Cajun, Get ready for a visit
[size=18px]LeBato heads to Cajuns[/size]
Northside's state championship coach climbs ladder of success
After weeks of speculation, the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns officially announced on Monday their plans to hire Northside High boys basketball coach Rick LeBato as an assistant to coach Robert Lee.
The move is pending approval from the University's Board of Supervisors.
"He brings an added dimension to our staff," Lee said. "Rick is someone's career that I have followed closely when I was at Opelousas High and since I've been at UL. He brings a lot of different things to our program - on the floor - recruiting - and in the community."
LeBato, who has yet to turn in a letter of resignation to the Lafayette Parish School Board, will replace former Cajuns assistant coach Jason Kennemer, who resigned and is now the assistant director of UL's recreation sports department effective July 1.
"I knew that I always wanted to go back to the college level," said LeBato, who served as an assistant coach at Texas-Arlington of the Southland Conference from 1990-92. "This is something that I have thought about doing for four or five years.
"I'm very fortunate to get this opportunity, because I thought that I would have to move away to Texas or something to get back on the college level. But I'm glad that I can stay in Louisiana."
Aside from wanting to get back on the college level, LeBato said working with fellow assistants Rennie Bailey and Johnny Simmons provided him with the perfect chance.
"After visiting with those guys, I understand the direction they would like to take the program and I like it," LeBato said. "I like all the things that coach Lee is looking to do for the future and I like the guys that he has brought in. I'm glad that coach Lee is giving me this opportunity."
In the past seven years as the Vikings' head coach, LeBato helped the program reach national recognition and this past season guided the team to the school's first state championship by defeating Ouachita 67-54 in the Class 4A finals.
"It's sad to see him go," said Vikings senior to be Ryan Mallory. "He was a good coach and he worked us really hard. He picked up the program and made a name for us. He's going to be tremendously missed, but I wish him luck at UL."
LeBato, who is a UL alumnus and will be reunited with Cajuns signee Randell Daigle, didn't give a definitive answer when asked whether or not he would've made the jump to the college ranks had the Vikings not won the state championship.
"Sometimes things get old, but we have a good group coming in," he said of the Vikings' returning players and incoming freshmen. "But it's a new group, but I could've tried again. It would have been hard, but it would've been fun."
In his time with the program, LeBato built relationships with not only his players but their families as well.
"I stayed longer at Northside than I have any other place that I've been," said LeBato, who served as head coach at Grand Lake and Sulphur. "I enjoyed my stay at Northside. I enjoyed all the community support I received. They have been good to me."
Lee said he tabbed LeBato as his first option as an assistant immediately after he learned a position could become open.
"He was the guy that I really wanted since it began to look like we were going to have a position open," Lee said. "He has college experience and a lot of ties throughout the state of Louisiana and in Texas. He is going to be a tremendous asset to our program and he will only help bring the program where we want it to be."
Originally published June 20, 2006
LeBato heads to Cajuns
Re: Cajun, Get ready for a visit
It's a payoff for bringing them Daigle...it happens all the time.