Thursday, February 9, 2017

Hildebrand, part II: The road from Florien to Natchitoches

       (Second in a series)
       Sabine Parish is prime Northwestern State territory and prime small-town basketball territory, and Florien -- 38 miles southwest of Natchitoches -- is one of Louisiana's best small places for the sport.
        Tynes Hildebrand grew up in Florien, Julia in nearby Fisher. Those are villages (not towns). Their fathers each were involved in the lumber business, so prevalent then (1940/'50s) all over North Louisiana and still today.
        But timber yards and mills, or farming (his family lived on a farm) weren't for Tynes. Basketball was. He loved the game from the start, and he could play.
        He was a stocky (barrel-chested) kid (and adult), about 6-foot-1 by the time he got to Florien and eventually Northwestern State. From 1947 to 1950, he helped the Black Cats become a basketball power ... for the first time.
        Because Class B and C schools could begin playing in early November and played tournaments every weekend for the first couple of months, Florien in 1949-50 -- Tynes' senior season -- played 5-6 games a week. And it won 74 and lost 4. You read that correctly: 74-4.
        Coached by Joe Cavanaugh, the team won the Class C  state championship in the Armory Building on the LSU campus, where -- amazingly -- two courts were set up side by side (with a net in between), and games were played simultaneously.
        "You'd hear a whistle, and both games would stop," Coach Hildebrand remembered. "We have come a long way. The game has changed."
        Florien since that season has won six more state boys championships (Class B), played in 15 state finals and sent dozen of players into college basketball.
         Only a few years after Hildebrand, Jimmy "Red" Leach was a shooting star from Florien, a guard who in 1959 set the Northwestern State single-game scoring record (still stands) with 54 points, one game after he had set it with 43. (No  benefit of 3-point baskets then). He would return to Florien to coach four state championship teams in a long coaching career.
        "It [Florien] was always a good academic school," Hildebrand remembers. "We always had good teachers. What a blessing to have been from there."
         At Northwestern, he was a four-year regular under

Tynes Hildebrand at NSC (No. 15)
Coach Charles "Red" Thomas, who had been a star Demons' player (one of three whose jersey number -- 5 -- is retired). NSC (it was a college then) went 15-11, 17-14, 22-10 and was the Gulf States Conference champ in Tynes' senior year (23-9 record).
        "You didn't have all the knowledge, all the theories, etc., about the game then that you would later," he said. "In practice, Coach Thomas would say, for example, 'Tynes, you guard Sammy Booras,' and he'd pair off people to guard each other.
         "He'd get so mad at me because I'd always say, whoever I was paired with, "Coach Thomas, you know he can't guard me.'

     "I enjoyed the game; [college] was an enjoyable time," Hildebrand said. "I enjoyed Northwestern and the town, and I loved the competition."
         How good a player was he? He laughed, and said, "I was in the middle, you could say. Some nights I was good, some nights not so good. But I loved playing.'

      A few years ago, he was selected as one of NSU's top 100 players all-time.
Tynes Hildebrand, second row, far left, next 
to NSC track/field coach Walter Ledet.
     He also was a track athlete for four years, running the 220, 440 and on the relay teams and helping Coach Walter Ledet's Demons to the first two of five consecutive GSC championships.
     He took pride in his school work, was an honor graduate, and obviously showed promise as a basketball student, too. He was hired as Natchitoches High School's basketball coach (and football assistant) soon after graduation.
         But that job was put on hold for two years. The Army intervened. "I had an ROTC obligation I had to fulfill," he said.
         So after basic training, the U.S. Army assigned him to the Hanford Project site in south-central Washington state, alongside the Columbia River. This was a plutonium development site, part of the Manhattan Project that produced the world's first atomic bomb in the mid-1940s.
         "Very secretive place, I had to have military clearance to be there," Coach Hildebrand said. And, as he noted, the cleanup for -- according to a story I saw -- "the biggest, most toxic nuclear waste site in the Western Hemisphere" (56 million gallons of radioactive liquid waste" on a 586 square-mile site) continues. Estimated price tag: $120 billion.
         Basketball had to be more fun.
          In 1957, he was back at Natchitoches High, joining a staff with head coach Trent Melder, Dan Carr and another young coach and Army veteran, Jim Bruning (subject of my Aug. 30, 2016, blog piece). 

      In his first basketball coaching season, Hildebrand's Red Devils -- led by Raymond Arthur, later an NSC player and guard Don Beasley (later his assistant coach at Northwestern) -- didn't have a sterling record (26-14), but finished strong and took the Class AA state championship, winning the final game 44-38 at New Iberia.
          Question: Did you think it would be that easy every year?
          "You think you're pretty good," Coach answered, "then you find out differently pretty quickly."
         But his Natchitoches teams held their own against the tough and bigger Shreveport-Bossier schools over the years and they won six district titles in eight seasons.
The young coach at Natchitoches High
(yearbook photos provided by
 Donald Mayeaux)
         In 1961 and 1962 -- the first two years of the Top Twenty state tournament in Shreveport -- the Red Devils made the Class AA championship game, beaten by powerful Ruston teams both times. Natchitoches' records those seasons: 20-10 and 25-4. 
          It was during this time that he caught the attention of Don Landry, later a college coaching opponent and good friend.
          "My first impression of Tynes came during the Louisiana high school coaching clinic on the LSU campus in the 1960s," Landry said. "He was one of the guest speakers. Instead of giving his talk in front of a blackboard, as most coaches did, he took his entire team and the coaches in attendance to the Gym Armory. He explained his system and his players demonstrated his offense and defense. It was one of the best clinic sessions I ever attended."
          Among the many Natchitoches players who appreciated him is Baton Rouge resident Bill Beyer, known as Willie in high school.
         "He was a great coach and a mentor and we have remained good friends over the years," Beyer said. "Always a treat to see him and Julia. Allen Posey and I attended his induction in the Louisiana Sports of Hall Fame in 2014 and saw them at a LSU basketball game this year. And, I always looked for him on TV at the NCAA finals.
        "I guess you always love your high school basketball coach," Beyer added. "I sure did. We had a pretty good team at Natchitoches High in 1963. In the state quarterfinals, we got beat badly by Neville. I remember fouling out with no points and walking off the court. Coach told me to get my head up. A teaching point I never forgot.
         "We ran the Auburn Shuffle offense. The first minute of my first junior varsity game, I ran a give-and-go and made a layup. I thought the game was easy."

         Hildebrand's '65 Natchitoches team (23-12 record) made it to the Class AA semifinals in Shreveport, where it couldn't hold a late lead and lost to Gonzales. It was his last high school game.         
          Among the many Hildebrand fans among his ex-players are twins Donald and Ronald Mayeaux, who were on the 1965 team (Ronald was an All-State selection.)
          Donald's remembrances of their coach:
          "Commanded respect from his players.
          "Was a deacon at First Baptist Church in Natchitoches and very visible in the everyday activities.
          "Always had us prepared for our next opponent even to the point we knew their players' names.
          "He believed in sagging man-to-man defense patterned after Hank Iba (Oklahoma State). We ran complicated offenses against both man-to-man and zone defenses patterned after the 'pinwheel offense' designed by Garland Pinholster of Oglethore University. But Coach designed options if any pass was blocked, what we could do next. In practice we ran these over and over until it was clockwork.
          "I will say, I never saw these run by him at the college level. He always told me they were too complicated.
          "The Natchitoches High Class of 1965 has had many reunions. He has attended every one of them and always takes the opportunity to address the class with words of wisdom.
          "One memory that stands out was seeing his hurt when his brother was killed in a hunting accident. We were at a Saturday practice when he received the news."
          At Northwestern State, Huey Cranford -- succeeding Thomas -- had done well, with two conference titles in his first three years and teams built with players mostly from the surrounding area. But personal issues diminished Cranford's coaching ability, the program sagged, and by March 1965, the job was open.
          The next challenge and the next NSU coach were a perfect fit. Natchitoches High was located on the road leading to the main NSU campus entrance.
          Tynes Hildebrand just had to move a few hundred yards to the almost-new Prather Coliseum.

          (Next: The coaching years at NSU)


  1. From Pesky Hill: Another fine blog. You had a lot of information on him I didn't know.

  2. From Essie Deen: He practice taught at NHS when I was a student there, and he later was hired as a coach. All the students loved him!

  3. From Jimmy Russell: Minden beat Natchitoches (the defending state champions) with Raymond Arthur, Kenneth Moran and Don Beasley in 1959 and won the Class AA championship. Also beat them the year they won the state championship in the Fair Park Tournament. Natchitoches had a guard named [Jim] Kirkland, who was fast. Believe he was a track sprinter also.

  4. From Donald Mayeaux: The summer before our junior year at Natchitoches, Coach H took [twin brother] Ronald and me and three other players to the coaching clinic in Baton Rouge and we demonstrated as he spoke. We demonstrated offensive patterns, defensive patterns and practice drills for the coaches. It was interesting to see that comment in your part II. It was quite an experience.

  5. From Cheryl R Mose: I loved his whole family. Mrs Hildebrand taught my brother, Joey, in either first or second grade. She was a great teacher to him. We also went to church at First Baptist with the family. Loved Coach Hildebrand.

  6. From Patrick Booras: Tynes Hildebrand is Northwestern State basketball and the university as a whole.
    For the most part, even to today, Northwestern State has picked numerous good people/coaches to lead its basketball program: Coach Hildebrand for 15 years and now Mike McConathy (since 1999, so 18 years). Longevity and consistency.

  7. From Walter Clark: We traveled to New Iberia when we won state in basketball under Coach Hildebrand.