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New Era

Nov. 12, 1999

Bear's head man boasts

list of coaching successes


Sports Writer

Dave Bliss carries his stature as a competitor wherever he goes. Baylor is his fourth stop-over as a head basketball coach. He, along with lifetime assistant Doug Ash, has a 465-271 record and 11 NCAA tournament appearances in 24 years.

Bliss began coaching under college basketball icon Bob Knight at West Point, where he received a military education. However, Bliss had previously met Knight as a teammate on the Cornell basketball team while he was an undergraduate.

'When I received the position at Indiana, the first guy I hired was Bliss,' Knight said. 'He is a very bright guy who has the ability to see things differently.'

Knight also said he remembered Bliss from his Cornell and Army days, and his incite for the game of basketball impressed him. Bliss could just figure out the needs of different players, he said.

'He is quick at what he sees,' Knight said. 'Among coaches today, nobody can coach three, now four, different programs with basically the same success with the same staff.'

Knight's comment was in reference to Bliss' ability to maintain an effective crew, with Ash as his top assistant, since the beginning of his inaugural year at Oklahoma. Ash and Bliss have the longest partnership of any two active coaches in NCAA history, with only Dean Smith and Bill Gutheridge at the University of North Carolina having been together longer.

'From my standpoint, I hope we coach forever,' Ash said. 'We planned on coming back to Texas sometime and Baylor gave us the opportunity to come back earlier.'

Ash recruited and scouted as a graduate assistant at Indiana under Knight, but joined Bliss when the opportunity arose in 1975.

'He is a competitive person at whatever he does; recruiting, coaching, jogging,' Ash said.

'This makes him special. All successful coaches have that quality.'

Bliss and Ash stayed at Oklahoma for five years and Bliss won the Big 8 Conference Coach-of-the-Year award in 1976 and 1978. In the following season, he received his first NCAA tournament bid while finishing first in the conference.

Then, Southern Methodist University offered Bliss the head coaching position to rebuild the program. Bliss accepted and Ash followed. In eight seasons with the Mustangs, they went to three NCAA tournaments and had one NIT showing. Success then took them to the University of New Mexico. The Lobos hoped Bliss would bring consistency to their program.

He stayed there for 11 years and earned seven NCAA tournament appearances. In his final four years with UNM, Bliss won at least 24 games each season and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament, something only five other teams in NCAA history have accomplished.

Lobos Athletic Director Rudy Davalos said Bliss gave 100 percent of his capabilities to the Lobos.

'You cannot fault him on anything he did here,' Davalos added. 'He was his own person with his own style; one of the better coaches in the league.'

Bliss brought style to the game through his interaction with the local community. According to Ash, Bliss used his business mindset to promote his team with community organizations and to attract a plethora of fans besides students. He has already coordinated the same approach at Baylor with the new seating for students at courtside and the community event last weekend with the McLennan County Boys and Girls Club.

'We needed to find out what the commitment was of the people who are behind Baylor,' Bliss said. (We wanted to) try to have them understand what we really perceive the possibilities here. 'To create the spirit, electricity and energy, that is to me what a place like Baylor can do.'

Bliss added that the challenge of rebuilding is fulfilling as long as the program is climbing up hill. Throughout his coaching career, he turned around programs. And, his record shows that he is one of the best individuals in the nation at it.

'Success doesn't have any secrets,' Knight said. 'To develop a successful basketball program at Baylor, nobody else could do a better job than Bliss.'