (1981-87).

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