Jon Teitel continues our season preview series by chatting with Loyola Marymount coach Max Good about winning 79 games in a row.
Your non-conference road schedule includes trips to Long Beach State, Pitt, and Valparaiso. Which of these three games do you feel will present your biggest test? We are also going to a tourney in the Virgin Islands that has a bunch of good teams. The most important game of the year is the 1 you are playing today. The sign of a good team is one that wins every game they are supposed to and a couple they are not supposed to.
You return four starters this year including Anthony Ireland, who scored 20.2 points-per-game last year and became the second junior in school history to ever be named All-WCC in back-to-back seasons (Hank Gathers was the first). What makes him such a great player? He is hungry and humble. He also has an unbelievable work ethic: he will stay in the gym after practice until he makes 500 jumpers. He is coachable and mentally tough.
Your roster has players from Zambia, Nigeria, and Croatia, how have you been able to create a pipeline of international talent? My associate head coach used to work at Basketball Without Borders and has a a lot of international contacts. two of them are 6’9”: it is hard to find players who are that big in America who are not being recruited by upper-echelon teams.
What are your expectations for the upcoming season? Extremely high. We have a great freshman recruiting class, including two or three who might start for us. We will be a tough out because we have more depth and innate athletic ability than ever before.
As head coach at Maine Central Institute in the early 1990s you won 79 straight games. Did it reach a point where you just expected to win every single night? First of all, I never won a game: my players did. We might have won 120 in a row if we did not have some key guys come down with a fever in game #80 because we went on another long winning streak after that loss. I expected us to win every game, but what coach doesn’t?
In the 2005 D-2 title game as head coach at Bryant, tourney MOP Antwan Walton had 19 points and 11 rebounds in a five point win by Virginia Union. How close did you come to winning the title? We were down by three with the ball and they stole a pass to win the game. Virginia Union was a very good team so I was pleased with our effort: we actually made the Sweet 16 for five straight years.
You replaced Bill Bayno as head coach at UNLV in 2000 and then again as head coach at Loyola Marymount in 2008. What makes Bill such a good coach, and do the Toronto Raptors (where Bayno is an assistant) have you on speed dial?! The Raptors do not need to mess with me: I am too harsh on players! Billy is a great guy and a wonderful person. He has a great basketball mind but is too much of a perfectionist at times.
After going 1-12 in your first year at Loyola Marymount, you went 18-16 in year two (the second-largest turnaround in the nation): how were you able to turn things around so quickly? We had two transfers sitting out the first year (Larry Davis, Drew Viney) who helped out a lot my second year. I have seen a bad team that had good players, but I have never seen a good team composed of bad players.
In the 2012 CIT Damian Lillard scored 27 points (14-14 FT) in a six point loss by Weber State. How were you able to pull out the win, and where does Lillard rank among the best college players you have ever seen? Lillard was a very great player with a great work ethic, but the best I have ever seen in college was Len Bias, followed by Ron Harper and David Robinson. Lillard chose wisely to go to Weber: a lot of guys choose to go to a bigger program and end up failing. We trapped him on every ball screen, which is something we did not do all year, and he went 1-9 from behind the arc. I am not big on change but in Lillard’s case it was necessary.
In the 2013 WCC tourney Ireland made a layup with 5.9 seconds left in a two-point win over Santa Clara. What did your team learn from your run in last year’s tourney that you think can help them this year? All three of those games were close and we had to grind them out. The last three years we have lost 137 player games due to injury (the most in the country), and we just had two more guys get in a car accident a week ago. However, with Anthony on your team you always have a chance.