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Women’s Basketball: Selling Brodhead short risky proposition

Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, April 3, 2015



UL coach Garry Brodhead has taken the Ragin’ Cajuns women’s basketball program from 10 wins to 23 during his three-year stint.(Photo: Paul Kieu/The Advertiser)



As the fans poured onto the court at E.K. Long Gym last Sunday evening to celebrate the WBI Tournament Championship with the members of the UL Ragin’ Cajun women’s basketball team, I couldn’t help but chuckle a little bit.

For several reasons I guess.

I couldn’t help but think back to all the years of people discussing whether or not Garry Brodhead was the right man for the job.

Friends would call me at work or just chatting out in the community and ask, "Do you think Garry can get that job?"

For some of that time, Brodhead was still coaching at Teurlings Catholic. He was an AAU and high school coach. I would typically answer that I thought he could do a good job, but that I really doubted that he’d get the chance.

Then once he got some college experience at McNeese State and helped to rebuild the Cowgirls into winners, my answers began to change. Suddenly, it was possible and eventually his dream came true.

So part of my reaction was that he did it.

That old AAU coach made a winner out of one of the unsuccessful women’s programs in America over the last 25 years.

That old high school coach had brought excitement and passion and postseason celebrations where empty seats and apathy once were.

Once you considered Brodhead’s past, his personality and the program’s mostly troubled history, you couldn’t help but smile — almost in amazement. It’s one thing to pat a determined coach with a plan on the back while at the same time you’re thinking, "That crazy coach actually thinks he can make a winner out of that program."

It’s another to actually see his plan begin to work.

Which brings me to the second reason for the chuckle.

While fans and players were partying and cutting down nets in deserving celebration for this 23-win season — the second-best win total in the program’s history — I couldn’t help but be floored by the irony of the scene.

I could almost sense that it was Brodhead chuckling at that moment. While he certainly was happy to see such glee surrounding the momentum his program was building, the truth is that he had higher goals than even the WBI Tournament crown.

As the team and its fans were celebrating an achievement many thought wasn’t possible nearly this soon, Brodhead actually thought it would be his team in the NCAA Tournament beating Texas A&M this year, not UALR.

He believes this program can get to that point. While most of us were elated to see how well his team played in the two Sun Belt Tournament games, he expected to win that tournament.

And you know what, had Brooklyn Arceneaux and Sylvana Okde been healthy all season, the Cajuns just might have done that.

So while some quibbled over the significance of winning the WBI Tournament, Brodhead isn’t worried about such debates.

He’s already thinking about next season when Keke Veal and Kia Wilridge will be senior guards and the lineup will be 10-11-12 deep, instead of 7 or 8. That way he’ll be able to press whenever he wants, not just when he feels like his team can handle it endurance-wise.

Simone Fields will be a sophomore and not a surprise. This time it won’t take half the season to release how good of an inside presence they’ve got in Fields.

Gabby Alexander appeared to grow up during this year’s postseason run and her athletic ability may really shine next season.

Whether it’s Okde’s return or Jaylyn Gordon taking that next step as an outside shooter, the team shouldn’t have to spend half of next season trying to solve zone defenses due to a lack of consistent perimeter shooting.

Moreover, the offense saw the value of patience in the halfcourt down the stretch, so that should be a bigger part of UL’s arsenal last season.

Plus, don’t forget that Brodhead and his staff are still very new to the college basketball game. They will continue to grow and get better within the Sun Belt and beyond.

So you may think Brodhead is fooling himself. You may think that winning the WBI was no big deal and the women’s program won’t ever get much better than it is right now.

Time will tell, but understand you’ll have a tough time convincing Brodhead of that.

Remember, so many around here thought he’d never get the job to begin with.