Goucher men's basketball starts on the ground floor

JOHN EISENBERG

December 02, 1990|By JOHN EISENBERG

This is what happens when you are the first men's basketball coach at Goucher College: You call another school to arrange a game, and the secretary puts you through to the coach of the women's team. You call back, and it happens again. "I think it was the third call when I finally got put through to the men's coach," Leonard Trevino was saying the other day.

This is something else that happens when you are the first men's basketball coach at Goucher: You tell your coaching friends that you're taking the job, and they're excited for you until you mention that the school had no male students for a hundred years, and then your friends stammer and clear their throats and ever-so-politely say, "Leonard, uh, what are you doing?"

What he, uh, is doing is tackling a task that seems utterly mountainous until you see that the school is building a $7 million gymnasium, and that the program is jumping right into a conference in Division III of the NCAA, and that some local kids, who understand the irony, already have cut through the psychic baggage of playing ball at a school at which only women studied from 1885 to 1986.

"I don't know how the men-women thing will play out, but I don't think it'll be a problem," said Trevino, 28, a Texan who was an assistant coach at South Dakota State for two years before coming to Goucher. "Maybe you lose a few kids the first year or two, but once it gets established that we're here and we're for real, it shouldn't be a problem."

Basketball is the sixth men's sport to start up at Goucher since the school went coed, and, naturally, the growing pains are many. The first home game in school history, last Tuesday night, was a 134-68 loss. The team is 1-5 after winning for the first time yesterday. "This is going to be a rough season," Trevino said. "We're undermanned. Sometimes you lie awake at night and wonder how you'll get through it. But there's no place to go but up."

He knew he was in for some of this when he took the job. "I had never heard of the school until a friend mentioned to me that they were looking for a coach," he said. "I have to admit, I was tentative when I heard it'd been coed only four years. I had some questions. How many guys do they have? How fast are they coming in? Once I saw things here, I liked it."

The school is now 23 percent male, and the emotional integration is complete -- "the atmosphere is no different than any other liberal arts college," said Matt Brosco, a senior guard. And Trevino is right: The school clearly is committed to building a respectable men's program. The first-rate media guide speaks loudly.

"All you have to do is look at the new gym going up," Trevino said. "I wanted to be a head coach, and I thought it was a good situation. There is a challenge in starting from scratch. To be honest, the [conversion to coed] is no factor. I let the recruits know about it, and they make up their minds. Mostly, I just sell them on the fact that we're new."

The team's best player is a small forward named Corey Garner, who transferred from College of the Desert, a junior college in Palm Springs, Calif., where he started for two seasons. His story is illuminating. He had never heard of Goucher until Trevino pTC called last summer. To him, it wasn't a school that had recently gone coed. It was just another school with a team.

"It doesn't matter that it was all-women," Garner said. "That's no factor on campus anymore. To be honest, I came because it's a strong school academically. As far as the basketball, I just knew they were starting up a program. My friends, they all said, "Where are you going?" I just tell them it's a school in Baltimore."

Garner is now trying to persuade his cousin to come and study and play ball. One would think that, in the beginning, Trevino would have better luck recruiting out-of-state kids, for whom the school name has no connotation. But that's not necessarily so. There is a freshman recruit from Annapolis on the team, and Trevino is working a number of local high school kids. "You get ones that don't mind being ground-breakers," he said.

Meanwhile, the first season is unfolding with a blend of rookie rockiness and customary Division III story lines. The warm-ups, ordered late, aren't in yet. Only one player is taller than 6 feet 1. Brosco, the only senior on the team, is a French major who spent last year studying in Paris. His teammates are majoring in chemistry, biology, philosophy, psychology.

It is hard to envision Goucher being associated with a jamming, shot-eating basketball team, but let's face it, that's a dated prejudice. The men's tennis team is on the verge of a national ranking. The soccer team is doing well. There is talk that the club lacrosse team will go varsity. When a couple of tennis players went to the Division III championships last year, some alumnae -- two 60-year-old women -- showed up to cheer. Hey, a group of students even showed up at the first basketball game last week with their faces painted in the school colors. Can Dick Vitale be far behind? "We just need people to know we're here," assistant coach Paul Holmes said. "Once they do, there's no reason why we can't be as good as anyone else."

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