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Building Legends by Remembering Legends

Billy Allgood

Sport: Coach

Induction Year: 1999

By John Marcase Sports Editor

Retirement for most people means a life spent on the golf course or out on the lake. At worst, a life on the road traveling in an oversized Winnebago.

To one recent retiree, it has meant becoming a mini-contractor. First there's the work he's done for friends. Then the office he put in his backyard. Then there was the matter of renovating his camp on Iatt Lake in Grant Parish. Recently, it was helping Habitat-for-Humanity raise a house in Pineville.

But when you're Billy Allgood and you've spent all 67 years of your life in service, it's hard to get it out of your system.

"I've had a lot of people help me," he explains. "I certainly don't mind helping others. Work is something I've known all my life. There's nothing that bothers me as long as it's honest work and serves some purpose."

That is one reason Allgood will be honored along with six others June 26 in Natchitoches when he is inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

Allgood made his mark as the longtime athletic director and coach at Louisiana College:

In 26 years as basketball coach, his teams won 327 games, which ranks him sixth all-time among college basketball coaches in the state. Included among those wins was an upset of Texas-El Paso in 1977.

In 30 years as the school's baseball coach, Allgood posted hundreds of more wins - coaching in more than 1,000 games - including a historic upset of defending national champion LSU in 1994. It was the first time an NAIA school had beaten a reigning NCAA Division I national champion.

But his legacy is more than just wins and losses.

"I guess not at one time in all the years I've known him, did I think Billy Allgood is not going by the rules," says former Northwestern State coaching rival Tynes Hildebrand. "I think if there is one thing that speaks well of someone, that's it."

After a two-sport career at Southern Mississippi, where he is a member of that school's Sports Hall of Fame, Allgood began his coaching career at Meridian (Miss.) High School. In six seasons, he led the school to a state title in basketball before being asked to interview for an opening at LC.

One interview was all it took for then-LC president Dr. G. Earl Guinn to offer Allgood the job. The two shook hands. No contract. No signature needed.

Allgood started work at the small Baptist Liberal Arts school in Pineville in the fall of 1959 and quickly developed a reputation throughout the south as a solid coach and a stern disciplinarian.

As the years passed, other schools sought him for openings, but Allgood never budged. Not even when LSU athletic director Jim Corbett came calling seeking a replacement for Frank Truitt in 1966. Allgood's final day of work at Louisiana College was in June 1998.

"I came to believe Coach Allgood found his niche at Louisiana College," says Guinn, who spent 24 years as president of LC.

While at LC, Allgood not only coached basketball, baseball and football - when the school still fielded a team, he was also the athletic department's trainer, janitor, bus driver, handyman and construction worker, literally building the baseball field that bears his name.

The late Lenny Fant, a Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer who excelled as Northeast's basketball coach, lasted just one year at LC before leaving for East Texas Baptist.

Others marveled at the jobs Allgood was able to do while still being able to field a competitive team in basketball.

"The rest of us had the opportunity to coach just basketball and he wore a lot of hats," notes former Louisiana Tech coach and longtime NBA assistant Scotty Robertson. "Billy was an excellent coach. He did more with less than the rest of us in the state of Louisiana - from the budget and other aspects, that we all had."

Perhaps the thing that meant more to Allgood than wins was the respect he earned from his colleagues and players.

"His peers, who played against him night-in and night-out, had great respect for him," says ex-player, assistant and current LC coach Gene Rushing. "I believe he could have coached on the Division I level. His knowledge of the intricacies of offensive patterns was as good as anybody anywhere."

"He is one of the most fierce competitors I've ever faced," noted Fant in 1996. "He was just tough to beat no matter who he put out there."

On the many trips LC took through Kentucky during the '60s, Allgood struck up a friendship with legendary Western Kentucky coach Ed Diddle. Another Kentucky icon - Adolph Rupp - respected Allgood enough to commit to bringing his team down to Pineville and play in the first game at the H.O. West Fieldhouse to open the 1965 season. Only a delay in construction forced Rupp to back out of the commitment.

Allgood's 1969-70 team, led by Billy Jones, became the first in school history to win 20 games. The 1978-79 squad, just a year removed from posting the upset at UTEP, went 22-7 and reached the NAIA National Tournament for the first time in school history as Paul Poe earned All-American honors.

The only thing that rivaled Allgood's reputation for X's and O's was his sideline theatrics.

From the metal folding chair he pounded into oblivion with his right hand during games at the West Fieldhouse, to the puncture in his brand new wingtips after kicking a wire basket, to the towel that got hung up in the rafters of the old gym at Mississippi College.

Then there was that infamous night in early 1980 at Stephen F. Austin when LC received seven technical fouls: three on Allgood, three on Rushing - his assistant - and one on Alexandria Daily Town Talk reporter Al Nassif.

"You could tell from the beginning that the official was after him," recalls Nassif. "Apparently the official had had a run-in with Billy at McNeese (two years before) and this was his way to get even.

"After he kicked Billy out, I told the official, `You're the biggest homer I've ever seen.' He told me to get out," Nassif continues. "I wasn't gone two minutes and here comes Rushing."

But the games didn't matter to Allgood. His players and the students he taught in his classes came first.

"I'd sell every one of those wins to get people to do what they're capable of," he says. "I didn't want to coach blue-chip athletes. I'd rather coach blue-chip people."

Which is why Allgood often leaves a lasting impression.

"We probably won't ever see people like him coming along again," says Hildebrand. "I don't think there will ever be another Billy Allgood and that's a shame. Young people need Billy Allgood for a role model."

 

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