In the nine years that Ken Cochran has been coaching at Marymount College in Salina, Kans., his teams have put together a 240-37 record. The Spartans have been nationally ranked in the NAIA in eight of those seasons and, with six lettermen returning from a squad that had a 26-6 season, they are a good bet to reach the national tournament again. Last March they made it to the quarterfinals. Not bad for a school that 11 years ago had no male students.
Credit for such sustained success belongs to Cochran, a dynamic man possessed of a keen recruiting eye, boundless energy and a drive to be the best. Appropriately at a small college (enrollment 787) run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, faculty members use the term B.C., Before Cochran, to designate a bygone era. "It was a nice enough place B.C.," they will tell visitors, "but not nearly as exciting as it is now."
Cochran grew up in Joplin, Mo. and has lived in Kansas most of his life, which makes him an eloquent promoter for the Midwest when he's recruiting Easterners. Though he no longer makes as many forays to New York, he still draws heavily from that area; witness the presence on the Spartan roster of Brooklyn's Larry Jones, the Spartans' 5'7" point guard, and Henry Murphy, another guard, and Jerry Haynes, out of the Bronx.
Cochran's selling job was made easier this year with the completion of Salina's Bicentennial Center, where Marymount will play 18 home games. The new arena is the showcase that Cochran has always wanted, but it seats 7,300 and he is worried about filling it. In addition to being basketball coach and teaching three physical education courses, Cochran is in charge of selling seats.
For an exhibition game against the Australian national team in early November, Cochran lined up a Middle Eastern dance troupe—"Please don't call them belly dancers," he said—a senior-citizens kitchen-gadget band and a post-game dance for the crowd of 5,500. His concern about attendance is exceeded only by his desire to win, which Marymount did, 88-64.
Defense is stenciled neatly on the backs of the Spartans' practice jerseys. "Pressure defense is our bread and butter," Cochran says. "In 1973 we went to our first national tournament and were beaten 74-73 by Slippery Rock. They just ran and pressed us to death. It was so effective I've been using it ever since." Marymount uses a full-court press throughout every game, which is frustrating for opponents and exhausting for the Spartans. No one plays the whole game. There is a substitution every two or three minutes. "It means we have to be two deep at every position," says Cochran. "When someone gets tired, he comes out."
Marymount's offense is so balanced that Jones, the little junior billed as the Marymount Magician, comes off the bench. Tommy Williams and Keith Robinson, each 6'3", are the starting guards. Forward Jerry Haynes had 21 points and 16 rebounds a game last season for Manhattan ( N.Y.) Community College, and Cochran expects more of the same from him and David Williams, who led last year's Spartans with 13 points a game. The center is Chris Rorabaugh, one of three Kansans on the team.
Mention the name Ken Cochran to Clarence Gaines, the coach at Winston-Salem ( N.C.) State University, and he will tell you that Cochran recruited some kids Gaines wanted. Mention the name Clarence Gaines to Cochran—or most any coach in the U.S.—and he will step back and say almost reverently, "Ah, Big House. He's quite a fellow."
In the 34 years Gaines has been at Winston-Salem, his teams have won 639 games, more victories than for any other active coach. So strongly are Winston-Salem and Big House identified with each other that when the new physical education building was completed two years ago, the board of trustees named it the C. E. Gaines Athletic Complex. Little wonder, then, that Big House often must remind people that he's only 56 years old.
One reason for the bond is that Winston-Salem, a black college with some 2,200 students, is the only place Gaines has ever coached. He arrived there in 1945, fresh from Morgan State in Baltimore, where he acquired both his bachelor's degree in chemistry and his nickname.