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Originally published Friday, February 3, 2012 at 9:03 PM

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Bo Kimble coaching "The System" in unlikely place

As is the case most nights, only half of the gym bleachers are pulled out, and the popcorn machine is just as close to the court as the players sitting on the bench.

AP Sports Writer

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SHORELINE, Wash. —

As is the case most nights, only half of the gym bleachers are pulled out, and the popcorn machine is just as close to the court as the players sitting on the bench.

Into this setting walks a former second-team all-American, an authority on the experiment taking place in this unlikely setting.

Bo Kimble takes his seat four chairs down on the bench at Shoreline Community College, wearing black sweats and fresh off a plane from his home in Philadelphia. For the next two hours, Kimble claps encouragement, gives subtle instruction and watches glimpses of what he and his teammates once made famous at Loyola Marymount - though here it's on a far smaller scale.

Kimble is spending the winter working as a volunteer assistant coach, hoping to start a coaching career by helping this commuter school's basketball program implement Paul Westhead's "System," a sensation when Kimble and Hank Gathers ran it at Loyola Marymount back in the late 1980s.

Kimble gets paid basically nothing, with the exception of a few private, individual workouts arranged on the side. Most days he's on campus for 6 to 8 hours - and when his day ends, he retires to a nearby motel with just enough amenities to make it homey.

It's not glamorous. Frankly, it's about as low on the coaching food chain as one can go. But it's at least a starting point.

"People say in life you have to take two steps back to take 10 steps forward and I think this is one of those opportunities," Kimble said. "Plus they're running The System. It would be more of a potential challenge if it was another system. This is the system that helped launch my NBA career."

Nearly 20 years removed from last playing an NBA game, more than two decades since he was the top scorer in college, Kimble's arrival at this point in his life was as much a freak occurrence as any methodically plotted path into coaching. An assist goes to the power of social media and an indication of just how seriously Kimble wants to get into coaching.

Last spring, Shoreline coach Greg Turcott decided if he was going to give his players the best opportunity to put up the types of numbers that could catch the attention of four-year college coaches, installing an up-tempo, high-scoring style was the best option. He eventually settled on trying to match what Westhead mastered in his time at LMU - 40 minutes of fast break basketball with defense as an afterthought.

So Turcott spent his spring and summer watching tapes of old LMU games, from the days when Kimble and Gathers were two of the top scorers in the country. He talked with former Westhead assistants and tried to piece together a plan for making "The System" work on his level.

"Conventional basketball, there is a small pool of guys that can play in that system," Turcott said. "... In this system there are a lot of guys other schools looked at and didn't think could fill those (conventional) spots."

But Turcott had no connection with Kimble, other than being an admirer of what Kimble and LMU were able to do, especially the 1989-90 season when the Lions became the darlings of the NCAA tournament following Gathers' sudden death. LMU reached the West Region final before losing to eventual national champion UNLV. Kimble led the nation in scoring averaging 35.3 points per game.

What he did have was an email address that fell into the lap of Turcott's strength and conditioning coach - also a volunteer - Joe Cario. One email explaining what Turcott was trying to accomplish eventually led to a series of phone calls and once it was clear that none of Turcott's East Coast connections might lead to a coaching gig for Kimble, came the offer of Kimble coming out to Seattle.

"I was thinking that maybe he'd be here two or three weeks," Turcott said. "It's been really good for him to get in the gym and coach."

On a recent Monday night, Shoreline is hosting nearby Everett. There are maybe 300 people in the stands, a good many hanging around after the earlier women's game. Someone shows up 15 minutes into the first half with a vuvuzela, that's quickly confiscated after one loud honk. A few are older basketball fans who more than once comment about how "it's not very pretty basketball." The play moves so quickly that a 10-minute delay stops action because the person manning the scorebook can't keep up.

But to Kimble and Turcott, this style is beauty on the court when played at a high, refined level. They've tired of conventional philosophy that games need to be won with suffocating defense and methodical offense. They want speed. They want shots, at least 100 per game. They don't care about turnovers or traps, just get out and run.

Before moving on to Shoreline, Turcott coached at a local high school that ran a Princeton style offense which Turcott says was "a fun way to play ugly, slow, conventional basketball." Constantly going up and down the floor at breakneck speed is just fun, period.

"You've got to be crazy. You've have to have the guts of a thief to play this way," Cario said.

After the 100-95 victory, Kimble stands in the middle of the locker room and is quick to point out that it could have been a far easier win had all of the Dolphins been following the defensive game plan throughout. The players turn away from the television showing highlights of other games that night and fix their attention on Kimble's words. He might find small issues, but he's impressed by the gritty effort that's followed up with another win, and another 100-point scoring game, two nights later over the top team in the region.

It's already been an exhausting two months for Kimble since he arrived here in early December, throwing in trips back to Philadelphia tending to business for his foundation - 44 For Life - that focuses on cardiac arrest awareness, with his coaching efforts. He has no clue where this experience might lead, but being back in the gym has reaffirmed that coaching is the path he wants to take.

Kimble believes all he needs is a break. He's certain he can coach more than just the run-and-gun system he thrived in at LMU, noting his NBA experience was playing for Larry Brown and Pat Riley.

"Everyone needs a break or some good blessing of good fortune. All I can do is my part and commit myself to this profession and know that I will be a great coach," Kimble said. "You always have to be out there proving yourself and I look forward to doing it."

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On the web:

http://www.44forlife.org

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Follow Tim Booth on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ByTimBooth

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