Drive to return steers Lynam to Bullets bench

May 05, 1994|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Even after he became general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers nearly two years ago, Jim Lynam never could rid himself of the intense desire to coach.

"It was in my mind. When I made the decision to become general manager, I felt I would really miss the coaching," Lynam said. "I coached my whole life, and gradually you miss it. That was the crux of my decision."

The decision was to return to the sidelines, which Lynam did yesterday when he was named coach of the Washington Bullets. Lynam becomes the sixth coach of the Bullets since the franchise moved from Baltimore 21 years ago, replacing Wes Unseld, who resigned April 24.

Lynam's challenge is to change the fortunes of a franchise that has had seven straight losing seasons. The Bullets have lost more than 50 games in each of the past five years.

Lynam, 52, welcomes the challenge, saying he would not have abandoned the often-safer environs of the front office if he didn't feel he could help turn the Bullets around.

"I feel very, very confident about this franchise," Lynam said. "I wouldn't be standing here if I didn't think that this team has the potential to become a contending-type team."

The hiring reunites Lynam with Bullets general manager John Nash, with whom he worked in Philadelphia. Nash was the 76ers general manager in 1988, when Lynam replaced Matt Guokas as coach.

"The day is finally here," Nash said, in introducing Lynam to the media at a downtown restaurant. "This is the guy who stood head and shoulders above the rest."

Lynam had been rumored as a possible replacement for Unseld throughout the season and was the only person Nash sought when the job became vacant.

"Jim was the best candidate," Nash said. "Rather than open the process to interview and waste the time of other applicants, I made the recommendation to [Bullets owner Abe Pollin] that we go after Jim, and if we're successful, we have our man."

After getting permission from the 76ers, Pollin met with Lynam for about three hours over the weekend. Obviously, Pollin came away impressed.

"I'm very pleased to have Jim as my coach," Pollin said. "I want another ring [the Bullets won the 1977-78 NBA title], and Jim is one of the guys who can help bring us that ring."

The words "teacher" and "motivator" were mentioned by Bullets management yesterday when they discussed their new coach. That's what Lynam was during his college coaching career, which included stints at Fairfield (23-29), American (70-61) and St. Joseph's (65-28).

"His college experience is something that we're really looking forward to," Nash said. "At the college level, you do a lot more teaching. And our guys are a young group that need to be taught in some areas. There's a lot of guys who have not yet maximized their abilities."

Lynam said that past, plus his NBA head coaching stints with VTC the 76ers and the San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers (52-91 from 1983 to 1985), make him confident in his ability to reach the Washington players.

"I think I can get the most out of a team, and, at this level, it becomes vital," Lynam said. "I have the ability to teach -- I can teach basketball."

Lynam also demonstrated he had the ability to deliver one-liners on cue. After describing Washington's recent misfortunes in terms of draft positioning in previous seasons, Lynam explained that the draft choices of Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Chris Webber over previous seasons were "no-brainers."

When asked who would be the "no-brainer" this season, Lynam answered, "You'd be looking at the big dog [Purdue's Glenn Robinson]," just as a 130-pound Great Dane was walked before the podium.

Though expressing excitement about coaching a team that includes Tom Gugliotta and Calbert Cheaney, Lynam said it was too soon to evaluate the team.

"To give an in-depth scouting report on every player on this team would be foolhardy on my part," Lynam said. "Until you can get them in a gym against other players, that's a side of them that you can't discuss."

He did point out the main area where he feels the Bullets need help.

"Team defense," Lynam said. "That's the first thing I'll address. When you're so out of bounds in one area, it can literally pull you down."

Lynam said he realizes that a lot of Bullets fans may harp on his record with the Clippers.

"My run with the Clippers was the same as anybody's run with the Clippers," said Lynam, who was replaced 61 games into his second season. "You have to remember, the Clippers won just 25 games the year before I took over. I bounce back."

The Bullets are banking that Lynam bounces back in a big way.

"Sure, I think I have to prove myself [to the fans]," Lynam said. "It doesn't matter where you go, or what you did before. You still have to prove yourself."

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