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Pimm has little idle time in retirement

Ex-U. basketball coach keeps busy in S. California

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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Jerry Pimm tries to convince people he has a lot of idle moments, "collecting coupons the first of every month."

Don't believe it.

Pimm, the former University of Utah basketball coach, has few idle moments. The 62-year-old retired from coaching at the University of Santa Barbara in 1998, where he was the most-winning coach (222-202) in the school's history.

Pimm was Utah's head coach from 1974 to 1983. His teams went to five NCAA tournaments, including four Sweet 16s, captured three WAC championships and won 66.8 percent (173-86) of their games.

After retiring from coaching, Pimm became the assistant athletic director at Santa Barbara, under athletic director Gary Cunningham.

"I was grateful for the job, but I didn't want to spend my time pushing papers," Pimm said. "After coaching for 38 years, I didn't find the job very exciting. Not at all very fulfilling.

"I wanted something more exciting. So, I became a color commentator on TV for a while. But they wanted me to travel."

Pimm said he was tired of traveling due to his years of coaching.

"I told them that the work was great, but that all I wanted to do is West Coast games. I didn't need the money. So, I basically quit. I'm still doing some scouting for NBA teams but only on the West Coast. That still keeps me involved in the game."

Pimm has submerged himself in the city's laid-back California lifestyle, and he loves it. He is the vice president of the LaCumbre Country Club. He is on the board of directors and serves as chairman of their tournaments.

"I'm really enjoying the lifestyle of this community," Pimm said. "This is a great place to live. There isn't a lot of growth. There aren't a lot of crowds. The weather is ideal. And it's just 90 miles from Los Angeles."

But rare are his idle moments.

When Pimm first took the Santa Barbara coaching post, he lived on a 48-foot yacht in the marina. "I love the lifestyle, but after a while the boat became too much for me to maintain. I decided I wanted more free time. So, I'm a main-lander now."

When he arrived on the Santa Barbara campus, it was almost more than he was bargaining for. The Gauchos were never on TV. Never had been to a post-season tournament. And like he says, "It was very difficult to recruit here. There wasn't any tradition." Pimm changed that.

His teams went to the NCAA Tournament twice and the National Invitational Tournament three times. And they appeared on national TV — ESPN, PrimeTime, Fox, Raycom, CBS and Sports Channel — 281 times.

"We played Fresno State the year after they won the NIT on a Saturday afternoon game at the Events Center (known now as the Thunder Dome)," Pimm said. "When I entered the parking lot, it was filled. I thought to myself, 'Hey! This is great. We need more Saturday afternoon games.'

"But in our arena, the Fresno State crowd, dressed in red, outnumbered us 5-1. The other cars in the parking lot were kids just going to the beach. But we won the game, 55-50, which helped us kick-start our program. I saw that the potential for a solid program was there."

He said having Jerry Tarkanian coaching UNLV and Boyd Grant at Fresno State helped the league's power ratings and helped with recruiting.

"When they left to become WAC members, it hurt our power ratings and became more difficult to recruit," Pimm said.

Since Pimm retired in 1998, the Gauchos can't buy a TV appearance. The crowds at the Thunder Dome have dropped. The kids are going to the beach once again. The Mountain West Conference, led by Utah, has taken over the ESPN Big Monday shows.

But Pimm still has many fond memories of his Ute coaching career.

"After all, I spent 22 years of my life coaching there," he said. "Utah has a great basketball tradition. Lately, it seems that I'm spending a lot of time going to funerals, like Jack Gardner's or for Buster Matheney. I still keep up with the lives of my former players."

Pimm and his wife, Linda, have two children, a daughter, Donna, and a son, David, who still live in the Salt Lake area.

"For the last four years, I have been coaching the Utah alumni team in their summer game against BYU," Pimm said. "I appreciate doing it. It keeps me involved with my former players. Besides, we're 3-1 in the series against BYU. That's a good way to keep your job — by beating your rival."

E-mail: torch@uswest.net