LOCATION: Grambling, LA
CONFERENCE: Southwestern Athletic (SWAC)
LAST SEASON: 6-21 (.222)
CONFERENCE RECORD: 5-11 (7th)
STARTERS LOST/RETURNING: 4/1
COLORS: Black, Red & Gold
HOMECOURT: Memorial Gymnasium (2,648)
COACH: Larry Wright (Grambling '77)
record at school First year
career record First year
ASSISTANTS: Theodis Johnson (Grambling '78)|
Willie Simmons (Grambling '77)
TEAM WINS: (last 5 years) 11-12-10-16-6
RPI (last 5 years) 290-269-282-230-299
1998-99 FINISH: Lost in SWAC first round.
In 1976, Larry Wright played on Grambling's first and only Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament championship team. Wright, the league's player of the year that season as a junior and a two-time All-American and All-SWAC selection, left after that year and was a first-round draft choice of the Washington Bullets, helping them win the 1978 NBA championship. Wright was with the Bullets through the 1980 season before spending a year with the Detroit Pistons. Wright then went overseas and played on championship teams in Italy and Europe. He was selected European Player of the Year in 1984. While Wright was away, he kept an eye on his alma mater. Now, 23 years after leaving for the NBA spotlight, Wright has come home. Grambling officials have charged him with resurrecting the Tigers' sagging program. "It's going to be an uphill battle," said Wright, a Grambling assistant from 1990-92. "I understood that when I took the job. Rome wasn't built in a day. We're going to work at it every day and try to improve each practice and each game.
"Hopefully, my staff and I can return Grambling's program to one of respectability." After winning 16 games during the 1997-98 season, the Tigers went backwards last year, posting a 6-21 record, including a 5-11 SWAC mark. Grambling lost its first 12 games and never recovered. Lacey Reynolds was fired and Wright, who has been a scout with the New Jersey Nets, the Bullets (Wizards) and the Seattle Supersonics much of the last seven years, was brought on board June 1. "This is a great challenge and I plan to tackle it head on," said Wright, who has no prior head coaching experience. "I think I'm qualified to handle the task." Wright's biggest task has been finding players. Particularly, players who can score. The Tigers were among the lowest scoring teams in the league last year. The Tigers finished sixth in the league in scoring (68. 9), seventh in scoring margin (minus-9.6), second in field-goal percentage (.424), third in free-throw percentage (.681) and seventh in three-point field-goal percentage (.292). Grambling was seventh in the conference in scoring defense (78.5), seventh in field-goal percentage defense (.446), seventh in rebounding margin (minus-3.8) and ninth in three-point field goal mades per game (3.67). Only one starter, senior forward Chris Thomas, (17.9 ppg), returns from last year's team. A Karnack, Texas, native, Thomas was third-best in the SWAC in scoring.average, shooting 55 percent from the field. Thomas, a second-team All-SWAC selection last season, was also third in the league in free-throw shooting (.762). "Chris has the potential to lead this team," Wright said. "Hopefully, we can surround him with some quality players." The other returnees include junior forwards Devin Ewing (4.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg), Dionne Smith (1.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg) and Brandon Thomas (0.9 ppg, 0.9 rpg) along with guards Sean Jackson and Quadree Drakeford. "Dionne is very athletic," Wright said. "Brandon is a rangy kid. He could play the shooting guard, small forward, power forward or center. We're expecting a lot from him." Help will come from guards Alfred Parker, Keith Howell and Darius Whiteside, along with 6-6 forward Michael Daniels. Parker and Daniels led Palm Desert (Cal.) Junior College to back-to-back 20-win seasons. "The college game has not changed," Wright said. "Fundamentals have not changed. You take what the player has, try to teach him what you know about the game and hope he is receptive. "We will look to instill discipline and attitude. You have to have those to want to work. We have to keep everything positive. Our short term goals are to play hard, play smart and get better each night." That could be difficult. The schedule makers didn't do Wright any favors. The Tigers will take on Louisiana State, Washington State, Creighton and Memphis during their pre-conference season. Grambling will also participate in the Great Alaska Shootout.
Blue Ribbon Analysis
BACKCOURT C BENCH/DEPTH C|
FRONTCOURT B INTANGIBLES B
By the end of the year, Larry Wright might be looking to go back into scouting. Wright inherits a team that has only one proven player in Chris Thomas and he was hired so late that he wasn't able to recruit. Considering Wright is a Grambling graduate, perhaps Tiger fans and the school's administration will give him time to rebuild the program. It's going to take Wright and company some time to get things going in the right direction.
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