As a journalist, I’m supposed to be this unbiased and impartial person all of the time, yada, yada.
Guys, I try the best I can to be that like 99% of the time, I promise.
But tonight, afford me the opportunity, please to not be a reporter for a second, but to be a citizen of Lafourche Parish, a human being, and the Tarpon that I am to my core. And more important than that, afford me the opportunity, please, to be a friend.
Let’s not try and fool anyone here: I love South Lafourche High School athletics. I’m an alum of the school, and I’m the radio voice for 4 sports at the school. I know the kids, I know the coaches, and the entire place is like an extension of my family.
I’ve been itching to write this column pretty much all season, but decided tonight was the night to dive in and make it happen.
Guys, I am so proud of the South Lafourche basketball programs, but specifically, I am so proud of a guy who rarely ever gets credit for what happens in that locker room, my good friend and Tarpons coach Brian Callais.
Last night, Callais coached South Lafourche to a victory over Assumption — continuing a strong start to district play for the Tarpons. The team is 5-5 on the year, but 4-1 in district. According to Principal Gaye Cheramie, Callais surpassed 250 victories with the win, which is an amazing accomplishment.
I had to learn that from Cheramie’s twitter, because Coach, himself, would never let any of us know that he reached a milestone win total unless we asked and/or did the research to figure out the number ourselves — all in an effort to try and keep the focus on the team’s accomplishments and not his own. Heck, I’m writing this column today with his knowing, because if I told him, he’d probably persuade me to write about something else.
Callais has been the boys’ basketball coach at South Lafourche since the mid-2000s, and his teams have continually been in the postseason since his time at the school.
But to me, this season has been some of Callais’ best work.
On the court, South Lafourche is replacing a huge senior class from 2019-2020 — the departure of a senior group which literally put the Tarpons replacing all 5 starters and most of their contributing players from a playoff team.
The team did have a handful returnees who had played big varsity minutes, but one of them, senior Sidney Bruce, got injured for the season playing football and never made it to the hardwood in 2020-2021.
Those departures, plus Bruce’s injury had me thinking it would be a long, long season for the Tarpons’ boys’, but it’s been anything but. The team is 5-5 on the season and is currently inside of the Top 32 at press-time with another possible playoff bid on the horizon.
But forget the lineups and the X’s and O’s for a second.
It’s the stuff off the floor that has me so proud of my friend as we head to the stretch run of this season.
In the teeth of the season, Callais had to leave the team after testing positive for COVID. Just days later, he lost his father, Daniel Callais. One day after that, his former player, Eric Thibodaux was tragically shot and killed in Thibodaux.
Mr. Daniel was one of the biggest South Lafourche fans around — a stalwart at practically every game, both home and away.
He loved the sport, and was actually one hell of a player back in his high school days at LCO. He loved the Tarpons, as well. But make no mistake — he also loved to watch his boy work the sidelines, too.
I have been close friends with Brian Callais for more than a half-decade. We have been on trips together, and have made many memories. I’m honored to say he’s my broadcast partner for several sports, and we’ve called championship games together.
To coach games with such a heavy heart has not been easy for my friend. At times after games, it’s been a struggle to hold back tears.
The routine is broken. The pre-game visit in the locker room with Mr. Daniel is no longer there. The post-game handshake isn’t, either. That seat on the bus is empty. That chair beside the bench is no longer filled.
But while it’s been tough, Callais and staff have done an admirable job getting the Tarpons to push through tragedy and keep fighting.
Will it be a state championship season for Big Blue? Hell, I don’t know. Probably not. Class 4A is wicked tough and the Tarpons are young.
But this year’s team is getting better, coming together and is having fun at a time in life where so much of the news hasn’t been good. This team could have many any number of excuses to fold, but they haven’t, and they’re making the most of their season, and to me, that’s what success in high school sports are all about.
So coach, I want to personally say congrats on the win against Assumption, and congrats on getting No. 250.
I know it’s been a rough one, but keep pushing!
You’re making your buddy over at the broadcast table awfully proud, and the kids need the guidance through the tough time, as well.
And rest assured, you’re making a couple guys listening to the broadcasts and watching from up above smile, too.