Ellerbe presses on quickly through ranks

April 15, 1994|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Sun Staff Writer Maureen Sack contributed to this article.

Since he decided to try his hand at coaching basketball, Brian Ellerbe has been a precocious study.

Nine years ago, fresh off a successful, four-year career as a starter at Rutgers, Ellerbe moved to the bench as a graduate assistant with the Scarlet Knights. A year later, he became the nation's youngest assistant coach at Bowling Green.

Yesterday at Reitz Arena, Ellerbe savored another achievement, when Loyola College handed him the reins of its men's basketball program.

At 30, Ellerbe becomes a head coach for the first time. He replaces Skip Prosser, who in his first year as a head coach put Loyola basketball on the map last month. Loyola erased a 2-25 season from a year earlier by winning its first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament and advancing to its first NCAA Division I tournament.

"You can go through coaching for a long time, you work really hard, and you never know if your opportunity [to be a head coach] is going to come," said Ellerbe, who has been an assistant for the past four seasons at Virginia.

"Skip Prosser started something really special here, and the thing I need to do is keep that going," Ellerbe added. "A lot of people don't even know about this place. I'm from here. I know this is a decent place. It's a great school, in a great location. There are a lot of good coaches here. Hopefully, some of that will rub off on me."

Loyola athletic director Joe Boylan needed barely two weeks to make his decision, and in the end he chose the local guy he recruited 13 years ago, when Boylan convinced Ellerbe to come to Rutgers.

Ellerbe, who starred at Bowie High School -- he led the Washington area in scoring in his final two seasons -- went on to help Rutgers qualify for the 1983 NCAA tournament. In four years, he scored 979 points for the Scarlet Knights.

Soon after beginning graduate school at Rutgers, Ellerbe realized he had a thirst for coaching, and he immediately set about quenching it. After a year at Rutgers and two seasons at Bowling Green, he spent the 1988-89 season at George Mason, which won the Colonial Athletic Association and went to the NCAA tournament.

He moved on to South Carolina for a year, then came to Virginia. In his four seasons, the Cavaliers reached the NCAA tournament three times.

"Wherever Brian has been, he's been a winner," Boylan said. "He was a winner at Bowie High School. He was a winner at Rutgers, both in the classroom and on the court. And every program he's touched has been a winner."

Virginia coach Jeff Jones, who lost two assistant coaches in one week -- Dennis Wolff was hired at Boston University last week -- sees Ellerbe as inheriting the perfect job.

"To get that job at such a young age, at such a good school, and in an area where he is most comfortable is a great opportunity for him," Jones said. "It's difficult to see him go. Brian brought a no-nonsense, no-gimmick attitude, whether he was recruiting or dealing with players. He's a very good teacher. He's going to establish his presence in that area."

Ellerbe takes over in yet another transitional period at Loyola. He becomes its fourth head coach in the past two years. And the Greyhounds lose their top two players, point guard Tracy Bergan and forward Michael Reese.

"It's going to be another change, but that's life," said sophomore guard Teron Owens. "We loved the hoopla that Prosser brought us. We really became a family under Prosser. I think he [Ellerbe] is going to start that here. I think he's the person for the job."

Said Ellerbe: "These guys have gone through a lot of different situations, a lot of ups and downs, and they're probably hurting a little bit right now. I want to make sure I open my arms to them and drive them to be even better."

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