Forum lets community meet coach candidates

Published 9:00 am Monday, January 26, 2015

Approximately 100 fans with the desire to see Bogalusa Lumberjack football pride return converged on the BHS Library Thursday night to see and hear the top two finalists for the head coaching position present their sales pitch in a question-and-answer session.

The six-member search committee chose as finalists current Pearl River High School offensive coordinator David Roberts Jr., 41, and Percy Williams, 61, who retired as executive assistant principal from East St. John High School in Reserve in 2012 but who has remained a part of East St. John athletics in the years since his retirement. He had 36 years of service to the parish school system when he retired. He also has five years experience as a head coach. He was head coach at Leon Godchaux High School, which was replaced by East St. John High after a fire destroyed most of the former, for a year and led West St. John High School for four years from 1981 to 1985 and was also athletic director there. He was an assistant coach at East St. John when the school won the state championship and completed the season undefeated.

Roberts and Williams are looking to be the replacement for Craig Jones, who held the position since 2006. BHS went 4-7 overall in 2014. One of the defeats that was particularly galling to the BHS faithful was a 60-6 home loss to Franklinton. The Franklinton victory was its 14th straight over Bogalusa. A question of how to end the losing streak to Franklinton was posed to both candidates.

Superintendent Toni Breaux expressed how important it was to find the right fit as head coach. She is a member of the Search Committee.

She said, “This is a football community, and the community has been very concerned with having a good coach. This was an intense interview process.”

The coaches answered prepared questions from the audience and search committee members. Before Roberts took the microphone, BHS officials gave Williams a tour of the campus. The candidates’ answers to the questions were scored on cards by search committee members and the audience. Answers were judged as either a strength or a question.

Search Committee members also included Human Resources Supervisor Karla McGehee, BHS Lead Principal Eric Greely, BHS Co-Principal Leslie McKinley, Athletic Director Kenneth Martin and Bogalusa City Schools Supervisor of Secondary Curriculum and Instruction April Nobles. Nobles acted as moderator.

School Board President Curtis Creel sat on discussions but had no vote.

Before the session began, a member of the audience asked if Bogalusa High School grad, former Mississippi State and NFL defensive back Bruce Plummer had interviewed for the position. The response was that he had. Plummer was hired to be an assistant coach on the BHS staff next season regardless of who is selected.

Regarding the two finalists, Roberts is the son of Baylor and the former Northeast Louisiana University head coach David Roberts Sr. The younger Roberts just completed his first year at Pearl River. He also was receivers coach for a year in Tift County, Ga., and served a seven-year stint as receivers coach at Chalmette High School. He has also coached on the collegiate level as linebackers coach at Newberry College. He is a 1992 Ouachita Parish High School grad and played outside linebacker at University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Williams guided East St. John to a 14-0 season and a state championship in 1980. He played center at Southern University from 1972-1976. He graduated from Lutcher High School in 1972.

Following are the questions posed to the candidates and their responses:

How can Bogalusa turn it around against Franklinton?

Roberts: “We can start turning it around by keeping our kids in Bogalusa. We have athletes that can match up with Franklinton. I believe in my heart that we can win that game. I plan on running the ball a little more to keep them off the field.”

Williams: “I saw of that game on the Internet. I’m old school, so we’ve just got to beat them. I will tell you that you won’t outcoach me and you won’t out-condition me.”

How can you change the culture at Bogalusa?

Roberts: “We can change the culture with one word — believe. Everybody has got to believe in themselves. The first year my dad was at South Carolina with Lou Holtz they were 0-10. Holtz set a team meeting and asked the players about their goals. Their answer was going to a big bowl. He told them the No. 1 thing was that you have to believe in yourself, the coaches and teammates. Do that and you’ll reach your goals. The next two years they went to the Outback Bowl.”

Williams: “You have to get the kids in the right frame of mind by working hard, being dedicated to what they’re doing. You have 6-12 grades here at the school. That is a great situation. Once you get the kids to believe in you, winning is going to take place.”

How will you deal with students struggling academically?

Roberts: “A student comes first. If the student is struggling, I want to get him help by setting up a study hall.”

Williams: “There will be a monthly plan. I will meet with all parents in the spring and get the students to sign a contract. Each student-athlete will set goals they will have to meet.”

How will you delegate authority?

Roberts: “I will have an offensive and defensive coordinator. I will let those guys delegate to those underneath them. Everybody is going to have responsibility. I would like to check on the students’ grades. Coaches have to be a team, also.”

Williams: “I would be the final decision-maker. We would have a lesson plan for all the coaches. We’d have a special teams coach, defensive coordinator, running backs coach and defensive line coach.”

How can you return football pride to the community?

Roberts: “Obviously, you’ve got to get the community involved down to the Little Leagues. I’m a big believer in drills and fundamentals. I’d have the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders lifting weights. You would see a big difference in four years. We need to get the cheerleaders involved and have a Parents Night and Little League Night. We need a pep rally every Friday. To get the spirit back, doing the little things with hard work will pay off.”

Williams: “To win, you have to walk by example to let these kids know what is what and have the same goals.”

How will you deal with discipline problems?

Roberts: “I believe in players sitting in the first three rows in classrooms and being a part of class. If you have problems in the classroom, you’ll have problems on the practice field. I always want to help kids, but student-athletes have got to hold up their end of the deal. There should be no joking around in the classroom. When I was in school, my dad taught me that school was my job right now. Acting right is a part of having good character.”

Williams: “We are going to follow the rules of the school. Spike Lee had a movie called ‘Do the Right Thing.’ You do the right thing, then everything will fall in place.”

Is coaching more about X’s and O’s or kids?

Roberts: “It’s about building relationships with kids. I believe in recruiting your own school and getting their buddies to recruit their friends. I plan on winning some state championships. I will be here for the long haul.”

Williams: “It’s about the kids. You have to establish good relationships. I know what it takes to win.”

What is your vision?

Roberts: “It’s trust, care and commitment. My ABCs are belief, discipline and teamwork.”

Williams: “My vision is to develop athletes to become good citizens.”

Will you allow football players to play other sports?

Roberts: “I welcome it. They can plays as many as they can. I believe in track. I want my skill players to run track and the big kids throwing the discus. The more sports they play the less time they’ll have to run the streets.”

Williams: “I encourage that. I encourage them to run track.”

How can you sell the football program to the community?

Roberts: “The more people I meet, the better. I’ve never met a stranger. If I can trust the kids, the kids are going to care and be committed. We are going to work hard. If we work hard and believe, the Lumberjack Pride will be back.”

Williams: “I plan to go to each church and talk to the pastors and introduce myself. I want to meet with those types of people and the people in the barbershop. They know everybody.”

The decision to hire either Roberts or Williams will be announced on Monday.