Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Coach Hildebrand: A man of many seasons

           (First of a series)
        He is one of the most recognizable people in athletics in North Louisiana -- and the state as a whole -- and has been for 6 1/2 decades.
        Tynes Hildebrand's work -- finally -- is done after some 57 years in athletics. He has a career of memories and achievements, and friendships and connections to cherish.
        So many connections, such as: Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey began his sports administrative career as an assistant to Hildebrand; Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey played for him at Northwestern State University and calls him one of his major influences.
        Most people will remember him for the connection with Northwestern State -- student/basketball player (1950-54) and head coach (1965-80) , placement director (2 1/2 years) and athletic director (13 1/2 years, 1983-96) -- and the city of Natchitoches, La.
Julia and Coach: This was at a wedding celebration.
        He figures, at age 85, he has had "a great life" and "beaten the odds." Still, he and Julia, his bride of 65 years, are into a new phase. 
        Last October, they made an admirable late-in-life decision -- to give up the home they had had built and lived in for 43 years, and make a move. So long, Natchitoches; hello, Shreveport.
        Their sons, Tynes Jr. and Bruce, long ago left home (and Natchitoches) and now have successful certified public accountant careers, and families. So two daughter-in-laws and five grandchildren are part of the Hildebrand family.
        In a note to friends, Coach and Julia wrote, "2016 has been a year of change for us. While we are still healthy, and very thankful for that, we decided to downsize and leave a house, yard and pool that required constant care. We moved to ... a residential independent living facility in Shreveport.
         "We have a nice apartment ... and enjoy the benefits of multiple dining options, spa and wellness center, walking trails, theatre, maid service, and many choice of things to do. We seem busier now than ever. Leaving [the house in Natchitoches] wasn't easy, but we are enjoying our new home."
       A couple of weeks ago, Coach told me that "we did not want to leave the house and so much we had accumulated for the kids to deal with eventually." Thus, the move.
       And so while we talked one afternoon last week -- after their morning workout -- Coach and Mrs. Hildebrand were making plans for a theatre visit and a lunch date with a basketball official coming through Shreveport on his way to work a game.
        Coach remains sharp, his story-telling and connections intact, and the meeting with the basketball official isn't coincidental.
         Because for the last 16 years of his working life, Tynes Hildebrand evaluated and trained college basketball officials -- half that time for a five-conference combination, the second half as one of the four nationwide NCAA advisors.
         If you watched enough college games on television, and knew to look for him, Coach Hildebrand often had a seat at the [courtside] table. This was especially true during the NCAA Tournament, when he was part of the group selecting the officials working the games.

As a coach, he was known
for his intensity.
         Let's interject this: Those of us who watched Coach Hildebrand bluster along the sidelines -- eight years at Natchitoches High (1957-65), 15 years at Northwestern -- know he was not Coach Congeniality.
         Maybe before games and a few hours/days/months after games, he got along with the officials working his teams' games, but ...
         "When I coached against Tynes," remembered Don Landry, who was at Louisiana Tech two years as an assistant to Scotty Robertson and then head coach at Nicholls State in the late 1960s and 1970s, "he often showed a temper, sometimes even throwing a chair around."

         A friend remembers a coat being tossed from the vicinity of the visitors' bench at Centenary's Gold Dome and landing on the playing floor and the Northwestern coach standing there, well, coatless.
         (Confession: At Tech in the late '60s, I had a friend who did a spot-on Tynes imitation -- chest puffed out, stomping toward an official, blankety-blank comment. Of course, we also had our Scotty imitation.)
         So when I first heard that Coach Hildebrand was evaluating officials, my thought was "fox guarding the hen house."
          Laugh intended there. But the serious thought was who was better qualified to judge officials. Because we all knew that Tynes Hildebrand knew the game, and even more, that he loved the game almost as much as he loved his family and friends.
          Basketball and athletics have done so much for him, and he has done so much in return. And many people know that.
        "I think of Tynes as a leader, a competitor, and a success at everything he did," said Landry, who after his comment above added, "after each game we were always friends. We had great respect for each other.
        "Lucille and I have been friends with Tynes and Julia for over 50 years. They are a special couple."
        Jerry Pierce was in his first year as sports information director at NSU when Hildebrand was the first-year basketball coach (1965-66). It was the start of Pierce's 51 years on the university staff, the last 26 at vice-president of external affair, with overseeing athletics part of his responsibilities. So he had a large role in Hildebrand's becoming athletic director.
       "Tynes Hildebrand is a giant in the history of Northwestern State University," Pierce said last week.
       "It was a tremendous pleasure to work with Tynes for more than four decades. He was fastidious in every element and aspect of his job as a coach, athletic director and in his work with the NCAA.
       "We worked closely together at Northwestern, went to the same church for decades and are still close friends. He is a class act who deserves all of the honors and accolades that reflect the success of his long career in college athletics."
        The list of honors is long, and a significant one was the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame's Dave Dixon Award -- for leadership and contributions benefiting the state -- in 2014, at ceremonies at the new Sports Hall of Fame Museum (fittingly) in Natchitoches.
        Receiving the award that night, Coach Hildebrand said he was "humbled to be in the presence of so many  great sports people. It sort of makes me look like a midget among a bunch of giants."
        No, we'll choose giant over midget for this man.
        (Next: The road from Florien to Natchitoches)      


  1. From Warren Massia: Thanks for the blog on Tynes Hildebrand. I am waiting for the next part. I remember when Coach got the job at NSU and left Natchitoches High; it was a sad day. When I was a freshman at NSU he asked me to be one of his basketball managers, but I had to turn him down. Wish I could have done that.
    I do the shot clock at NSU games and he would sit close to me when he was evaluating refs. Taught me what to watch for during a game.
    The Hildebrands were in my Sunday School class at First Baptist in Natchitoches. Miss his prayers. Just a great family to be around.

  2. From Maxie Hays: Awesome blog. Great coach, wonderful man.

  3. From Frank Bright: I see [Coach Hildebrand] at NSU basketball games. He looks and younger than I do, very fit and healthy. He acts like a much younger man.

  4. From Billy Benefield: Mrs. Hildebrand was my third grade teacher. My father coached both Tynes and Bruce in high school. I served two terms on the Natchitoches Parish School Board with Mrs. Hildebrand a few years back. I knew coach from NSC (back then) through my father. I saw a lot of Demon basketball as a kid.