Saturday, March 1, 2003

Catching up with John Loyer


NBA good fit for ex-UC assistant

By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer

When he was an assistant coach at the University of Cincinnati, John Loyer rarely paid attention to the NBA.

He was so focused on helping Bob Huggins build the UC program into a consistent winner, there was no time for idly watching the pros.

"The only time I watched the NBA was when a former Cincinnati guy was playing," said Loyer, an advance scout for the Portland Trail Blazers. "Now I rarely watch a college game unless it's to see a player that we're looking at in the draft."

Four-and-a-half years have passed since Loyer was fired by UC president Joseph Steger in connection with the Charles Williams investigation that left the Bearcats program on NCAA probation. The firing came just two weeks after Loyer was cleared by the NCAA of all but one charge and permitted to coach again on the college level.

Loyer, 38, is in his third year with the Trail Blazers and his second as advance scout. He still follows the Bearcats and wishes them well, but he has not shaken the bitterness he felt over being cast as the scapegoat for UC's NCAA troubles.

And he probably never will.

"You're always going to be bitter," Loyer said. "I invested 10 years of my career and put a lot of hard work into building that program, and I didn't get to reap the benefits you should reap when you're successful."

After leaving UC, Loyer secured a job as the head coach at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill. He stayed there a little more than a year, with current UC assistant Keith LeGree as his assistant, and recruited the talent that would win a national championship the year after he left.

He twice turned down the job with the Trail Blazers when it was offered by his friend, assistant general manager Mark Warkentein, a former UNLV assistant coach, but eventually decided it was an opportunity he couldn't pass up.

"Everybody I talked to said this was a career move I would not look back on, and I haven't looked back," Loyer said.

Loyer's duties with Portland include scouting opponents and implementing his reports with the players at practice. That's what he did at UC, in addition to working with guards and recruiting.

At Portland, he's also in charge of scouting junior-college talent.

The next step on the career ladder for Loyer is to become a full-time assistant coach. Though he aspired to be a head coach when he was working on the college level, he realizes being an NBA head coach is probably out of the question.

"About the highest you can go if you're not a former player is assistant coach or move into management," he said.

That's OK with Loyer, who loves everything about the NBA.

"The NBA game, once you're in it, is much better," Loyer said. "You can't get over how good the players really are. I don't miss college at all."

His only regret is that he didn't get into the NBA at a younger age. He still has friends in Cincinnati and says his relationship with Huggins is fine.

But there's no question in his mind that what happened with the NCAA investigation did irreparable damage to his coaching career.

"I wasted 10 years of my life at Cincinnati," Loyer said. "In the NBA, you get rewarded for being a hard worker. You can climb the ladder. In college, I'm not too sure that's always the case. In college, it's a matter of being at the right school at the right time. I wasn't at the right school."

E-mail bkoch@enquirer.com




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