LONG BEACH STATE NOTEBOOK / JASON REID : McDonald Won't Gloat, but 49ers Rubbing It In

Glenn McDonald refuses to gloat, although he's certainly entitled to a few "I told you so's."

McDonald, Long Beach State's women's basketball coach, heard the whispers and saw the doubt in countless faces. He wasn't the right person revitalize the program, the doubters maintained.

However, McDonald stuck with his plan. And now? Well, doubters are still around, but they're in the minority.

The 49ers are off to their best start in four seasons and McDonald is unquestionably the architect of the resurgence.

"I'm not going to lie: It feels good," McDonald said. "You can't gloat because basketball is such a crazy game, things can turn around so fast. But it's fair to say we're back to being a very good basketball team."

Long Beach is 7-6, 5-1 in the Big West Conference. The 49ers are second in the conference behind UC Irvine (8-4, 5-0).

What's more, Long Beach has won four in a row for the first time since McDonald's rookie season (1991-92) as a head coach. The 49ers won conference road games at Nevada, 77-69, Friday and Pacific, 84-73, Sunday.

"This makes me feel the past couple of years have been worth it," he said. "It makes me feel like I've done the right things."

McDonald took control of the 49ers when Joan Bonvicini left to become coach at Arizona. A Long Beach graduate and one of the school's all-time best basketball players, McDonald joined Bonvicini's staff as an assistant in 1986.

Under Bonvicini, Long Beach became one of the nation's dominant programs. Everything held to form in McDonald's first season as he guided Long Beach to a 21-10 (13-5 in the Big West) record and an appearance in the NCAA tournament.

Then the hard times hit. Over the last two seasons, Long Beach was 20-34. McDonald attributes much of the decline to his cleaning house.

"I got rid of some people who caused cancer in the program," McDonald said.

Winning is important to McDonald, but he had to do it his way. All the players in the program are his recruits and follow his lead.

Senior forward Melissa Gower provides the leadership. She leads the team with averages of 23.3 points and 12.8 rebounds.

Junior forward Kim Barfield (12.8 points and 7.4 rebounds) and junior point guard Akia Hardy (10.8 points and six assists) are also integral parts of the turnaround. Freshman guard Sarah Davis, who played at Tustin High, is a key reserve.

"I'm sure there are still people who question if we're for real; who still think we're not a serious contender," McDonald said. "But that's all right. I just tell the young ladies we just have to worry about ourselves and everything else will be fine."

So far, they believe.

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Top player: The Big West selected Gower its player of the week for the second time this season.

Gower, second-team all-conference last season, averaged 25.3 points and 14 rebounds as the 49ers won three conference games.

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Nice seeing you: The men's basketball game last Wednesday against Nevada was also a reunion.

Point guard Rasul Salahuddin played with Nevada center Faron Hand, forward Jimmy Moore and point guard Eathan O'Bryant at Dixie College in St. George, Utah, during the 1992-93 season.

"(This) was something we were all waiting for," Salahuddin said. "We all lived in the same apartment back in Utah.

"I'm happy they're doing all right. We're all in school doing what we have to do and staying healthy."

Salahuddin had nine points and three assists in the 49ers' 69-64 conference victory. The teams play again Feb. 2 at The Pyramid.

Notes

The women's basketball team plays its first game in The Pyramid 7:30 p.m. Wednesday against Cal State Northridge. . . . The women's tennis team begins its season Thursday with a 2 p.m. match at Point Loma Nazarene. The team also has 2 p.m. matches at San Diego State on Friday and UC San Diego on Saturday.

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