Dave Fehte, who did a masterful coaching job last winter at St. Mary’s College, is looking forward to his return to Southern California.
He was chosen recently as the No. 1 assistant basketball coach at Loyola Marymount, a position which has remained open since Paul Westhead left for the NBA in September and Jay Hillock was hurriedly promoted to head coach. Fehte, 30, served as a Cal State Northridge assistant for five seasons.
“I was real happy here but it’s a better opportunity in L. A. I can’t wait to get there,” Fehte said in a telephone interview from the St. Mary’s campus in Moraga.
Fehte joins a staff that includes Bruce Woods and part-timer Mark Armstrong. The Lions will go into the season optimistically, returning 11 lettermen to go with three standout recruits.
Fehte will be at Loyola this week, in time for a recruiting evaluation period starting July 5, when coaches are allowed to scout high school prospects.
“I’m really happy about (his hiring), I’m very pleased,” Hillock said. “I’ve known Dave the last four, five years. He’s good, bright, young, full of energy. It became evident he would like to make a move . . . he was the obvious choice.”
Fehte, who graduated from Cal State Northridge in 1985, joined Paul Landreaux’s staff at St. Mary’s last year. When Landreaux found himself at odds with Athletic Director Rick Mazzuto, he resigned 13 games into the season and the team was dropped in Fehte’s lap.
As the interim head coach, Fehte took the undermanned Gaels to a 9-8 record overall, 7-7 record in the West Coast Conference, and by the time the WCC postseason tournament came around, they were the team nobody wanted to play. They made a surprising appearance in the finals, where they nearly upset Pepperdine, finally losing in overtime.
“He did an outstanding job last year, one of the best coaching jobs in college basketball,” Hillock said. “The situation was in disarray and they came within about 30 seconds of going to the NCAAs.”
Hillock and Fehte are not only familiar with each other from having been coaching rivals, but from several years crossing paths on the recruiting trail and at summer camps. In fact, they were together last summer when Fehte got the St. Mary’s position. “He’s worked Paul’s camps for years, and me and Paul had dinner with him in Lubbock (Texas) when he got the (St. Mary’s) job,” Hillock said.
Fehte also showed he can play the upbeat Loyola style, as his team defeated the Lions, 103-101, in January. “I’m very much comfortable with the running style,” Fehte said. “I’ve always been a big believer in that.”
Hillock, who spoke to several candidates last fall but got no bites, was set to hire Dick Fick in late May. Fick, a longtime assistant at Creighton, was in town to finish the paperwork when he got a last-minute call from Morehead State and went there as head coach.
Fehte, meanwhile, was apparently not a candidate for the St. Mary’s head coaching job until after the Gaels’ late-season surge, when Mazzuto--who preferred to bring in his own man and had earlier said Fehte was not under consideration--gave in to alumni pressure and granted him an interview.
Mazzuto reached across the bay to hire Ernie Kent, an assistant at Stanford, and Fehte was asked to stay on as an assistant.
“I had a job. I wasn’t pounding the pavement,” Fehte said. “I was not really looking, but if something came along . . . I was disappointed (in not remaining head coach) but I felt I did everything I possibly could and the decision was out of my hands. Coach Kent made a smooth transition here and I took it in stride.”
Fehte, a native of Camden. N. J., began coaching as an assistant at Cleveland High followed by similar stints at Pierce College and Chatsworth High before joining Pete Cassidy’s staff at Northridge. Among those he helped mold in high school was a future Loyola star, Mike Yoest.
Fehte and his wife Martha have retained their Chatsworth townhouse, making for a quick transition back to the Southland. But he won’t get to see much of it for a while. “I’ll probably move most of my stuff when I get off the (recruiting) road in August,” he said.