As a player under head Coach John Wooden at the University of California, Los Angeles, Larry Farmer was team captain his senior season and led the Bruins to three consecutive national championships and a NCAA record 89-1 record in three seasons. He worked as head coach at his alma mater, as well as the Weber State and Loyola University Chicago.
Now, farmer is bringing his knowledge and experience on the East coast, joining North Carolina State as the director of basketball development for the male players. After nearly three decades of power-conference college basketball, the farmer is pleased to begin its journey on Tobacco Road.
Following his final season with the Bruins, farmer was drafted Cleveland Cavaliers of the National Basketball Association and the Denver launch the American Basketball Association. His playing career seemed well underway as he then went to Cleveland to try out for the Cavalier squad.
“Coach Wooden always thought that to make a good coach,” farmer said. “When I played, I did not want to think about coaching. I would like to think about the game.”
Farmer made it through rookie camp, the veteran camp and played exhibition season for the Cavaliers, but was cut two days before the start of the season of college basketball.
While he was away his professional career in the NBA, wood stored graduate assistant coaching positions are open to farmers.
“I was cut on Saturday, the regular season began Monday,” said the farmer. “And on Monday afternoon, I was working in Los Angeles.”
Farmer joined the coaching staff coach for the 1973-74 season wood. December 15 this season, the Bruins played at North Carolina State and won Wolfpack 84-66. Fast forward to March and the two teams faced each other back in the game with more than the impact of the first meeting: a chance to go to the national championship.
March 23 Wolfpack team led by arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, David Thompson, the Bruins won 80-77, advancing his first state title.
Although they never played against each other and do not meet until years later powerhouse Final Four showdown, the farmer said Thompson to be a good friend.
“I teased him about beating the Los Angeles and he said I was lucky, I had already finished, because he would not get 90 [points] against me,” said the farmer. “That’s why we kept a very good friendship, despite the fact that he did against Los Angeles. They had a really special team.”
“When I saw them play on TV before we played them, I was very concerned because they looked like the kind of team that could give us problems,” the farmer said, chuckling. “And they did.”
After his one season as a graduate assistant, the farmer returned to play professionally. He signed with the team in Germany and had a spectacular season. He’s already making plans to play next season in Belgium, where there would be more competition and higher pay.
That’s when Coach Wooden retired after his 10th national title. Gene Bartow took the Bruins and started looking for assistants. “I fell right into that category, but that was an assistant,” said the farmer.
Although the basketball season in Germany has not yet been completed, the farmer flew to Los Angeles for three days to interview and was hired as an assistant. Then he flew back to Europe to finish the season, before assuming his duties coach.
“That’s why my coaching career started a little earlier,” said the farmer. “I had always planned to be a high school coach for a while and try to work my way, but circumstances dictated otherwise.”
Farmer remained on staff as an assistant to 1981-82, when he took over as head of coaching. At that time he was the head coach, he took on a young shooter from Southern California named Jeff Dunlap, the current director of NC State operations. The pair subsequently joined forces as coaches. FarDunlap farmer hired as an assistant at Loyola-Chicago, and everyone worked as an assistant coach at Western Michigan for the 2010-11 campaign.
Remaining close to the program of UCLA, farmer also met a young assistant coach who served under Jim Harrick in the late 80′s and early 90′s – the current state of NC head coach Mark Gottfried.
These two relationships put farmer in prime position once again come to a school that was the focus of college basketball for decades and do what he had to do as a member of the collegiate coaching staff – to win a national title.
“Coach Gottfried very practicing Coach Wooden’s system,” said the farmer. “He knows that it works, and he believes in it.”
“Coach Gottfried is doing it the right way, so you’ll probably have a chance every year, and it’s really hard to do it. I can tell you that from experience.”