Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Lambright, Part VI: Gaining the players' acceptance

       (Part VI)
       The adjustment to new head coach Maxie Lambright and his staff was a challenge for the Louisiana Tech football players in the spring and fall of 1967.
       They had been recruited by outgoing head coach Joe Aillet and his staff, they were accustomed to the calm manner and guidance of "The Smooth Man," and they were uncertain about the newcomer.
       Here are the thoughts of five Tech players who made the transition. The first three -- Jesse Carrigan, Glenn Murphy and Wayne "Butch" Williams -- were the first all-conference offensive linemen in the Lambright era.
       Jesse Carrigan (offensive tackle-guard, 1965-68, from Fair Park-Shreveport, now resides just outside Tampa, Fla., CEO and owner of Blue Head Tequila, LLC):
       "There was a little animosity when Coach Lambright came in. But he told us he was going to play the best guys. He definitely made changes from Coach Aillet.
       "Football was changing, and [Tech under Lambright] was very successful because he had Mickey Slaughter running the offense. Mickey had been in the school of business (same as Carrigan) a few years earlier and he had a 4.0 grade-point average. He was highly respected there.
       "[Lambright] was intense, but I thought he was well-mannered. He had some real intense assistants. I dealt mostly with [offensive line] Coach [Jimmy] Mize, and you couldn't have a better guy; he had a business manner.
       "Lambright had those assistants, but he was the general. He was hard and he was direct, but I don't remember him jumping on anybody, screaming at them, really bad. He did put together the right guys (staff).
       "I never had a problem with him on or off the field. You had to go to class, but you always had to do that. He treated me with courtesy."

       Glenn Murphy (offensive guard, 1964-68, from Bastrop, now resides in Alexandria, where he coached and officiated football for years):
       "Coach Lambright had a brilliant mind for football. ... He was one of the smartest men I ever knew, a special man.
       "[On offense], he would target an area and manipulate defenses to attack them. He altered blocking schemes, and that would open up the running game." [He cited an example of changes before the 1968 game at Southern Mississippi; Tech won 27-20 against a team it had lost to 58-7 the year before.]
       "Personally, I think I was like every other guy on the team -- I was scared of him. But I respected him; that's the key word: respect. I thought he cared a lot about us.
       "He was more of an in-your-face coach than Coach Aillet. But he encouraged you. He might be in your face, but it was, 'You can do this, son.'
       "Coach Aillet expected you to mature and learn on your own. Coach Lambright motivated you more directly."
       Wayne "Butch" Williams (offensive tackle, 1966-69, from Minden, where he returned to coach football and guide the 1972 baseball team to a state championship, then -- following the path of his father -- became a high school principal and later the superintendent of schools in Webster Parish):
       "I kind of started off on the wrong foot with him [Lambright], but he gave me a chance to play and I'm grateful for that. He brought in an excellent staff, hard workers, knowledgeable football people. Mickey [Slaughter] was one of the best around [offensive backfield coach]; he was such a big factor sitting in the press box calling plays.
       "They all had a purpose, and they knew what they were doing."
       Williams' father had been a close friend of George Doherty; he was the school principal when Doherty guided Minden to two state championships in the 1950s. So Butch was hoping Doherty would be the Tech head coach.
       "Coach Doherty was more of a 'three yards and a cloud of dust' offensive coach. The open [passing] game Lambright and his staff brought so much more to Tech.
       "I was not the greatest of his [Lambright's] fans, but he was not an enemy. He gave me a fair shake and I don't forget that.
       "Coach Aillet and Coach Lambright were totally different type people. I heard Coach Aillet curse once, maybe. They had a totally different way of doing things -- how they organized practices and games. You had to be there to understand.
       "Coach Aillet would be dealing with the offensive line and he'd say to me, pretty quietly, 'Now, Wayne -- he always called me Wayne -- don't you think you could have executed that block more efficiently?' Maxie was a lot more direct."
       Jim Willis (center, 1964-67, from Monroe-Neville High, now resides in the Houston area, founder and president of the Wildlife Habitat Foundation, dedicated to the restoration and upkeep of native prairie land, designed to protect and preserve the dwindling quail population):
       "I came to Tech to play for Coach Aillet, and I was excited to do that. 
       "Coach Lambright was a man of few words, but he said the most meaningful things with those few words. ... He had a way of letting you know he was there. I had a special relationship with him; he made me feel that I was the best player I could be at my position.
       "He was so dedicated. I'd see him coming out of the office late at night, on weekends. He put so much effort into the program.
       "I wish I'd had four more years with him."
       Mike Mowad (defensive nose guard, 1965-68, from Oakdale, graduate assistant coach at Tech in 1970, a precursor to a coaching career that ended with a 26-year head coaching stay at Breaux Bridge, 200 victories and a state championship in 2005):
       "Coach Aillet was more the intellectual type, reserved. He thought about the players after they finished playing, he was concerned about academics.
       "Coach Lambright brought in one of the finest staffs; that's what I really compliment him for. Like all successful head coaches, he let  his coaches coach. Mickey Slaughter was a phenomenal offensive coordinator, Pat Collins was a phenomenal defensive coordinator.
       "Maxie was very dedicated to Louisiana Tech, dedicated to the players. He showed a lot of compassion at times to coaches and players.
       "He was well-organized. He allowed his assistants to give a lot of input for the game plans.
       "I think with the black players coming in [starting in 1971), he had to change his philosophy some; he had to change things to fit the lifestyle of the players.
       "When I was a graduate assistant, I got to drive Coach Lambright a lot of places, like coaching clinics. He was like a lot of coaches, a completely different person off the field."
       (Next: Two key players, two stories)  


No comments:

Post a Comment