Loyola Marymount Season Preview


The Loyola Marymount Lions are looking to stay relevant in the West Coast Conference after the departure of their heralded point guard, Anthony Ireland. After forever enshrining himself into the LMU record books, Ireland’s absence in this lineup is bound to make for some heavy readjusting from the team and from the fans.

Even more, Loyola Marymount will be kicking off the 2014-15 season with the introduction of their new head coach, Mike Dunlap.

Waving goodbye to your proficient floor general and dealing with the uncertainty and skepticism that comes with any new head coach doesn’t usually add up to a successful season. But fear not, Lions fans, for you still have reason to hold your heads up and be optimistic about the future of Loyola Marymount basketball.

Dec 6, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Loyola Marymount Lions guard Evan Payne (1) dribbles the ball against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the second half at the Petersen Events Center. Pittsburgh won 85-68. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As it turns out, Anthony Ireland isn’t the only one who etched his name into the record books for the Lions last year. Evan Payne, member of the 2014 WCC All-Freshmen team, set the LMU points record for a freshman with 497 points last season. He averaged a solid 15.5 points per game, which just so happens to set another record for freshmen at LMU. Those numbers gave him a 7th place ranking in the WCC for scoring; not a bad finish for a rookie from Akron, Ohio.

So yes, closing the door on Anthony Ireland is going to sting for the Lions. Loyola Marymount fans will experience that same sour feel that St. Mary’s fans endured after the departure of their beloved point guard, Matthew Dellavedova. But when you have a record-breaking rookie like Evan Payne to fill in those hefty shoes, that bitter taste starts to seem a little more sweet as the NCAA season inches closer.

The most headline-worthy news for LMU this offseason, though, was the hiring of new head coach, Mike Dunlap. The inauguration of a new head honcho is rarely an electrifying experience. With a new commander-in-chief comes an abundance of apprehension and uncertainty.

What is this coach going to do that the last coach didn’t? He’s never worked with our group of guys before, will he know how they operate as a team? Will there be any sense of cohesion or team chemistry?

A lot of questions are going to be spiraling around about Mike Dunlap (as would be the case for any new head coach). But the fact of the matter here is this: Loyola Marymount could not have found a better fit for their program and for their team than Mike Dunlap.

April 17, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Bobcats head coach Mike Dunlap reacts during the game at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

As a graduate of the 1980 class at Loyola Marymount University, Dunlap brings with him a wide array of basketball experience and leadership that has otherwise been foreign to LMU’s basketball program for quite some time. Before accepting this offer with LMU back in March, Dunlap served as head coach of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats for the 2012-13 season. While he was there, he became the first coach in NBA history to win three times as many games as the year before.

He also spent time working with the Denver Nuggets and was top assistant at the University of Arizona, University of Oregon, and St. John’s University.

As if these credentials weren’t enough, Dunlap is most renowned for being an amazing player development coach. His reputation has been constructed around turning good athletes into marvelous athletes. Combine this remarkable skill with a player like Evan Payne, whose potential is to the moon and back, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for success at Loyola Marymount.

Of course, with any new coach, things take time. I’m not going to tell you that LMU will reign over the WCC next year or that they can take down the Wichita State Shockers during the Diamondhead Classic in late December. But with the caliber of players that LMU is recruiting and the new coach that will soon take over the reigns, the Lions are showing serious signs of competing in the upcoming season.