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Building Legends by Remembering Legends

J.C. Reinhardt

Sport: Basketball

Induction Year: 1986

In 1931, Southwestern Louisiana Institute Athletic Director Bob Brown hired a University of Iowa graduate named Julian Carl Reinhardt to handle an assortment of jobs at the Lafayette school for a salary of $1,800 per year.

His duties included head basketball coach, freshman football coach, tennis coach, intramural sports director, health and physical education instructor, trainer and director of the barracks dorm for athletes. He was also in charge of dining hall waiters and student workers at the SLI farm.

Nearly 50 years later, they named a street for “Dutch” Reinhardt – who built the foundation for a Southwestern Louisiana basketball program that attained national prominence in the early 1970s.

When he retired from coaching in 1957, Reinhardt had a career record of 346 victories and 253 losses.

At first, recruiting was done by word of mouth and the postal service.

“We had work scholarships,” Reinhardt recalled. “The boys would have to clean up the gym, nor mow the grass, or sell programs at football games. Then, we were able to get them better jobs. We could offer room and board, and $10 a month for laundry money.”

His teams traveled in station wagons, once playing four road games in as many nights – and winning all four.

Reinhardt, the only Southwestern Louisiana coach who has been inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, is also a member of the Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame and the Helms Athletic Foundation Hall of Fame.

Southwestern Louisiana was the first state school to integrate its athletic program in 1966-67, but Reinhardt tried to do it much earlier.

“We had a player who was half and half – white mother, black father,” he recalled. “But there was a state law preventing blacks from attending ‘white' schools, so we had to let him go.”

Ironically, a coach from Mississippi – Beryl Shipley – brought in the first black players, and was criticized throughout the state for breaking a “gentleman's agreement.”

“It was tough for Beryl, and for all of us,” recalled Reinhardt. “He had coached at Delta State and Southern Mississippi, and was living in Starkville. In the 1960s, those places weren't exactly liberal strongholds.”

For most of his coaching career, basketball wasn't a showcase sport at SLI. Football was No. 1, and boxing was more popular than basketball.

“There wasn't the pressure to win that there is now,” Reinhardt said. “Interest in the program, donations and publicity has improved over the years.”

Before Blackham Coliseum was completed in 1950, Reinhardt's teams played in an old wood gym – when it was available. “If they had a Mardi Gras ball or a cotillion, we had to give up the gym,” he said. “There wasn't another facility in town where they could hold those kind of things.”

Although there wasn't as much pressure to win, coaches – including Reinhardt – didn't always see eye to eye with the men wearing striped shirts. One of his best friends in officiating living in Shreveport, but he called three technicals on “Dutch” in one game with Centenary.

“You had to almost be mean to get results out of mediocre talent,” Reinhardt recalled. “Sometimes, you had to storm and fuss, and get fired up. It was tougher when you were doing five different jobs and had to drive the team home afterwards.”

His teams scored three straight victories over LSU in the early 1940s, winning the least two games by margins of more than 20 points.

“They didn't like it, and didn't play us anymore,” Reinhardt recalled. “If I were them, I wouldn't have played us either.”

(LSU beat SLI twice in the 1944-45 season before the Tigers dropped the Bulldogs from their schedule.)

As a teenager, Reinhardt worked as a junior counselor at the Red Arrow Camp for boys on Trout Lake, near Boulder Junction, Wisconsin.

He returned to the camp each summer for more than 60 years, except two. Once, he was busy training servicemen during World War II. The other time, his bone marrow cancer required an operation on his back.

“I love people,” Reinhardt explained. “I have a love of the woods, and being a part of nature.”

In September of 1989, his long battle with cancer finally ended. Reinhardt, 82, died at a hospital near Boulder Junction.

He was survived by his wife of 51 years, Martha – who was an SLI coed fresh off a St. Francisville plantation when they first met in 1938 – and their two sons, Rollie and Jimmie. And by hundreds of boys who went on their first canoe trips with Reinhardt at Red Arrow Camp, and had fond memories of sitting around campfires singing such college fight songs as “Cheer, Cheer for Old Notre Dame” and “On, Wisconsin!”

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