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El Camino to Welcome Landreaux Back to Its Coaching Ranks : Community colleges: He had a successful nine-year run as men’s basketball coach of the Warriors. Current coach Ron McClurkin says he will look for a new job.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Paul Landreaux, who led El Camino College to three state basketball titles in the 1980s, says he will return as men’s basketball coach and physical education teacher next fall. The Warriors were 248-49 overall and 101-22 in league play in nine seasons under Landreaux.

Landreaux left El Camino at the end of the 1988 season to become an assistant to UCLA Coach Jim Harrick. He made his Division I head-coaching debut last season when he signed a three-year contract with St. Mary’s College. He resigned from St. Mary’s last week Thursday and this week moved back to Gardena, where he and his family have lived for more than 20 years.

Each year he was gone, Landreaux requested a leave of absence at El Camino which was granted by the school’s board of directors. Ron McClurkin, Landreaux’s longtime assistant, has been the Warriors’ coach on a part-time, interim basis.

McClurkin is 64-27 at El Camino and has led the Warriors to the state tournament twice. He says its unlikely that he will remain as Landreaux’s assistant.

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"(Landreaux) told me he didn’t want to coach here again,” McClurkin said on Tuesday. “I thought there’s no way he’ll be back after three years and now it looks like it might happen. It’s his job. I knew that all the time. I’ll just have to go find a job.”

James Schwartz, El Camino’s dean of physical education and athletics, said the administration is ecstatic to have Landreaux back. He said Landreaux called him on Saturday and confirmed that he would return next season.

“He said, ‘I want to reassure you that I plan to come back to El Camino.’ We’re going on his word,” Schwartz said.

Landreaux blames his sudden resignation at St. Mary’s on personality conflicts between him and Athletic Director Rick Mazzuto. Mazzuto came to St. Mary’s from Iona College shortly after Landreaux was hired by Donald McKillip, who retired as athletic director in 1989.

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Landreaux was 11-29 at St. Mary’s. He says he felt unwelcomed at St. Mary’s after McKillip left.

“There was lack of commitment and lack of support by school officials,” he said. “There were lots of negative undercurrents surrounding the program, and that did not set well with me. For my own sanity and peace of mind I had to be out of that situation.”

Landreaux had announced in November that he would leave St. Mary’s at the end of this season, but he says the administration wanted him out immediately.

“I felt I wasn’t given a chance,” he said. “I got the feeling they wanted me out. I didn’t have to step down. This was my doing. I said enough is enough. They said they would pay me for the rest of the year. I’m happy, and I’m sure they’re happy.”

Mazzuto did not return phone calls, but a longtime St. Mary’s administrator, who asked that his name not be used, said Landreaux created some of the problems.

“At a place like this you’ve really got to stroke the people (alumni),” the administrator said. "(Former Coach Lynn) Nance was great about that. If there was a function after the game or something going on anywhere, he was there. Landreaux wasn’t. He’d send an assistant or say he’d be there and not show. He kind of antagonized off a lot of people. He never grasped what he needed to do. He kind of brought this on himself.”

Landreaux said he has received several Division I assistant coaching offers, but he won’t say where. He said his goal is to win his fourth community college state title.

“It will be great to come back to familiar surroundings and to be back in an area I know,” he said. “It will be great to be back home again.”

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