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Men's Basketball: Shipley left behind an unparalleled legacy

Men's Basketball: Shipley left behind an unparalleled legacy

Joshua Parrott, April 21, 2001, Daily Advertiser

On a chilly January night, former UL basketball coach Beryl Shipley sat down for an interview with The Daily Advertiser in the living room of his home in Lafayette.

The conversation took place three months before Shipley lost his battle with lung cancer last Friday night in his home. He was 84.

Shipley lifted the local college basketball program to new heights, going 293-126 in 16 seasons from 1957-73. He recorded 15 winning seasons, led the school to seven conference championships and won Coach of the Year honors nine times.

"I'd say that there was more pride in this community than anytime ever, and I'm not bragging," Shipley said at the time. "We had great fans and great people, and they've been good to me all these years."

Under his leadership, the program won five Gulf State Conference championships and the 1964-65 NAIA District 27 title. The Cajuns later reached the NCAA College Tournament in 1970-71 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament as a top 10 program in each of the next two years.

Shipley raised some eyebrows along the way for becoming the first coach from a traditionally white school in the Deep South to recruit black student-athletes, but he said university officials supported the move.

Then after the 1972-73 season, Shipley resigned. The NCAA soon imposed a two-year death penalty on the program, citing multiple rules violations.

"There's no telling what could have happened (if that hadn't happened)," Shipley said. "But I had no recourse. I didn't have any defense. We didn't find out who the accusers were until years later."

Only 46 at the time, Shipley never coached again in college. He posted a 16-30 record with the American Basketball Association's San Diego Conquistadors late in the 1974-75 season before returning to Lafayette and getting into the oil business.

Shipley, who eventually retired in Lafayette, said his departure from the college game was especially bitter. But during the last year of his life, Shipley eventually moved on.

"I was very angry, and many times I'd ask my preacher what I could do to be able to forgive if I couldn't forget, but I never got an answer," Shipley said. "Several months back, I finally got one. And I've been able to make my atonement with the good Lord to where I don't even think about those (NCAA) guys anymore."

At the time of Shipley's January interview, the Cajuns had started 3-12 under first-year coach Bob Marlin. Still, Shipley believed in the new coach.

Shipley proved to be prophetic, as the Cajuns closed the regular season with 11 straight wins to clinch a share of the Sun Belt's West Division title.

The two men had become close since Marlin took the job last spring. Shipley said Marlin was the first UL coach to meet with him on a regular basis since he left the program.

"He's a good coach and a hard-worker," Shipley said of Marlin. "And he'll get the job done. It's going to take him some time, but he'll get there. "» The potential is here. You've got great fans, great facilities. If you can get the right people here, it's going to happen."

Ten days after his interview, Shipley was recognized at halftime of UL's game against UL Monroe on Jan. 22 as part of the program's 100-year celebration of basketball.

Shipley was too ill to attend, but he recorded a video message that ran during the halftime ceremony in the Cajundome. Marlin saved the game ball from UL's 84-75 win over ULM that night and gave it to Shipley during a gathering of former players and coaches in his home.

University president Dr. E. Joseph Savoie also presented Shipley with a special memento that celebrated his accomplishments as the program's head coach.

Prior to his death, Shipley had recently been involved with a documentary being produced locally that will look back at the social impact of his coaching career in Lafayette.

A memorial service will be held for Shipley at First Baptist Church at noon today. Visiting hours will be from 9 a.m. until the start of the service.

Multiple former players and coaches from the Shipley era are expected to attend today's memorial service. Those people always held a special place in Shipley's heart.

"I don't guess that there was anybody that coached 16 years in college basketball that had more successful players than I did, and I'm talking about success after basketball," Shipley said. "I'm proud of every one of them."

Athletic Network Footnote:

Please click here for Coach Shipley's Athletic Network Profile.

Please click here for Shipley Footnotes from the 2011 Men's Basketball Reunion.

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