COLLEGE DIVISION / MITCH POLIN : Azusa Pacific Coach Makes Smooth Transition

Having coached high school basketball for 23 seasons, the first thing that struck Bill Odell when he started coaching the men’s team at Azusa Pacific this season was the length of the games.

“We played a scrimmage and we had two 20-minute halves and it just seemed to go on forever,” he said. " . . . I was used to shorter games.”

But he appears to be making a smooth transition.

Odell, 49, who had a 402-199 record in 23 seasons as coach of Long Beach Millikan and Covina Northview high schools and won a Southern Section 5-AA Division title in 1989 at Millikan, is off to a 5-4 start, and the Cougars had won five in a row before losing to Cal State Bakersfield on Wednesday.


“The thing I found out is that coaching is coaching, no matter what level you’re on,” he said. “You have to learn to adjust to things at any place you coach. To me, the coaching part of the game has been the smallest adjustment I’ve had to make. There is more of a variety of defenses at this level than you see in high school, but that part hasn’t been a real problem.”

The biggest adjustment has been away from the court, Odell said.

“The traveling and the preparation are things that I’ve had to get a little more accustomed to,” he said. “In high school, we knew about most of our opponents, who we were facing, and most of our games were no more than about a half-hour bus ride away. But it’s different at this level.”

Odell said he has also had to pay closer attention to recruiting, which was never a concern in high school.


“It’s the peripheral things that take up a lot of your time, but they’re important,” Odell said.

All things considered, though, Odell said he is happy that he made the switch.

“It was a needed change,” he said. “The environment here is fantastic, and that was a big reason why I came here. But the coaching at this level has also been invigorating, and it’s a challenge that I’ve really enjoyed.”

Although he established his reputation as a high school coach, Odell could hardly be considered a stranger to the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics District 3, in which the Cougars compete.


He played guard for district rival Westmont from 1960-64 and earned honorable mention all-district honors as a senior. He gives former Westmont Coach Tom Byron much of the credit for his success as a coach.

“He’s probably the one who has influenced my coaching more than anyone else,” Odell said.

The coach’s connection to Westmont, though, goes beyond his playing days at the school. He was also an assistant coach for the Warriors for three seasons before taking over at Northview.

His son, Dave, played basketball for Westmont from 1985-89 and his daughter, Susie, played volleyball for the Warriors through last season and earned NAIA All-American honors.


Odell will face Westmont for the first time when the teams meet Jan. 28 in Azusa, although he leaves little doubt about his loyalty.

“I’m a Cougar now,” he said. “I love Westmont, that’s for sure. It’s a great place and I wish them the most success, but I hope they lose two games a year.”

After a season during which the Cougars finished 12-18 and didn’t make the district playoffs, the coach says he is hoping to bring stability to the program.

“This is just the start of a continuing process and it will take a number of years to develop the players and the program,” he said.


Despite Azusa Pacific’s fast start, Odell realizes that his team has yet to face its most difficult opponents. The Cougars must play Division II Cal Poly Pomona today and Division I Cal State Long Beach on Friday before shifting their focus to NAIA District 3 opponents in January.

“We may be in over our heads, but at least we’ll see where we stand,” Odell said.

For Rachel Wackerman of the Cal Lutheran women’s soccer team, it is the finishing touch to a brilliant season.

The sophomore forward from South Pasadena, who set a school record with 36 goals to lead the Regals into the NCAA Division III playoffs, has been voted to the National Soccer Coaches Assn. of America/Met Life Division III All-American team.


Wackerman, who led the Regals to a 17-4 record--12-0 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference--in their first season in Division III, has also scored 66 goals in two seasons to move up to No. 8 on the all-time NCAA list in goals.

She was previously honored as the SCIAC player of the year and her team’s most valuable offensive player.

College Division Notes

Cal State San Bernardino has placed three players on the NCAA Division II All-Far West Region first and second teams in men’s soccer. Sophomore forward Rolando Uribe, who scored 16 goals and 37 points in leading the Coyotes to the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. title and a berth in the Division III playoffs, made the first team. Defender Frank Felix and midfielder Matt Stotler made the second team. Midfielder Gerardo Yepez of Cal State Dominguez Hills also made the second team.


Three players from Cal Lutheran have been voted to the NCAA Division III All-Far West Region first team in men’s soccer, and Coach George Kuntz has been voted region coach of the year. The Kingsmen, who reached the Division III playoffs, placed defender Espen Hosoien, midfielder Dave Rinehart and forward Willie Ruiz on the squad. . . . Ten of the 11 players on the first team were from SCIAC. Claremont-Mudd was represented by defender Jonathan Byers, midfielder Gregg Vanourek and forward Patrick Corgue; Pomona-Pitzer by defender Robert O’Leary and forward Josh Crawley, and Redlands by goalkeeper Todd Sams and midfielder Chris Sellman.

With John Spinelli scoring 52 points, LIFE Bible College set a school single-game scoring record in a 184-110 victory over American Indian Bible College last week. . . . In the final 1991 NCAA Division III football statistics released last week, quarterback Willie Reyna of La Verne ranked No. 1 in total offense with an average of 329.1 yards and fifth in passing efficiency with a rating of 158.8 points. La Verne averaged 296.6 yards passing.