Loyola gives Hicks warm welcome

Former Albany coach inherits 7-20 squad

College Basketball

June 07, 2000|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

It was billed as a "special day" at the beginning of the news conference, and Loyola athletic director Joe Boylan compared it to D-Day.

"I have total confidence," the school's president, Rev. Harold Ridley said as he introduced one of his former LeMoyne College students, Scott Hicks, as head men's basketball coach yesterday. "I'm as confident about this judgment by Loyola College athletics as I have ever been in any decision that we've made before."

Of course, the word special has long since lost its application to announcements of new men's basketball coaches at the North Baltimore school. Before the 34-year-old Hicks arrived with three seasons at Albany (and eight seasons overall) under his belt, eleven coaches had come and gone over the last 29 years. Only Skip Prosser -- now at Xavier -- was fortunate enough to exit with a winning record.

Neither Ridley nor Boylan could offer a reason for the heavy turnover. "I'm not sure," Boylan said. "But Skip came in and proved that we could be pretty good."

Two minuses stuck out during this past season, a 7-20 campaign that led coach Dino Gaudio to follow Prosser back to Xavier as an assistant. One was basketball's second-banana status at Loyola; attendance was often below 1,000 spectators per game. The other - despite the perfect record for men's basketball in the most-recent NCAA graduation report - is the question of how to avoid academic embarrassments like the case of star guard Jason Rowe, who was expelled midway through the season.

And still ...

"I think it can be done, or I wouldn't be here," said Hicks, who agreed to a four-year deal.

He comes to Baltimore after compiling a 44-39 record at Albany. In the school's first season in Division I in 1999-2000, Hicks led the school to an 11-17 mark.

Hicks, an upstate New York native, played at LeMoyne College in Syracuse during the mid-80s. That's where he first hooked up with Ridley, who was at the school at the time.

Later, Ridley was on the committee that hired Hicks -- then a graduate assistant at Syracuse under Jim Boeheim - to coach at LeMoyne in 1992. Hicks posted an 87-56 record and led the school to two NCAA Division II tournament appearances in five years before moving on to Albany.

Hicks, admittedly unfamiliar with the Baltimore area, said meeting with local high school coaches and youth league coaches will be one priority. "We think we have a good product to sell here, so hopefully we can keep some of the local players home," he said. "We're not going to get every prospect around here, but we need to get some of them."

One of the local players on the current roster, Damien Jenifer, said he was satisfied with the choice of Hicks, having met him on campus last week.

"He was laid-back, but it also seemed like he was very focused, very organized," he said.

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