SOUTHLAND NOTEBOOK: Guidry is latest branch in McNeese coaching tree
Published 11:10 pm Thursday, July 28, 2016
LAKE CHARLES — Ask Lance Guidry about coaching football at McNeese State, and he’ll point to a family tree of coaches who’ve played and/or coached there, from Bobby Keasler to Matt Viator.
Ask him about finally becoming a full-time head coach, and he’ll reflect on his time coaching at Miami of Ohio.
“The best thing that happened to me was leaving,” he said Wednesday, toward the conclusion of Southland Conference Media Day at L’auberge Resort.
Guidry, who was the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator in the early 2000s, left McNeese State a second time as defensive backs coach after the 2008 season to serve under Mike Haywood at a university that produced the likes of Woody Hayes, Ara Parseghian and Bo Schembechler. It would be the first time Guidry coached outside Louisiana.
Haywood, recently hired as Texas Southern’s head coach, learned about Guidry from a fellow coach at Carencro (La.) High School and told the young coach he would hire him in the secondary if he became a head coach.
“I had to do things a little different,” said Guidry, now 45. “You have to do things a little different and open your mind. At McNeese, we’d visit coaches, and if there was something we didn’t like, we’d just throw it out the window.”
Guidry had to apply everything he learned from Haywood about being a head coach pretty fast.
Miami won the 2010 Mid-American Conference championship, and Haywood left for Pittsburgh, planning to take many of his assistants with him. That helped Guidry elevate to interim head coach.
Days later, though, Haywood was fired just days into his new gig after being arrested on domestic violence charges, sending negative shockwaves back to RedHawks’ locker room.
“It was kind of chaotic,” Guidry said.
But all ended well under Guidry. The RedHawks beat Middle Tennessee 35-21 in that January’s GoDaddy.com Bowl.
“We finished off the season well,” he said. “It was a really good experience. We made a little history. We had the biggest turnaround in the history of the program [from 1-11 in 2009]. It was really good for me. I will never forget the experience.”
Guidry was called again to lead a team two seasons later. Willie Taggart left Western Kentucky for South Florida, and Guidry coached the Hilltoppers in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl the day after Christmas, falling to Central Michigan 24-21.
But just as important as the head coaching experience, if not more, is maintaining continuity in the Cowboys’ coaching staff. The former four-year letterman at McNeese is in the fourth year of his third stint there after
serving as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator under Viator, and he’s relying on experienced Cowboys to maintain a championship tradition.
“There’s a representative of every conference championship on our staff,” he said. “I think that’s very important that we keep promoting in-house. … I think that’s the reason why we’ve been successful.”
KENNAN PROJECT CONTINUES AT UIW
Incarnate Word’s turnaround didn’t begin during the 2014 season, but the story of it can be traced back to a precise moment that fall.
“The 10th play of the season two years ago, our quarterback went down and we didn’t have a solid replacement for him,” said coach Larry Kennan, 72, now going into his fifth season in San Antonio. “We recruited better each year, including guys like Josh Zellars and Jordan Hicks, who are good players and good people.”
Incarnate Word finished 2-9 that season, the second time in three years the Cardinals posted that record. Last season, they went 6-5 — also the second time in three years they did such.
UIW also went 4-1 at home Benson Stadium, the only loss coming to Lamar 28-21 on Nov. 14.
The UIW Cards return 10 starters on offense and eight on defense, but it wasn’t enough to keep them from being predicted to finish in the bottom half of the Southland by sports information directors and coaches.
That doesn’t sway them from a pursuit of perfection. The closest Kennan — who went 13-17-3 at Lamar from 1979-81 — came to that is going 11-1 with the London Monarchs of the former NFL Europe in 1991. The Monarchs won the league title.
“We talk about perfection,” linebacker Josh Zellars said. “We talk all season about winning a conference championship. But Coach talks about laying down a foundation first.”
This is the eighth season for UIW to play football.
LAYING A FOUNDATION, LITERALLY, AT ACU
Abilene Christian coach Ken Collums cited scripture when he was asked about the construction of Wildcat Stadium, which is expected to be finished before the start of the 2017 season.
He quoted Exodus 23:30: “Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.”
The stadium, which the former Central Arkansas quarterback called “a total game-changer,” is scheduled for ACU’s first season of eligibility for the Southland championship. ACU is beginning the fourth and final season of transition form Division II.
The Wildcats currently play in Shotwell Stadium, owned by the Abilene ISD.
“Playing in another stadium is like cooking on someone else’s grill,” Collums said. “It’s fun, but it’s not your own grill.”
BUILDING A WINNER STARTS ON LINE
The Vic Shealy project is heading into its third official season at Houston Baptist — seven games were played in a 2013 developmental season — and the Huskies are looking for their first winning record.
While facing more established programs in the tradition-rich Southland could be a hinder in progress, Shealy uses that to his advantage.
“The biggest selling point in our recruiting is the Southland Conference,” he said. “When you go into a junior college in San Diego or Los Angeles, those kids know exactly what the Southland Conference is.”
Players are attracted to the academic tradition of HBU as well, he added. But on the field, Shealy points his biggest challenge to interior linemen.
“When you do it the high school route, it is going to be a challenge,” he said. “There’s a difference between a grown man and what a high school player is going to look like.”
I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews