The rivalry has been intense and in many seasons the basketball has been high caliber. But lately, Loyola and Pepperdine have had something else in common – struggling men’s basketball programs.
Now, athletic directors Bill Husak and John Watson have done something about their problems. Both men have hired new coaches.
Bill Bayno, who twice guided Nevada Las Vegas into the NCAA Tournament and this season has been an assistant with the Portland Trail Blazers, has succeeded Rodney Tention at Loyola.
Tom Asbury, a former successful Pepperdine head coach who left in 1994 for Kansas State, returns to hopefully end several seasons of chaos in Malibu.
Asbury, 62, who was most recently an assistant at Alabama, has hired former Wave player Marty Wilson as an assistant and it is likely Wilson will eventually become head coach.
Pepperdine is seeking stability after the troubled run of Paul Westphal as head coach. Vance Wahlberg took over the faltering program last season, then left midway through this one. An assistant then became interim head coach for the rest of the season but has also departed.
Neither Loyola nor Pepperdine fields a football team. Basketball is the main revenue producing sport at both schools and as the losses mounted, boosters became scarce and the need for change became obvious.
But hiring new coaches is only the beginning of the solution.
Playing in the West Coast Conference, which had three teams make the NCAA Tournament this season, the Lions and Waves have a lot of catching up to do.
While San Diego, Gonzaga, and St. Mary’s thrived and Santa Clara was respectable, Loyola, Pepperdine, San Francisco, and Portland went through difficult seasons.
And with coaching changes there’s a chance some players will leave. Gary Wahlberg, the coach’s son, has left Pepperdine and sources indicate Tyrone Shelley, the Waves’ top player, may follow.
Asbury was at Pepperdine for 15 years, nine as an assistant and six as head coach. The Waves were dominant then, once winning 38 consecutive conference games.
Jim Harrick was the successful head coach who tutored Asbury. And when Harrick left for UCLA the Waves’ success continued with Asbury.
So, although it’s been a long time since Asbury coached locally, he’s being viewed by Pepperdine supporters as someone who can return the Waves to their former place of prominence.
For both new coaches, upcoming signing periods will be crucial. Loyola’s talent level needs an upgrade and Pepperdine’s roster has thinned out considerably.