With 40 years of experience coaching basketball, Loyola Marymount’s Max Good has collected a surplus of axioms and one-liners.
He shared one of his favorite sayings recently with his struggling team.
“You ever hear a winner make excuses?” he said. “It’s always the team that loses.”
When the West Coast Conference coaches’ preseason poll came out, Gonzaga was picked to repeat and upstart LMU was tabbed for second. There’s no question WCC coaches know basketball, but to this point they’ve whiffed in the prediction business.
Gonzaga (15-9, 5-3 WCC) enters Thursday’s road game with Loyola Marymount (9-15, 1-8) tied for third with Santa Clara. LMU is tied for last place with San Diego after losing to the Toreros last week.
Good has a handful of excuses at his disposal, but he won’t go there. His team endured an unusually long injury list last season, but still won 18 games and LMU played in the postseason (College Insider.com tournament) for the first time in 20 years. His current squad has been stung by injuries and close losses. Six conference losses have been by one (in double overtime), two, one, seven, three and nine points.
“I do think we’re improving, but we went into the year with no intention of playing our freshmen other than minimal time as backups,” Good said. “We’re starting three freshmen, but that’s where we are. It bodes well for the future, but my future is the next game.”
Gonzaga beat the Lions by 20 in Spokane last month, but it was tied at halftime. In that game, guard Vernon Teel, who was an All-WCC selection last year, played just 13 minutes as he recovered from a knee injury.
LMU trailed WCC- leading Saint Mary’s 70-66 in Moraga, Calif., last Saturday before falling 79-70. The Lions played without leading scorer Drew Viney (migraines). Guard Jarred DuBois, who was third on the team in scoring last season (12.3 points), is out for the season (foot surgery). Ashley Hamilton, Edgar Garibay, Ayodeji Egbeyemi and Godwin Okonji also have missed games.
“Drew didn’t have any problems last year, but he’s had them off and on this season,” Good said. “We tried to give him different medicine but he lost his energy, he’s just tired and anemic.”
Good typically gives his players Sunday and Monday off when the schedule reaches February, in hopes that they’ll be refreshed for the stretch run. As of Tuesday morning, Good wasn’t sure of Viney’s status.
Good is encouraged by his team’s competitiveness and his younger players are improving.
“Our attitude has been excellent,” he said. “We try to never back down. It’s inexcusable. I don’t look at (Thursday’s) game as David vs. Goliath, it might be Fred vs. King Kong or something, but you don’t have a chance if you play with fear.”
Bell done for year
Pepperdine suspended junior guard Keion Bell for the rest of the season for conduct detrimental to the team. Bell didn’t play in Saturday’s win over San Diego. He’s not expected to return for his senior season at Pepperdine.
Gonzaga faces the Waves (10-16, 4-5) on Saturday in Malibu, Calif.
Bell was averaging 18.5 points. He’s been the team’s leading scorer three straight seasons and he scored a career-high 37 points against Gonzaga last year at the McCarthey Athletic Center. Bell was suspended in preseason and he’s also missed several games during the season with assorted injuries.
“Some of their better wins are without him,” GU coach Mark Few said. “He’s really talented, but I think they probably move the ball and share it better and they’re probably a more cohesive unit defensively (without Bell).”
Junior Lorne Jackson has emerged as the Waves’ top scorer in WCC play (16.6 points).