Former Baseball, Coach: Nicholls gives 'incredible' honor to local basketball product
Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, Jan. 25, 2018
Rickey Broussard has been named to many halls of fame during his lifetime of athletics as a player and a coach.
So it’s not that he’s shy or uncomfortable when the attention shines on him.
But when the former Nicholls State men’s basketball coach got the call informing him of his latest honor, he was speechless.
He just couldn’t believe it then and he really still can't.
Even this past week, as he prepares for the actual dedication ceremony Saturday in Thibodaux, Broussard has to pinch himself to fully accept it.
The Stopher Gym is undergoing some renovations, and a big part of the new plan is naming the court in honor of Rickey Broussard.
It’s a unique achievement that few highly successful coaches never enjoy.
“That’s what I’m saying,” the 69-year-old Broussard said. “I just can’t believe it. I’m in about every Hall of Fame you can think of, except the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, even a softball Hall of Fame. But this by far outweighs any other honor I’ve ever received. Nothing like this.”
Indeed, for years to come, Colonels’ basketball fans won’t have to visit some building or office somewhere to see a plaque recognizing Broussard’s contributions to the program. All they’ll need to do is attend a basketball game and they’ll see Rickey Broussard’s name on the court.
Local basketball legend Rickey Broussard, second from left, poses for a picture with, from left, Jack Dale Delhomme, Billy Montgomery and Danny Broussard prior to being inducted into the Louisiana Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2016. (Photo: Submitted photo)
“Exactly,” Broussard said. “Isn’t that something? Do you believe that? I can’t believe that.”
The ceremony will be 10 minutes before the start of Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. home game against Southeastern.
“What really makes the difference is my grandkids never really saw me coach,” Broussard said. “To have all my (six) grandchildren there, it’s going to be special.”
Naturally, at no time during his illustrious career did Broussard ever imagine such news coming his way. But of course, he couldn’t help but go way back in putting this feat into perspective.
“Are you kidding me?” Broussard added. “Imagine this happening to a little country boy from Meaux, running around the basketball court barefooted and dirty. It’s just incredible.”
Broussard’s impact that led to this distinction came in the 1990s, leading the Colonels to the NCAA Tournament both in 1995 and 1998 during his 12-year run as the Nicholls coach.
There were specific aspects of those two NCAA teams that still make Broussard proud today. For example, 14 of the 15 members of the 1995 squad — which achieved an RPI of No. 50 — were from Louisiana.
Then in 1998, Broussard made the transformation from a post-oriented attack three years early to a five-out undersized team with a run-and-jump pressing approach.
“No matter what you do, you’ve got to have good players,” Broussard said. “But to be honest, I hardly ever had players that anybody else wanted."
The stars on those NCAA teams included a short point guard from Pineville in Ray Washington, an unrecruited Gerard King from McDonogh 35 who ended up playing three years in the NBA and an unheralded Reggie Jackson from Baker.
Washington had almost single-handedly beaten an undefeated Morgan City team his senior season. Then one day driving through Morgan City, Broussard said the thought hit him that maybe he should recruit Washington, no matter how short he was.
“What a great player he turned out to be,” he laughed.
Jackson became one of three players to ever be first-team All-Southland Conference four times and was on the league’s All-Decade team.
The team also featured Jeanerette’s Terrell Castle, who first went to a junior college and then returned to Thibodaux.
“Everybody thought that first one (NCAA trip) was lucky,” said Broussard, who coached locally at Meaux (later consolidated with Maurice, Indian Bayou and E. Broussard to make up North Vermilion), Fatima, St. Thomas More, North Vermilion and UL. “Even coaches in our conference were saying that. But then, two years later, we go back to the tournament after going 15-1 in conference.”
Indeed, proving the doubters wrong has always been fun for Broussard.
After successful stints as an assistant coach at UL and South Florida, Broussard returned to the high school scene for one year at North Vermilion.
That’s when the offer came from Nicholls to be its head coach. It was a program that had never been to the NCAA Tournament.
“All of my coaching friends told me not to go there,” Broussard remembered. “It was off the beaten path. 'You can’t recruit there,' they said. 'It’s a dead-end hole.'
“But I looked at it as an opportunity. There was just 301 Division I jobs at the time. Was I really going to pass up one of them?”
Despite the advice, Broussard visited the campus. He still remembers walking through the quadrangle that evening and just “had this feeling come over me that just enveloped me. It just took me and I felt like that’s where I needed to be.”
Ironically, Broussard had already said no to Nicholls, which offered him as an athlete out of Meaux. Instead, the 1970 Cajun graduate played baseball for then-USL before beginning his basketball coaching career back home in Meaux.
He didn’t regret that decision, but he still regrets the next time he declined Nicholls. After 12 years as the Colonels head coach, Broussard accepted a position as John Brady’s assistant at LSU.
“Sometimes in life, you make decisions you regret,” Broussard said. “I left for the wrong reasons — to make more money. I left for LSU, but I couldn’t parlay it into a higher-paying job. Nicholls treated me good, and I should never have left.”
Broussard still wonders if another NCAA trip would have come had he stayed. He had just recruited a player name Ronnie Price to the Colonels. After Broussard left, Price transferred to Utah Valley State and then played 12 years in the NBA through the 2017 season.
After leaving coaching for good to enter the insurance business, Broussard has settled back in Thibodaux for the past 10 years. He’s still working behind the scenes to help make Nicholls basketball better.
After Saturday, everyone who visits Stopher Gym will see the connection between the university and this small-town kid who learned the game on the dirt in Vermilion Parish.