When Rodney Tention arrived on the campus of Loyola Marymount University as the 23rd head coach of the men's basketball program in 2005, many things had not changed in the conference he once played in. As a familiar face to those in the West Coast Conference, Tention was well-known as one of the many reasons the WCC is among the top in Division I basketball.
In his first two seasons at the helm of the Lions he added to that reputation.
All Tention did in his first season as an NCAA Division I head coach is lead the Lions to levels of success that have not been seen in 17 years. Tention took over the Lions and led them to a second place finish in the WCC and an appearance in the WCC Tournament Championship. Then in his second year he overcame the ups-and-downs of an injury plagued season some head coaches never have to face, leading the Lions to wins over three NCAA tournament teams, the most by a Lions' squad in more than 15 years. Prior to his arrival, the Lions had not had a winning record in the WCC since the 1995-96 season, had not advanced to the championship game of the WCC tournament since 1989, and had finished last in the WCC at 3-11 the year prior to his arrival.
Tention helped LMU to an 8-6 WCC mark in his first season, the most WCC wins since 1991-92 and 1995-96. The second place finish was the best since that same 1996 season. With the second seed in the WCC tournament, the Lions earned a win in the semifinals for the first time since 1989 and advanced to the WCC title match for the first time since Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble last led them there in `89.
In addition, Tention had three players (Brandon Worthy, Matthew Knight, Wes Wardrop) earn first-team All-WCC honors. It is only the third time in program history the Lions had three first-team members of the All-WCC team, the first since 1990. In addition, Knight and Worthy earned WCC All-Tournament honors for leading the Lions in the WCC tournament, the first all-tournament selections since 1997.
Year two saw Tention lead Knight to back-to-back first-team honors while Adoyah Miller had one of the turn-around seasons of the year in the WCC, earning WCC honorable mention honors. Tention also helped Damian Martin earn WCC Defender of the Year honors, just the second Lion in LMU history to claim the award.
The success in his first two seasons at LMU came as no surprise to those who have followed the San Francisco alum. Tention played three seasons with San Francisco and joins the Lions after eight seasons as an assistant at the University of Arizona. Tention has been no stranger to success. In 10 seasons at the NCAA Division I level, Tention helped coach teams to 10 straight postseason appearances, including nine trips to the NCAA tournament. He spent eight seasons under Lute Olson where he worked primarily with the perimeter players while helping with scouting reports, game day preparation and was one of the key players in Arizona's nationally-renowned recruiting efforts. In his time at Arizona, the Wildcats posted a record of 206-56 (.786).
Tention is familiar with LMU and the WCC as he graduated from the University of San Francisco in 1988 after playing three seasons with the Dons. "It is fantastic to return to the WCC. I love the conference, and I loved it when I was in it. I follow my alma mater and I know the guys in the conference well. LMU is a special place and this is a special conference," said Tention. "This league is full of very good coaches and it is going to be a challenge." Prior to his arrival in Tucson, Tention spent six seasons at the College of Notre Dame in Belmont, Calif. He spent three years as an assistant for the Argonauts from 1991-94, recruiting the talent that led the school to its first NCAC playoff appearance in 1994, and three years (1994-97) as the head coach while the program transitioned from the NCAA Division II level to the NAIA.
Before heading to the College of Notre Dame, Tention served as an assistant at the University of South Florida in Tampa from 1989-91 where the team made back-to-back postseason appearances, including to the NCAA West Regional First Round in 1989-90 after the Bulls won the Sun Belt Conference tournament. In two seasons with South Florida, the Bulls went 39-21 (.650), including a 20-win season in his first season.
He received his start in the collegiate coaching ranks as an assistant coach at Skyline Community College in San Bruno, Calif., during the 1988-89 campaign in which the team captured the Coast Conference Championship. While at USF, Tention averaged 10.5 points and 4.3 rebounds in his three-year career at USF, where he was a two-year captain and the team's most valuable player. He played for Jim Brovelli, who recently served as an assistant coach with the NBA's Denver Nuggets. Tention's first season in 1985-86 with USF was cut short when he fractured his elbow after dunking a ball in a game against San Jose State. The Dons were 4-1 at the time of his injury and he was given a medical redshirt for the season. The following year he recovered in a big way as he was an All-WCAC Honorable Mention selection, ranking second in assists with 5.2 per game and second in steals with 2.2 per game.
Tention's final season at USF might have been his best as he once again earned All-WCAC Honorable Mention honors. He ranked 24th in the league in scoring (11.0), setting a career high with 308 points. He also ranked fifth in assists (3.8) and fourth in steals (1.9) in the same season the Lions finished a perfect 14-0 in league play and 28-4 overall.
Tention competed in the junior college ranks at Grossmont Community College and was the squad's captain and MVP of the Pacific Coast Conference and an All-State selection after averaging 14 points, eight assists and five rebounds per game during the 1984-85 season. He set the single season record in assists with 259 in 1985, averaging 8.1 per game. He started his collegiate career at the Air Force Academy in 1983-84 where he played for former WCC coach Hank Egan. As a true freshman he played in all 27 games, starting in 23 for the Falcons. He averaged 6.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game and led the team in steals with 32 and had a season and team high eight assists in a single game.
Tention, 44 (May 27, 1963), received a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of San Francisco in 1988 and earned a master's in public administration from the College of Notre Dame in 1995. He has a son Nathan, and he and his wife, Rebecca, have two sons, Justice and Miles.
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