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Women's Basketball: Ragin' Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead honors those who couldn't see emotional Sun B

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, March 2, 2021

What happened last Saturday at the Cajundome has been long in the making for Ragin’ Cajuns women’s basketball coach Garry Brodhead.

UL beat Little Rock 60-32 to win the first regular season championship in the team’s 50-year history.

Ask the ninth-season Cajuns coach what the victory meant knowing everything put into it not just this season but also long before he took over the program, an emotional Brodhead speaks from his heart.

“For me,” he said, “it’s the people that came before, that was part of my career too, like my mom and dad.

“This was the first season my dad wasn’t there to see us play, and, man, he was on me all the time – ‘When are we gonna win this thing? It’s taking too long.’ ”

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Brodhead’s father Easten Marceaux, 95, died April 11, 2020.

“He just was impatient,” Brodhead said.

“He was the hardest on me about, ‘We have the team, you have the program, you have the resources, we’ve got to get it done.’ … And my mom, she’d kind of laugh.”

Brodhead’s mother, Geraldine Marceaux, 86, died in July 2019 at the same healthcare center in Maurice where Easten passed away.

The loss of his parents isn’t the only one to hit Brodhead hard during his stint as coach of the Cajuns, who’ve won 13 straight heading into the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.

His wife of 37 years, Andrea Brodhead, 56, died in 2015 after a battle with breast cancer.

“One of the last things that my wife told me,” Brodhead said, his voice cracking, “was that we were gonna win, and we were gonna win big.

“And the biggest thing about her not being there was gonna be to share these wins.

“That was big to me, because a lot of these players, that have played here while I was here and while I was at McNeese, played for her,” added Brodhead, the Southland Conference school’s associate head coach for five seasons before taking over at UL. “So, those things were going through my head.”

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UL women's basketball coach Garry Brodhead cuts down a net after the Ragin' Cajuns beat Little Rock on Saturday at the Cajundome to claim their first conference championship in program history.

Ben Massey/ragincajuns.com

All about the past for Garry Brodhead

Andrea Brodhead – Garry’s childhood neighbor since she was 8 years old – was founder and director of Acadiana Stars AAU and the Biddy Basketball Association, the youth programs responsible for producing so many Cajun players.

She’s why eyes dampen.

She’s why Brodhead was so thrilled the Cajuns (14-5, 13-1 Sun Belt) are the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament, which for them opens Saturday (1:30 p.m.) in Pensacola, Florida, with a quarterfinal round game against the winner of Friday’s first-round matchup between South Alabama and Arkansas State. 

“I think it means a lot to him,” senior guard Jomyra Mathis said of last Saturday’s win and UL’s chance to get to the NCAA Tournament with three more victories.

“As coaches, that’s what you coach for. You coach to win not only a conference championship, but a conference tournament championship.

“I feel like it’s emotional, because also with his wife. … I know she believed in him, and she believed that he can do it,” Mathis added. “He finally accomplished it, so it’s means a lot for him, and us for him.”

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The Cajuns have their shot

It took some time.

More time than Brodhead – and Easten Marceaux – would have liked.

The Cajuns have come close before. They’ve come close to winning the tournament too, but never have.

The 2017-18 season was their fourth straight with a winning record. In 2016-17 they had a team that got to the championship game but lost to Troy as a No. 4 seed. In 2015-16 they won 25 games but didn’t make the NCAA Tournament field and instead claimed their second consecutive Women’s Basketball Invitational title.

Last season UL beat Little Rock and made it to the semifinals only to have the season end abruptly because of COVID-19.

But now they finally have their coveted regular-season championship and a shot at more.

“When we took over the program we believed we could do it,” said Brodhead, who also won one state championship during 10 seasons as the girls coach at Teurlings Catholic High.

“It just took us a little bit longer than we anticipated with injuries and some of the things that happened, some of the struggles.”

That, too, is why Brodhead gets so welled up when talking about his players, his parents, his wife, all his program supporters.

It’s a long list full of all too many who didn’t get to see what happened Saturday.

“Just all the people that aren’t here anymore that would tell me, ‘Man, I know we’re gonna get it done,’ ” Brodhead said before dabbing his eyes.

“I knew we were gonna do it,” he added, “but it took time.”

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