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Spotlight on Former Athlete: Ted Lyles – Men’s Basketball 1974-79

Ted Lyles at USL, 1975-79

Points – 747

Assists – 537

Rebounds – 236

Cajuns – 7-19, 21-8, 19-8, 16-11 (63-46)

Lyles perfect fit to reawaken program

By Bruce Brown

Written for Athletic Network

Ted Lyles was accustomed to winning.

He and his brother Dale helped lead Redemptorist High of Baton Rouge to back-to-back state basketball championships, so victories far outnumbered defeats.

It was a leap of faith, then, for the pair to join a USL Ragin’ Cajuns program that in 1975 was a tentative half-step removed from the abyss of an NCAA Death Penalty.

The school had not had a team at all for two seasons, an eternity for fans who were on hand for the glory days of Bo Lamar and Roy Ebron, and it was time to move forward with the next chapter.

That’s where Lyles came in. He and Dale signed with the program – Ted becoming a fixture at point guard in the rebirth and Dale transitioning into a student assistant role.

We weren’t highly recruited,” Ted Lyles said. “Only a few schools, like Nicholls, were interested. We actually signed before Jim Hatfield was named the coach. (Athletic Director) Toby Warren recruited us.

We had just won state at Redemptorist (again), and they signed us and Rauol Robinson from that team. We also had Jerry Mitchell from New Iberia. I had given up football (quarterback) as a senior to concentrate on basketball.

I saw the chance to play right away.”

Not surprisingly, the first year under Hatfield had its rough spots with a 7-19 finish. But the Cajuns, who won their opener 82-63 over Samford, ended with a combative 68-63 loss to No. 18 Florida State, showing rapid growth soon to blossom.

By the time Lyles was done, the Cajuns had records of 21-8, 19-8 and 16-11 – the latter when Bobby Paschal succeeded Hatfield.

That first year, I noticed right away that the fan base was going to be patient with us,” Lyles said. “They were hungry and passionate, and they were with us as we got things semi-turned around.

Blackham Coliseum was so much fun. It was a great place to play.”

It got better and better the better the Cajuns played.

That first year, it took three fourths of the season to get used to each other,” Lyles said. “At first, you didn’t know who you were playing with or what they could do. You didn’t know what to expect. There was no (prior) experience to hang your hat on. No one had been in a situation like this.

But by the end of the season we had a year together and were more competitive. We played a pretty tough schedule, with good travel, and improved.”

Lyles quickly established himself as an unselfish point guard who would contribute whatever was needed for the team to succeed. In a 110-90 win over Houston Baptist that first season, he set a single-game assist record of 18 that remains the gold standard at the school.

That was pretty amazing,” Lyles said. “I was worried about (recent star) Elfrid Payton taking that record away.”

Lyles finished his career with 537 assists, 747 points, 236 rebounds, a 73 percent free throw average and a 63-46 team record for his four years.

The assist total is second only to Aaron Mitchell’s 674 on Cajun career charts.

Every rebuilding program should be so lucky.

Credit to coaches

Typically, Lyles dished out credit to others.

Coach Hatfield knew every high school coach on the planet, and he knew what it took to build a program,” Lyles said of the former Kentucky assistant. “And coach Paschal had a strong presence in Florida.

They were dedicated, and had connections. They were unbelievable recruiters.”

That was true in Year Two when the Cajuns landed Andrew Toney, Mr. Basketball in Alabama, Dion Rainey, Mr. Basketball in Florida, and JC standout Cordy Glenn en route to 21 wins and the Southland Conference crown.

Keeping Lafayette High star Kevin Figaro in town continued to fan the flames.

It’s amazing what they (Hatfield and Paschal) got done in such a short period of time,” Lyles said. “Those players were great to be around. Andrew and Dion were like adding pieces to a puzzle, and Cordy was hard-nosed.

They could score and that took the pressure off me. I could concentrate on playing defense and distributing the ball. I had no problem accepting my role. I got more help on the court, and it was a lot of fun.

Coach Hatfield wanted to push the ball up the court, and went out and got players who could play his style. We didn’t need a shot clock.”

The new model Cajuns had tradition as a reference point.

We were grateful to Beryl Shipley and Tom Cox for putting basketball on the map at USL,” Lyles said. “They helped Hatfield and Paschal. The players knew about Bo Lamar, Freddie Saunders and Roy Ebron. I’m thankful we got it cranked up again.”

When Hatfield left for Mississippi State in 1978, Paschal was a popular choice to take over the reins for Lyles’ senior season.

Those Cajuns finished 16-11, narrowly missing another stellar record with a loss to Arkansas State (89-79) on the road and overtime defeats at home to La. Tech (70-68) and McNeese (88-86) down the stretch.
“It was a smooth transition,” Lyles said. “We definitely wanted Paschal. We had tremendous respect for him. Most of us had been recruited by him. It was real smooth.”

The next year, seniors Toney and Rainey led the Cajuns to the quarterfinals of the NIT. The program was back.

We had some good rivalries,” Lyles said. “Certainly all the Lamar games, against players like B.B. Davis, Clarence Kea and Mike Oliver. McNeese. Tech. I remember Mike McConathy at Tech.

I remember the Bayou Classic, and every game we played at Blackham. It was great to be around players like that, and I really enjoyed the Blackham atmosphere.” 

 Looking back, moving ahead

Lyles’ early interest in basketball was understandable. He grew up in Baton Rouge and, like every other grade school athlete at the time, was smitten with Pete Maravich, the resident magician at LSU.

(Coach) Press Maravich had a weekly TV show, and he would bring Pete on to demonstrate ball handling drills,” Lyles recalled. “ As good a scorer as he was, he was an unbelievable ball handler.

They made it more than a football town. We all wanted to be like Pete, including the floppy socks.”

Redemptorist coach Jimmy Russell wasn’t interested in flash, though.

Coach Russell was hard-nosed,” Lyles said. “We practiced more defense than offense. We always had long, intense practices. The games were so much easier.

All five starters averaged in double figures. I was unselfish. I was third tallest on the team and he put me at point guard so I could handle the ball and dish it out.”

That unselfish style served Lyles well as a Cajun, and his college years proved pivotal in other ways as he met his future wife Claudia during his playing days.

Daughter Kimmie Cormier, who played tennis at UL and is a registered dietician, lives in Lafayette with husband Blake and sons Jacques and Beau. Younger daughter Elizabeth played golf at Centenary and works for Apple computers.

Lyles, a petroleum land man since 1980, and Claudia have lived in Shreveport since 1988. Both are officers in the fast-growing ArkLaTex branch of the UL Alumni Association.

He’s still giving back in recognition of the years that gave him so much enjoyment.

We all went out and played hard,” Lyles said. “It was a great time.”

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Click here for Ted Lyles and his 1974-75 basketball teammates who brought basketball back.

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Ted, third from Right on front row, at the Hatfield/Paschal Reunion, Feb. 7, 2015.

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Click here for the Photo Gallery of the Hatfield/Paschal Reunion. Be patient on the upload time, as each of the reunion galleries are extensive.

Click Photo Gallery on the left side of the home page, Basketball (M), to view that photo gallery.

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Click here for the chronological listings of the Spotlight on Former Athletes.

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