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Even Now, Bob Boyd Isn't Retiring Type

Hall of Fame: At 67 and only two seasons removed from his last basketball coaching job, he plays golf daily in the desert.

April 25, 1998|LON EUBANKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PALM DESERT — Bob Boyd is stretched out near the pool in his backyard, looking a little like a lion in winter.

It is past noon and Boyd, 67, has just returned from playing golf at Rancho La Quinta and is relaxing in the warm desert sun.

Golf is one of Boyd's favorite pastimes these days. Another is his interest in thoroughbred racing.

"Anyone who grew up in Riverside County, so close to Santa Anita, has to have a little bit of interest in horse racing," Boyd said.

Boyd's has been rekindled through his friend, Indiana men's basketball Coach Bob Knight, who has owned a couple of horses trained by Wayne Lukas. Through Knight, Boyd and Lukas also have become friends.

But golf occupies more of his time these days. Much more.

Recently Boyd was playing--though not particularly well--when his cart partner said, "Don't worry, you'd be better if you played a little more often." Boyd, a bit taken aback, looked over and said: "But I play every day."

Boyd, a 9-handicapper, says he plays to that most of the time.

Frequently, it's with old coaching pals like Gene Bartow, Jerry Pimm, Knight and others when they make their regular pilgrimages to the desert. Even Pete Newell, who is in his 80s and a longtime coaching hero to both Knight and Boyd, shows up now and then.

Boyd says he's retired from coaching--but, with him, you can never be sure.

Boyd also "retired" after 13 years as USC's head coach at the age of 48, leaving behind a 216-131 record that remains the best for a Trojan basketball coach since 1950.

Boyd's wife, Betty, knew that retirement would never last.

"We moved to Del Mar to a house near the ocean, and just about all he did was fish and watch the waves for a while," she said. "He helped Andy Williams when he had his golf tournament, but I knew he was going to get bored after a while."

Boyd took the head coaching job at Mississippi State two years later. After five years in Starkville, he quit again, only to return in 1989 as head coach at Riverside College, and then later in a disappointing three-year stint at Chapman, where his teams were 30-50.

In 1994, he spent one season as an assistant coach at Utah State mainly because he wanted to help Coach Larry Eustachy, Boyd's assistant for five years at Mississippi State.

"I was the world's oldest restricted-earnings coach," Boyd said with a laugh. "Now the NCAA has changed the rule, so that kind of job can only go to guys starting out in the business."

Boyd had one last fling in coaching two seasons ago as an assistant to Dale Brown at Louisiana State.

Boyd will be inducted into the Orange County Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday at the Anaheim Marriott, mainly because of the six successful years he spent as head coach at Santa Ana College at the dawn of his career.

Boyd, who was coaching in high school at Alhambra, heard there was an opening at Orange Coast College, so he drove there in 1957 hoping to get an interview.

"They told me they had their guy for the job, but that I might want to drop by Santa Ana College on the way home, since they were looking for someone too," Boyd said.

Santa Ana did need a coach, and Boyd eventually was hired.

Boyd laughs when he recalls how Bill Hess, his athletic director at Alhambra, told him Santa Ana was "a graveyard for a basketball coach."

Boyd proved him wrong, with his team winning a conference title in his second year. "I think that was the first time they'd ever won a conference championship in basketball," Boyd said. "We had a great time there."

Santa Ana was 118-66 in six years under Boyd.

"Bob had a great way of getting people involved at Santa Ana," said Paul Collier of Laguna Beach, who played for Boyd at Alhambra and later at Santa Ana. "He had that charisma about him, and he had that gym filled quickly. We all loved playing for him."

One of Boyd's players at Santa Ana, Ray Butler, transferred to Seattle and when the Seattle coach, Vince Cazzaetta, quit, Butler spoke in Boyd's behalf to the athletic director. "I guess that's the way I ended up with my first Division I coaching job," Boyd said.

Boyd says he had to bend the truth just a bit to get the job.

"I remember the athletic director asked me about our playing style at Santa Ana," Boyd said. "Newell was my mentor, and we played a deliberate style just like California did, but I knew they wanted a running game, so I told them that we ran a lot at Santa Ana."

But Boyd felt destined to coach at USC, where he had played. "I would have coached there for room and board," he said.

Despite always being in the shadow of John Wooden and UCLA, the Trojans were either second or third in the conference 10 times under Boyd. His 1971 team was 24-2, with both losses to UCLA. His 1974 team was 24-5, and his last team went 20-9.

Boyd resigned with six games to go, effective at the end of the season. "I was in the fifth year of a five-year contract, and they still hadn't offered me another one," Boyd recalled.

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