It sure didn’t take long for former Vandebilt Catholic girls’ basketball coach Kathy Luke to land on her feet.
Just more than two months after Vandebilt administration confirmed that Luke would no longer coach at the school, the 27-year veteran and state championship-winning coach announced that she has accepted a position to take over at Riverside Academy in Reserve.
Luke officially started her new gig June 1. She said she is “relieved” and “excited” to begin a new chapter in her coaching career.
“I’m really honored and excited to announce that I’m going to be the girls’ basketball coach at Riverside,” Luke confirmed via telephone to The Tri-Parish Times this week. “What I know about this school is that they want to win, they put a great emphasis on academics and athletics. This is a place where I think I can be very successful, because there is a tremendous amount of potential for the girls’ basketball program.”
Luke’s comments were among some of her first public words since this spring’s saga that saw Vandebilt forced to forfeit its spot in the LHSAA Class 4A State Semifinals because of the alleged use of an ineligible player.
The coach didn’t offer much in the way of specifics regarding how she felt about her final days as Lady Terrier’s coach.
But she did say repeatedly throughout the more than 10-minute conversation that she loves the school and will feel different coaching in another school’s colors next season.
“It’s very weird when I call someone up on the phone in these past two days and I’m saying, ‘Hey this is Kathy Luke from,’ and I’m not saying that I’m Vandebilt Catholic High School,” Luke said. “Anytime you leave some place that you truly love, it’s tough. I grew up at Vandebilt. I’ve been there half of my life. I leave with a heavy heart. This is something that I never anticipated would ever happen to me. I thought I was going to coach there for much longer.
“But you know what? God has a plan for us, and I don’t think anyone would argue with the fact that I’m a little bit hard-headed. So maybe I needed God’s guidance to take me away and put me in a better place, and I really do believe that I’m at a really good place now.”
With Riverside, Luke will be taking over a program in a completely different situation than the program that she built at Vandebilt.
Where the Lady Terriers were a polished machine and an annual state championship contender, the Lady Rebels have not yet peaked to their potential.
Luke said Riverside only has a handful of playoff victories in school history.
She admitted that she will need to shift into more of a teacher-like role during her early days with the Rebels so that she can build the winning foundation that she had created within Vandebilt.
“I look forward to the process of building a championship program at Riverside,” Luke said. “I look forward to doing that, because they’ve never had a championship there. That challenge excites me. That opportunity and the whole process excites me. I think that the kids are going to respond, and I think everybody in that community wants a winner. I’m committed to bringing one to Riverside. If I’ve got to work 24/7, then I’ll do that. Because I think everything is in place for us to get it done.”
When asked how Luke aims to turn the program around, she predictably pointed to her past. She said Lady Rebel fans should expect to see a lot of Vandebilt in their program.
“We won at Vandebilt because we were fundamentally sound and we did the little things really, really well,” Luke said. “I’m taking over a program that had a lot of really good coaching before me. The coach before me did a great job, and she suffered through a lot of hard times here. About four or five years ago, she was playing fifth and sixth graders on varsity. So these kids that I inherit have been brought along right, and they’ve done some really good things. … I hope that I can help to bring them and our program to that next level.”
The truth is that Riverside is already pretty close to its goals.
The Lady Rebels finished the 2012-13 season with a 22-10 record and a 6-2 mark in District 10-2A. Riverside won a playoff game in their run last season, scoring a 90-54 win against Capitol.
Luke said she will only lose one contributor from last year’s team. She added that she believes the returnees within the team are capable of making an early run.
But she maintains that building and creating a culture are on the forefront of her mind right now – regardless of the team’s recent successes.
“In the history of the school, we’ve only won two playoff games ever,” Luke said. “We hope to double that. We hope to double that in this upcoming year. But right now, I’m not thinking about how far we might or might not go – it’s all about that process. If we get better every, single day and we do what we’re supposed to do, then winning will take care of itself.
“I’m not worried about winning games. That will come. I am worried about building a complete program. When we do that, winning will follow.”
But no matter how it’s sliced, the 2013-14 prep girls’ basketball season will mark the end of an era locally and the beginning of a new one in Reserve.
Luke said she and her family will remain in Houma, and she will make the one-hour commute to Reserve each day.
The coach said she has family in the area and has a built-in support system in place around the campus.
Luke said she considered other jobs around the area, but Riverside is the gig that felt the most like home.
She can’t wait to get started.
“There were a lot of jobs open that were on my way between me and Riverside,” Luke said. “But I am willing to drive that little bit extra, because I think they have a program there that believes in the things I believe in – a school that has the same values that I have.”
Former Vandebilt Catholic girls’ basketball coach Kathy Luke cuts down the nets with her young son following the team’s push to the LHSAA State Semifinals. Luke announced this week that she will take over the girls’ basketball program at Riverside Academy. Luke said she is excited for the challenge of taking over a new program and trying to turn it into an annual contender.