Originally created 01/19/01

A coach's comeback



If he had it to do again, Larry Wall would do things differently.

He wouldn't have resigned as the men's coach at USC Aiken in 1983, he wouldn't have taken the game so seriously and, most of all, he would have encouraged his players to have fun and enjoy basketball.

The 54-year old coach is teaching his team at Aquinas to do just that.

Wall spent four years away from the game, lounging around the house, spending time with family and making countless trips to Florence, S.C., to watch his son Greg play college basketball at Francis Marion University. Finally, Wall decided he missed coaching and wanted to give it another try.

"I think I kind of got burned out early in my career, only back then it wasn't called a burnout," Wall said. "But I kind of missed it. I kind of got itchy to get back into (coaching). So I took the opportunity and looked around for six or eight months and didn't see anything. Then one day I saw an advertisement that Aquinas was looking for a (boys) basketball coach.

"My wife and I were going on vacation, and I decided I'd drop a resume in the mail. I had never been to (Aquinas). I knew it was close by, and I had seen the school passing by. I sent the resume off and went on vacation. About a month later, I heard back."

JUST BEFORE SCHOOL started in August, Wall met with principal John Albert and athletics director Marty Jackson. He was offered the position. It would be Wall's first coaching job since he stepped down as the boys coach at Edmund Burke in 1996.

Aquinas officials were impressed with Wall's resume, which included a four-year stint at USC Aiken, where Wall turned the men's program into an NAIA power.

After numerous coaching stints on the high school and collegiate levels, Wall went to Edmund Burke Academy in 1993.

"I really wanted to coach my son," he said. "That's basically why I went to Edmund Burke."

Another reason why Wall left Burke County for Edmund Burke was because of family. After his mother died in 1991, his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease a few years later.

Wall and administrators at Edmund Burke worked out a compromise where he only concentrated on coaching basketball and didn't have teaching duties.

"With my dad's situation, I didn't want to obligate to full-time teaching responsibilities," Wall said. "I could coach basketball, then have the four or five months free to go back and forth from Waynesboro to North Carolina to check on my father."

WALL'S FATHER DIED in 1997, and the coach dabbled in real estate briefly before deciding he really missed basketball.

"While I was out of coaching, I saw a lot of things I'd like to change if I ever got back in it," Wall said. "I thought I could be a better coach now than I was when I first got into it.

"But if there is one thing I regret is stepping down at USC Aiken. They were talking about moving from NAIA to Division II (at the time), which I thought was a step down. We didn't have any dorms or anything, and I thought, `How could we move to Division II?"'

Wall said after resigning at USC Aiken, he had a hard time getting a head coaching job again.

He has Aquinas at 8-8 and primed for a berth in the state basketball tournament. But there's no pressure, and Wall is having fun.

"I thought coming in ... what would I do differently?" he said. "The situation here (at Aquinas), this is a hard academic school, and basketball is not 100 percent important like it is at some places."

THE AQUINAS PLAYERS like the new coach's style.

"He's laid back, and you don't have to worry about messing up," said senior Lamon Coleman, the team's leading scorer. "A lot of times, if you don't have to worry about making mistakes, you won't make mistakes."

The players also like Wall's rotation. He starts five players, then five minutes into each quarter, he substitutes five fresh players.

"He's made things fun," Coleman said. "Sometimes, he thinks he takes it too serious by doing the right things. Like the other day, he got upset at a bad call, then he apologized to the team for the outburst. That's how it's supposed to be."

Wall's experience on the college level also could be beneficial to his team. Players said he brings new plays and schemes that add an interesting twist to the game.

"When he first came in here, he said his job wasn't to yell at us, but to make us better players," junior John Cooper said. "When we make a mistake, he pulls us over to the side and calmly explains what we did wrong and what we should have done so we won't make the same mistake again."

Wall doesn't know how long he'll continue to coach, but he reminds himself not to get wrapped up in the game but to enjoy it.

"We just take it one game," Wall said. "I'm not going to get back in it and go crazy. I've learned to just have more fun with it."

Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216 or timmorse@augustachronicle.com.

Wall's accomplishments:

  • 21 years of coaching basketball on high school, junior college, NAIA, NCAA Division I and intercollegiate levels
  • 223 wins in eleven years as men's head coach on college level
  • 3 college teams were nationally ranked
  • International and Olympic Sports Festival coaching experience
  • Coached collegiately at North Greenville College, Cumberland College, USC Aiken, Augusta College and Murray State
  • Coached high school at Broadway High (Broadway, N.C.), Parker High (Greenville, S.C.), Midland Valley, Burke County, Edmund Burke and Aquinas