Working for a billionaire owner and helping to develop some of the NBA’s best young talent, Bill Bayno seemingly had it made as an assistant coach for the Portland Trail Blazers.
So what would possess the former UNLV coach to leave his low-stress, plush position — and even take a pay cut — to return to the college ranks as head coach at lowly Loyola Marymount?
"For the ability to really make a difference in kids’ lives," said Bayno, 46. "You help guys on the court in the NBA, but they’re all multimillionaires. You’re not really having that big of an influence on them as young men. (In college) you can help mold them.
"A lot of my friends in the business thought I was crazy to leave the good life to come back to the headaches of college … but I just felt I’ve always been a college guy."
A former player and assistant coach at Massachusetts, Bayno guided UNLV to a 94-64 record, four conference crowns and two NCAA Tournament appearances from 1995 to 2000 before getting fired seven games into the 2000-01 season amid allegations of recruiting violations.
The NCAA later cleared Bayno of wrongdoing, and he filed a wrongful termination lawsuit and received a settlement from UNLV.
But looking back at his time in Las Vegas on Wednesday at West Coast Conference media day at The Orleans, Bayno said his fight with alcoholism had a lot to do with his departure from the Rebels.
"It’s hard to really do your job when you’re trying to battle that type of disease," said Bayno, now a recovering alcoholic who said he hasn’t had a drink in more than six years. "It’s powerful."
Bayno, who said he has "nothing but good memories" of his time at UNLV, said his time in Sin City forced him to confront his demons.
"Without Vegas, I might not have gotten to a point where I really said, ‘You know what, you’ve got to look deep inside and change your life,’ " he said. "I haven’t had a drink in (almost) seven years, and nothing but good things have come of that. … I feel good. I’m in a good place, and I’m looking forward to doing this 100 percent."
Since leaving UNLV, Bayno coached in the American Basketball Association and the Continental Basketball Association, and his basketball odyssey also took him to the Philippines and Puerto Rico before he began working as a scout for Portland four years ago.
He said he loved his time in the NBA, where he worked for Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in Portland, Ore., but Loyola Marymount "kept tugging me to come back, and I just followed my heart."
"I wanted to really try to utilize all the experience I’ve gotten since I left UNLV," he said. "The first time I was a young assistant learning on the fly. But where I’ve come from and what I’ve been through, I really wanted to take that experience and see if I could take it to another level this time around.
"I’ve just grown so much as a coach … I’m more prepared and anxious to see where it takes me."
Bayno’s journey could lead him back to Las Vegas, where the WCC men’s and women’s tournaments will take place in March at the Orleans Arena. But the renowned recruiter faces a tall task in turning around the Lions, who went 5-26 last season and haven’t advanced to the NCAA Tournament since 1990, when a Bo Kimble-led team lost to UNLV in the Elite Eight.
Loyola Marymount was picked to finish seventh this season in its eight-team league. Gonzaga was picked to finish first, followed by Saint Mary’s and San Diego.
"We’ve got a very young team, and obviously we’re in rebuilding mode," said Bayno, who has added two transfers — Larry Davis (Seton Hall) and Drew Viney (Oregon) — since being named the Lions’ coach in April. "We may take our lumps this year as young as we are in a league I think is the strongest it’s ever been.
"But I’m looking forward to helping them grow and develop them and really try to put LMU back on the map."
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354.