Positively the Right Choice : New Oxnard Coach Returns Home With Optimistic Outlook

Times Staff Writer

Remy McCarthy, rock 'n roll music fan and basketball coach, still had Bruce Springsteen tunes ringing in his ears from the previous night's concert when he drew the following parallel:

"He's comfortable on the stage," McCarthy, the new boss of the Oxnard College men's basketball program, said of The Boss. "Me, I feel like I belong in coaching."

McCarthy feels especially comfortable since being hired last week to coach the men's basketball team at Oxnard College.

"I wanted to come back to California," he said. "I grew up in this area; my best friend, he still lives here. And coaching at Oxnard--it's a great job. Everything's here for me."

McCarthy, 31, graduated from Camarillo High in 1974 and his parents and eight of his nine brothers still live in Camarillo. McCarthy is currently staying with one of his brothers after moving from Washington, where he coached the Wenatchee Valley Junior College men's basketball team to a 12-14 record last season.

He inherits a team that was 7-21 last season, finished last in the Western State Conference and doesn't even have an on-campus gym to call home. The Condors play most of their home games at the Camarillo Boys and Girls Club. And in the past, they have suffered on the recruiting front because of it.

Even McCarthy, an eternal optimist, says he's not familiar enough with the situation to promise many changes. "It's going to take some time," he said, "especially if you look at the long-term picture. You have to be patient to be a coach, and I like the area. It's got some good athletes. We have the makings of just having a tremendous situation."

McCarthy's positive outlook toward Oxnard's plight played a major role in his being hired over interim Coach Bruce Furuya and three other finalists.

"He was basically probably the most enthusiastic person, as far as how he handled the interview," Oxnard College Athletic Director Don Brockett said.

"He's a just a very outgoing person and we're happy to have him. Plus, another thing that impressed me was, I think he's well-grounded in what community college education is all about. That was an important factor from my point of view."

McCarthy graduated in from Moorpark College in 1977. He played point guard for the basketball teams at both Camarillo and Moorpark but admits he was "the kind of player I probably wouldn't recruit."

Major college coaches agreed. So McCarthy tried to make the team at Cal State Sacramento. But he was cut.

McCarthy was short on talent, all right, but even as a high school player he knew how to motivate his teammates. John McMullen, who coached McCarthy at Camarillo and will coach against him for Santa Monica College in the WSC, remembers McCarthy developing coaching qualities at an early age.

"He was not a great player, but even back then I thought he had the makings of a good coach," McMullen said. "The thing I always remembered more than anything else about Remy was his spirit.

"I think he's the right man for the job. His biggest problem is not having a gym of his own. Until he gets one on campus . . . well, I don't know what he's gonna do."

McCarthy isn't sure what he's going to do yet, either. Negotiations are still in progress regarding his team's use of the Boys and Girls Club next season.

For now, he'd rather concentrate on the task at hand, one over which he has some control.

Namely, recruiting good players.

"There are a lot of good high schools in the area," he said. "I want the Channel Islands High kids, I want the Santa Clara kids, the Oxnard High kids. There are good players in those schools; they live in the Oxnard area--and I think they should go to Oxnard College."

McCarthy served as an assistant under Moorpark College Coach Al Nordquist from 1979 through 1982. And Nordquist, for one, believes his former protege will be able to attract athletes to Oxnard College who might otherwise have gone to Moorpark or Ventura.

"He's probably the best possible person for that particular job. He's from Camarillo, so he's local in that sense," Nordquist said.

"And he's a hard worker, he's a good recruiter and he's a good coach. It may take him a little time; you can't just go in there overnight and say, 'Well, I'm here.' But I think he'll make a big difference in that program."

Brockett is aware that his new coach could use some help. An on-campus gym would be a major step in the right direction.

"We have had a lot of problems with recruiting. It's made it difficult to get the kids who should be going to Oxnard to come," he said of the home-court disadvantage.

"We've had kids who have gone on to star at Moorpark and Ventura, who could have walked to Oxnard College."

Brockett has submitted drawings and a request for funding to build a gym to the California Community College State Chancellor's Office, but the money is not likely to be provided until the 1990-91 school year.

"Then," Brockett said, "we hopefully could be moving in in '91-'92."

By that time, McCarthy hopes to be enjoying the same type of success at his job at Oxnard as he did in his work as an assistant under Lynn Archibald at the University of Utah from 1983-87, before taking the head coaching job at Wenatchee Valley.

"I want competitiveness. I've found out that's a highly underestimated quality, and that's what we had at Utah. I loved Utah.

"Everybody in coaching has somebody who gave them their big break, and that's what Lynn did for me. He gave me work as a coach," said McCarthy, whose work at Moorpark before that was as a volunteer assistant.

"If it wasn't for Lynn, I wouldn't be here."

Oxnard, perhaps, should send a thank you note.

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