Then & Now: Lynn Mitchem
Compiled By Dave Brandon
(Photo Courtesy UIC Media Relations)
Mitchem was an assistant coach at Nebraska from
1987-1992, and helped coach the Huskers to a 106-82
record, along with two NCAA tournaments and two NIT's.
was instrumental in the 1991 recruiting class that was
considered one of the nation's ten best, and played
a large roll in helping the Huskers land Rick King
and Eric Piatkowski.
who played his college ball at Butler and finished his
career third all-time on the Bulldog-scoring list, came
to Nebraska when Danny Nee did (1986-1987), and is now
an assistant coach at Illinois-Chicago.
our latest guest in this Sunday's edition of "Then &
for joining us. How did the season go for UIC this year?
LM: We were
16-15, and we finished tied for 3rd in our
conference, and we got beat by Wisconsin-Green Bay in
the second round.
HHC: Not bad, sounds like you’ll be real
good next year from what I hear.
Definitely, we’ll get things going here.
finished your playing career as the third all-time
leading scorer at Butler, and besides that, have been
coaching in the Horizon League the last five seasons.
With all those Horizon League and Butler connections, do
you know Barry Collier at all?
LM: Oh yeah, I
know Barry. I was also in the Horizon League at Loyola
of Chicago, and so we coached against him then. And the
funny thing was that Barry first started off as a
graduate assistant at Idaho, in like 1979 when I
graduated from high school, and I remember him calling
my house when he was an assistant at Idaho.
HHC: Small world, huh? Hey, prior to
coming to Lincoln with Danny Nee in 1986-1987, you
served one season as an assistant coach to Gene Keady at
Purdue. What was that experience like, and what did you
learn from him?
LM: Coach Keady is obviously a legend, and
I learned a lot from him. He taught me how to handle
people, players, and how hard we had to work to get
results. Just basically, things like that.
HHC: Talk about your background with Coach Nee,
and what sold you on coming to Lincoln with him in
LM: I remember Coach Nee being an
assistant coach at Notre Dame, so he was recruiting one
of my teammates, and he recruited me just a little bit,
although not much. So I knew him prior to that, and when
the opportunity came, I took it, because I liked his
personality and how he did things, so it was a no
brainer to go to Nebraska.
HHC: Do you
still stay in touch with him?
LM: I saw him
this summer, but haven’t talked to him since he resigned
was an exciting year at Nebraska, as in your first year,
you guys went 21-12 and finished third place in the NIT.
What stands out about that team and year?
LM: You know what, I remember we had good
guards in guys like Brian Carr. Him and Bill Jackman
provided great leadership, we had a great player in
Bernard Day, and Derrick Vick and Henry T. Buchanan came
off of the bench and gave us a spark. So the first year
there, that was a great, great experience, just going
that far with those guys, and was very enjoyable.
HHC: Right around that time, the coaching
staff really started to jump start recruiting, as you
got guys like Rich King, Beau Reid, and Clifford Scales.
How were you able to sell the program so well?
LM: Rich King was from Omaha, so we sold
him on the fact that we wanted him to be another Dave
Hoppen and break all of his records. And his parents
could see him play, and he could be the next big guy
coming from Nebraska, so that was a good sale. He was a
hard one, though, because we beat out Arizona and
Kansas, but to me, he was a very good player.
of recruits, who were some of the guys that you
especially helped in bringing to Nebraska, and which was
LM: Dapreis Owens from Mansfield, Ohio was
big. Lewis Geter was good, but he left after his
sophomore year. Rich King, Pete Manning, all those guys.
Basically, all the good players we brought in I think I
had a little hand in helping to bring. Carl Hayes was
another one who was very good and very smooth.
HHC: 1987-1988 was a tough year, as you
guys finished just 13-18. However, 1988-1989 was a solid
year, and saw a 17-16 record and NIT appearance. What
memories do you have of the second NIT and that season?
LM: It was good to see Eric Johnson have a
great senior year. He played really well, and then
Clifford Scales and Dapreis played a little and got
definitely remember the younger guys growing. But Eric
Johnson having a real good senior year is what stood out
HHC: 1989-1990 was an injury plagued season and
a 10-18 finish. Did you honestly have any idea of how
special the following year would be at that time?
LM: No, I didn’t. I knew we struggled and
wanted to get better, and so we did, but those guys
worked really hard in the off-season, and they decided
that we needed to turn it around and get things done,
and that’s obviously what we did.
HHC: The 1990-1991 team is the best team
in Nebraska history, and finished 26-8 with the schools
second NCAA Tournament appearance and a #9 ranking to
end the year. At what point in that season did you know
it was going to be a magic carpet ride?
LM: I think we went like 16-1 in the
beginning of the year. Actually, when we first started,
we played in Puerto Rico and we beat Saint Louis and
Illinois by 20, and then lost to Murray State in the
championship. But we had a lot of guys returning and a
lot of guys coming in, and it just clicked, and we had
such a good year.
HHC: What made that team so successful,
and were you ever around a better team?
LM: I’ve been coaching over twenty years,
and it was the most wins that I’ve ever been around, I
think. The guys got along real well and we had good
leadership. We had inside, outside, and it was just a
special team overall. Guys played well together, and we
found ways to win.
HHC: Talk about some of your favorite
memories of that team?
LM: Keith Moody hitting the shot against
Oklahoma in the Big 8 tournament when we were down like
11 with three minutes to go, and we came back and won
that. Puerto Rico was very rewarding, and then playing
in the Big 8 championship game and losing to Missouri,
but just winning those two games before that were great.
HHC: How disappointing was it to have
things end on such a sour note against Xavier in the
LM: It was real disappointing because…
Well, I don’t want to make any excuses, but we played a
late game, and it just wasn’t meant to be, I guess.
(Xavier) did play well, so we had to tip our hats, but
that was a disappointing loss, no question about that,
because I thought we could have gone pretty far in the
HHC: Your last season at Nebraska was
1991-1992, and you guys finished 19-10 with another
appearance in the NCAA Tournament against Connecticut.
The team lost, and to this day, many feel that it was
because of a combination of lack of focus and
concentration. Do you agree with that, or did Nebraska
simply get beat on those days?
LM: We just got beat both years, and UConn
was a better team. Donyell Marshall was there, and they
had real good players, so it wasn’t like it was a lack
of concentration. They were a great, talented team.
HHC: What made you choose to leave
Nebraska following 1992?
LM: I was
there six years, and I liked Lincoln, but it was just
unfortunately time to leave. A lot of things happened,
good and bad, but it was just time to break ship, I
HHC: What are your favorite memories of
being in Lincoln?
LM: I was a young man who was twenty-five
years old when I got there, and being a full-time
assistant at that age at a place like Nebraska with that
magnitude was great.
We had a
great football program and were working on a great
basketball program, so it was just a great, great
experience being at Nebraska, and is something that I’ll
always cherish. Lincoln was a nice city, and we had
great fan support. It was a first class institution and
have a lot of fond memories about the University of
Nebraska, and that was really my start as a full-time
assistant, and you can’t beat that.
HHC: Do you keep in touch with anybody you
knew from Lincoln and make it back at all?
LM: I haven’t
been back. I talk to Ellen (Shutts) the secretary a bit,
and I have a real good friend Patrick Campbell, who is
almost a judge there. I talk to Gary Bargen a lot, as he
and I are still pretty close, and I know they had the
reunion and you guys helped with that, and it would have
been nice to come back for that but besides those three,
not really anyone else.
HHC: Finally, update us on your life since
1992, and tell us what you are up to today at UIC?
LM: I’m an assistant here and have been
for five years under Jimmy Collins. After Nebraska, I
was at Washington State for five years under Kelvin
Sampson. I went to Ball State as an Associate Head Coach
under Dick Hunsaker, and then Loyola in Chicago for four
years under Ken Burmeister, and then took a year off
from coaching before getting back into it at Southern
Illinois under Bruce Weber for two years.
been here at UIC since 2001.
HHC: Right on. Are you cool with taking
some e-mails at
[email protected] if we set you up an
account and tell you how to check it?
LM: Oh yeah,
HHC: Awesome. Thanks a lot for your time,
and anything else you'd like to add?
LM: I’d just like to say that I really did
enjoy Nebraska, and at that point in my life, it was
really good for me. And I have a lot of fond memories