April 29, 2009
CHOUDRANT, La. -- It was a night of side-splitting laughter and fun for everyone in attendance Tuesday night at the Louisiana Tech Bulldog Basketball End of Season banquet at Squire Creek Country Club.
Legendary Utah Jazz coach Frank Layden kept the entire crowd entertained from start to finish as master of ceremonies. After a generous and illustrious description of Layden by Tech athletics director Derek Dooley, Layden quipped, "I could have listened to Coach Dooley's introduction of me all night. For a while, I thought I have might have had to."
After dinner, First National Bank president and CEO Brian Woodard addressed the crowd and thanked everyone for coming.
"We're very proud to be the title sponsor of this event," Woodard said. "We appreciate what Coach Rupp and Coach Dooley do for Tech athletics. We have a great group of young men and coaches who represent Louisiana Tech. This school is a tremendous asset to the community, and again, we're proud to be here sponsoring this banquet."
Afterward, Tech president Dr. Dan Reneau shared his remarks of the team from this past season.
"I want to thank everybody who came out to support us tonight," Reneau said. "You encourage us as we walk the halls of the Red and Blue daily. To this coaching staff, who is wonderful, and this team, I want to thank you not only for how you play those last games and the promise you gave us, but the way you've played the game of life as well. That means a lot at Louisiana Tech and to me. We look forward to next year and the great future to come."
Layden then introduced his old friend of over 30 years and a face very familiar to the Tech family, former Louisiana Tech head coach Scotty Robertson.
"When Coach Rupp came here, my telephone rang and he said, `Coach, I'd like to meet you and have you become a part of our program,'" Robertson said. "I was missing basketball at the time, so I told him I'd come by. I was so impressed with how organized he is, and I saw very quickly how hard everybody was working. I got to know the coaches and players, and I really feel good about the direction this program is heading. When he took this job, he pledged to Dr. Reneau and the administration that he was going to build a program, and he was going to build it right. I think he has shown that is what he's doing."
Next, Bulldog head coach Kerry Rupp spoke to his team and addressed this past season's results and the futures of his basketball team.
"At the end of the day, it's about finishing strong," Rupp said. "Persistence to me is finishing what you started and finishing strong. We want our players to do this on the court and in the classroom. Most of what we learn is learned indirectly. I call it the "head fake." You build great experiences and learn how to grow by things you don't expect. When I met with the players, I made sure to ask them what I could do better. I need to be on the cutting edge so I can keep evolving. I'm really proud of the foundation we have laid."
Rupp also talked about how he wants his players to dream big because he knows they can achieve on the court.
"I want these players dreaming about castles in the sky so this coaching staff can build the proper foundation beneath them," Rupp said. "These are structured plans and programs in place to make it happen for them."
A brief awards ceremony followed where different Bulldogs received various awards for their accomplishments this past season. The awards are as follows:
Second-team All-WAC: Kyle Gibson
All-WAC Newcomer Team: Magnum Rolle
All-WAC Defensive Team: Magnum Rolle
All-Respect: Shawn Oliverson
Most Inspirational Player - Adrian Rogers/Brandon Gisbon
Mr. Hustle - James Loe
Defensive Player of the Year - Magnum Rolle
Offensive Player of the Year - Kyle Gibson
Team MVP - Magnum Rolle/Kyle Gibson
Coach Rupp then made a special presentation to legendary Bulldog great Karl Malone. The coach and team put together a picture book with letters and pictures from the past couple of seasons to deliver to The Mailman. Malone then came to the podium to speak.
"Coach Rupp and I go back a lot of years, and he's made me so proud," Malone said. "There's a lot of times when it gets tough, but he just keeps on keeping on. I think everybody here needs to realize that we're in this together. We can't do it alone. There's a lot of effort that goes into it. Coach Rupp has never wavered from doing what he said he was going to do or from doing the right thing. The game of basketball is just a game. I always tell kids the game of life is something we'll never master. Basketball is a short part of our lives."
Malone added at how impressed he was by a letter sent to him by senior Adrian Rogers. "I want to say to him that that's what Louisiana Tech is all about. It was the finest letter I've ever read. If players will have attitudes like that, the sky is the limit."
Finally Coach Rupp and his wife, Lori, presented the rest of the Malone family gifts as special thanks for the relationship the two families share. In the end, no one was more fitting to tell everyone goodbye than Layden himself.
"This was a wonderful evening," Layden added. "I'm thankful for Dr. Reneau for having me, and to all of the fans. Coach Rupp is off to a wonderful start, and these fans are lucky to have him."