Former Lincoln High championship winning coach retires at top of his game

Published 12:12 am Wednesday, March 27, 2024

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Prior to taking the head basketball coach job at West Brook, Andre Boutte contemplated retiring in his early 50s.

Then, he consulted longtime mentor and legendary coach James Gamble, who told him he needed to at least wait until he was 60 and not to retire “too early.”

By that time, Boutte already had a Hall-of-Fame-worthy career, winning three state titles at Lincoln and Beaumont Ozen. He also won one as a player at Beaumont Hebert under coach and mentor Fred Williams.

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Williams gave Boutte his first job at Kountze in 1987.

“One thing he told me when I got there was that it was good that I was starting at a smaller place,” Boutte said. “He knew it would allow me, from the start, to learn how to develop players.”

After success in Kountze, Boutte took the head job at Lincoln at 25 years old, following Gamble, who had won four championships and built a powerhouse program.

Andre Boutte coaches West Brook against Nederland in a Dec. 13, 2016, game. (I.C. Murrell/The News)

Boutte said his youth helped him not realize the amount of pressure taking a job like that could bring.

“I was inheriting a program that was one of the top programs, if not the top program, in that state of Texas,” Boutte recalls. “That pride and tradition was already established. I just had to come in and do what I do as a coach. The foundation was there.

“A lot of times, when you are young, you don’t realize the pressure. It was just a job. Of course, being a coach at that type of school was new to me, but winning was not new to me. Kountze had high expectations also. They had won district 18 out of the 20 years before I got there. Winning was expected there, also.”

Boutte won championships in 1991 and 1995 at Lincoln.

The coach said those teams had a unique ability to change their defensive plan when needed the most.

“Coming to Lincoln, I was a man-to-man coach,” he said. “It was Coach Gamble who told me that you have to be able to switch your defense up to give teams different looks.”

That was most evident when he and his staff made the decision right before a state championship game.

“We put in a box-in-one the morning before the championship game, and they carried it out,” he said. “We hadn’t practiced it. We didn’t even get to do a walk through in the gym. We did the walk through at the hotel. We were going to try it. It didn’t work, we were going to go with what we had been doing to get us there.”

That 1995 team, which included former NBA player and All The Smoke podcast host Stephen Jackson, was honored at the state finals in 2022.

Boutte moved on to coach Ozen, where he led the school to a championship in 2001 with another future NBA player and sports television personality, Kendrick Perkins.

Boutte jokingly admits he has been surprised by Perkins’ on-screen personality over the years, given his quiet demeanor in high school.

In 2016, Boutte was inducted into the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame.

He also served as Port Arthur ISD’s athletic director from 2009-16.

He led West Brook to the regional round of the 6A state playoff this season before getting knocked out in a nail-bitter against Beaumont United.

Boutte is happy with where the game is as he makes his exit.

“Basketball is more popular than it was when I first started,” he said. “Texas has a lot of talent. It is looked at as primarily football, but Southeast Texas has a lot of basketball talent. You look at Kountze to Port Arthur. That same span is probably about the size of Houston. In that stretch, you have a lot of championships over the past few decades.”