Oct. 20, 2003
Knees bent, in a low defensive stance, he glides on a diagonal, beating his man to the spot. Committed to turning things around after back-to-back 13-15 seasons, the 6'-3" slasher is attacking his new position with passion. However, you won't see him in uniform this season. Lloyd Pierce, eligibility exhausted five years ago, is serious about his job as an assistant on Dick Davey's staff.
Twice Pierce played in the NCAA tournament and knows what it takes to get back to "The Dance." Part of his job is to convey that knowledge to this group of battle-tested Broncos.
"I think it helps," says Pierce of his experience as a player. "I think I communicate things from a little different perspective. I'm coming more from a player's point of view and how to get the idea across. Sometimes it's hard to get your point across by just demanding. It helps to be able to show how it can be done."
Before playing professionally in Mexico, Australia and Germany, Pierce was best known as a fierce defender with a 40-inch vertical jump. He was a fixture at practice following graduation and started toying with the idea of coaching.
"It's something we walked about," says Davey, in his 12th year as SCU's head coach. "But he hadn't gotten playing out of his system yet. I always knew down the road this would be something he could really excel in."
"I just exhausted all the possibilities for me as a player. Living in Germany was a great experience, but it was getting harder and harder to be away each time. I wanted to be involved in the game and take on a new challenge. "
Finished as a player, Pierce was doing a different kind of teaching, at Pinnacle Academy in Santa Clara. There he worked with kids who had behavioral problems, including ADD.
"That was a rewarding experience. The fulfillment came in watching these kids develop with their behavior and academics. To see them blossom was great."
The behavior he's most concerned with now involves fighting through screens, executing in the half court and making shots. Pierce's new gig of fine-tuning the Broncos is done both by demonstration and explanation. Being able to address the troops might be considered odd for those who knew Pierce as an 18-year-old coming out of Yerba Buena High School in San Jose.
"When he made his visit he didn't say a word," says Davey. " I told him unless you start talking, I'm going to take you home because we need to able to communicate around here."
Former assistant Larry Hauser jokingly suggested that maybe he was mute. Over his career at SCU, Pierce evolved from introvert into someone who wouldn't stop talking at the season-ending banquet. Normally, the seniors get about 10 minutes to reflect on their experience. Lloyd needed an hour and no one left with a dry eye as he spoke of his love for the school and the death of his cousin. It was time to be a grown up and he wasn't ready to go.
"I wasn't really conscious of the time and I thought it was about fifteen to twenty minutes. There were some things that just needed to be said. It was an appreciation of what you have and a period where I was headed in a new direction in my life. I've always been kind of reserved as far as speaking. People mature in different ways and in my case, it was being able to express myself vocally."
All-West Coast Conference point guard Kyle Bailey: "It's easy for me to listen to him. The fact he's black may be an important issue for some other players, but it's not for me. He's a former player who understands the game and that's the language that matters to me. He speaks basketball and that's a universal language."
Personally, I broadcasted about 80 games of Pierce's career and a couple of highlights stand out among all others. There was a great dunk off a steal as a sophomore to close the first half at Gonzaga. That play kept the Broncos in range for their most recent win at the Kennel and a share of the conference title during Steve Nash's senior year. In the finale the following season at Toso, a Pierce dunk off an alley-oop pass cut the hearts out of the Zags in the closing moments to clinch another league championship. He is a link to a glorious past and a bridge to a promising present.
"Lloyd is a real positive addition to our staff,, adds Davey. "He's a guy kids respect. I think his forte as a player was as an excellent defender. He'll help us along those lines. At today's practice, before the other coaches could chime in, he was there with something that needed to be said. He understands the game and how to play it. Also, he'll be outstanding in the recruiting area because he can relate to what it's like to go to school and play here. We're very lucky to have him."