1st-year coach building sustainable Lady Rebels’ program

Published 12:02 am Saturday, January 7, 2017

RESERVE — Kevin Dizer never really intended to be a head girls basketball coach.

Heck, he didn’t really intend to be a basketball coach at all.

The Sterlington native ended up at Riverside Academy in Reserve because his pal and former Belhaven University teammate, Jonathan Reed, came here first as an assistant football coach and urged Dizer to follow.

Dizer was pretty happy serving as an assistant in football and track until, one day, Riverside Academy boys basketball coach Timmy Byrd asked him if he wanted to help out on the his team.

Riverside junior center Dannecia Nora is  the go-to player for the Lady Rebels this season. (Lori Lyons/L’OBSERVATEUR)

Riverside junior center Dannecia Nora is the go-to player for the Lady Rebels this season. (Lori Lyons/L’OBSERVATEUR)

“I saw him on the football field and I liked the way he conducted himself,” Byrd said.

Said Dizer: “I wasn’t going to turn him down.”

Then, in August, Kathy Luke announced she was leaving Riverside to become the head girls coach at St. Charles Catholic.

Byrd tapped Dizer once more, giving him his first head coaching job in a sport he hadn’t played since high school.

“He presented it to me when he knew Coach Luke might be leaving,” Dizer said. “I thought it would be a good fit. It sounded like a good challenge. I thought I could do a good job and I wanted to give the girls a good opportunity.”
Then Dizer added, “It’s good to not have an ego.”

While the Riverside Academy boys basketball team has reached the stratosphere of success, winning five state championships over the last seven years, the girls team has made only sporadic playoff appearances and has never advanced past the second round.

Dizer hopes to change all that. He’s working the middle school girls to play and has enough bodies to field a JV team.

“The goal is to build a program and make sure it’s built to last and not just a short-term success, but something that’s going to be stable,” Dizer said. “You have to understand where the program is and really get rid of the expectations. The way I’m looking at it is, we’re building from the floor up. It’s not in terrible shape. Coach Luke did a great job here.”

The 2016 Lady Rebels finished 14-13 and made the Class 2A playoffs.

The good news is there were no seniors on that team to lose. The bad news is Dizer  lost one to injury and another to volleyball.

Ja’Keyra Gautreaux, a dominant guard, will miss all of the 2017 season due to a knee injury. Briley Becker, who was a solid shooter and pesky defender, has elected to concentrate on volleyball. That leaves Dannecia Nora, a 6-foot-2 junior center, to lead the offense.

“Everything goes through Dannecia,” Dizer said. “We’re building around her.”

Nora said the transition from Coach Luke to Coach Dizer was bumpy because they have completely different styles of coaching.

Luke is rather intense; Dizer is more laid back.

“It was hard for us to get comfortable with the new coach at first because we were used to our old coach,” Nora said. “The pace, he doesn’t go as fast. My two years I was with (Coach Luke), I was used to the fast pace. Now this year we have to change everything. We’ve got new people coming in and we have to help the new people get used to our offense.”

The 2016-17 Lady Rebels have no senior players.

Besides Nora, they will be counting on sophomore point guard Bree Neil, junior Jennifer Legaux junior Chari Julien.

The team went into the weekend 8-10. They will open District 12-2A play against St. Mary’s Academy and travel to St. Charles Catholic Friday.

Byrd said he sees a great future in coaching for Dizer.

“He was my assistant coach last year,” Byrd said. “He’s a rising young coach. I think he’s going to be a star. He has the temperament and can command the attention of the girls. He’s a quick study and he’s proving he can do the job. He has the art of coaching down. The science will come. “

As his assistant, Dizer has called upon Charles Julien, the dad of junior Chari and a former head coach at East St. John High.

It was Julien who took the team into the season while Dizer was helping the football team win the Division III state championship.

“It wouldn’t work without Coach Julien,” Dizer said.

Together, they hope to build a solid program.

“They’re a great package,” Byrd said. “I think we got lucky.”