Chasing the leader: New coaches have tough task

By Ron Brocato, Clarion Herald Sports

Guy Lecompte and Nathaniel Jones have set goals on and off the football field for their athletes. Character building is the more important of the two.

The Catholic League’s two new head coaches – Lecompte at Holy Cross and Jones at St. Augustine – also plan to win a few games along the way while molding their charges into responsible individuals.

Jones, who spent two years at Edna Karr (2013-15) compiling a 20-6 record and a Class 4A runner-up spot, was chosen to replace the retired Al Jones (no relation) because of his reputation of guiding young people to becoming good sportsmen and citizens in their Algiers community.

Lecompte has many more years as a head coach and a few as an athletic director. He will serve in both capacities on Paris Avenue.

His philosophy is simple: “I want to build young men into good members of the community and good husbands,” he said.

He is certainly capable of carving his niche among the great Tiger ADs and coaches that can be traced back to Lou Brownson, John Kalbacher and Barry Wilson.

Lecompte comes from Mandeville High where he led his teams to 93 victories and three Class 5A semifinal playoff round appearances.

The two “new guys” will begin their quests in the storied league on Aug. 31 when Holy Cross hosts Helen Cox, and on Sept. 1 when St. Augustine faces its traditional kickoff opponent, McDonogh 35. Both games are at Tad Gormley.

Top 10 targets

New Orleans’ largest Catholic schools have played in the same district since 1955 with the exception of a few years following Hurricane Katrina when three (Holy Cross, Archbishop Shaw and St. Augustine) were forced to play down in class because of smaller enrollments as result of the storm and population shifts.

Two of the most successful coaches had their eras before the birth of the Catholic League. But their rivalry was among the most hotly contested.

G. Gernon Brown led Jesuit to 149 wins and five state championships between 1933 and 1952. The school has had 14 head coaches since, but just one (Ken Tarzetti) has won as many as 66 games.

Brownson, a long-time assistant to Brown, became the head coach of all sports at Holy Cross in 1942 and was responsible for starting the school’s wrestling program as a means of strengthening his football players. The number of titles the school won under his appointed coach, Brother Melchior Polowy, is incredible.

Under Brownson’s guidance, Holy Cross won 97 games football and the 1945 state title. The 1940 game matching Brown and Brownson’s teams drew a record crowd of 34,345 at City Park Stadium. That mark will likely not be broken in the stadium that seats 24,500.

Brown ranks No. 4 on the list of most successful Catholic school coaches in the league, while Brownson is No. 9 among the group.

The leader is Jay Roth, one of two on the list who ranks among the state’s “200-win club.”

Roth followed a string of three coaches whose teams produced just five winning seasons and one district championship in 12 years.

He’s been at it since 1995, and in that time, the Raiders have posted a record of 219-55, with a state and division championship. His record stands as No. 37 on the statewide list.

The other is the late Bob Conlin, who coached Brother Martin from 1970-1996. 

Under Conlin, the Crusaders won 203 of 308 games. They won the Class 3A title in 1971 and were the 5A runner-up in 1989.

Top 10 Catholic League coaching wins

Coach   School                              Years   Wins   Losses   Ties

  1. Jay Roth Abp. Rummel              23           219        55              0

  2. Bob Conlin Brother Martin        27           203        100            5

  3. Hank Tierney Abp. Shaw           19            154         80             0

  4. G. Gernon Brown Jesuit            20            149        43             12

  5. John Kalbacher Holy Cross      18             132        56               7

  6. Tony Biagas St. Augustine        17             131         57              0

  7. Joe Zimmerman

Abp. Shaw/De La Salle                    20            108        113            0

  8. Otis Washington

St. Augustine                                     11             106          26             1

  9. Lou Brownson Holy Cross      14             97            25             7

10. Scott Bairnsfather

Holy Cross/Abp. Shaw                    14              96           105            7

NOTE: Tierney has also been the head coach at West Jefferson and Ponchatoula and has an active career record of 273-153-2, which ranks No. 11 among the Louisiana statewide leaders.

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