McNeese State women's basketball coach Brooks Donald Williams. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Monday, November 18, 2013 6:15 PM
As two jerseys were hung from the rafters with care, the two honored guests stood center stage on the court.
Off to the side, just behind them was Brooks Donald Williams, their former coach.
It was a night to honor Ashlyn and Caitlyn Baggett, two players who have helped lead a turnaround in the women’s basketball program at McNeese State.
But it was also a night to say goodbye to the past and look forward to the future.
So Donald Williams had mixed emotions as she watched the two players get their jerseys retired.
“I enjoyed their time here and all they gave to the school and the community,” she said. “This was a great moment for them that they totally deserved. But it is time to move on.”
And while she admits she will miss the duo, especially their leadership, Donald Williams also welcomes the new challenge.
She has heard the talk that it was only because of the Baggett sisters that the program was turned around, and like all competitors the coach wants to prove that wrong.
“I don’t really concern myself with what other people say or think,” she said. “You can drive yourself crazy over it. But sure, I want to win without them just like I wanted to win with them.
“I understand it takes great players to be a great team, but I think we can keep this going. We want to have the same standards, just a new era.”
That era is off to a fast 2-1 start led by Allison Baggett, the younger sister of the twins who also looks ready to move on.
“I think Allison wants to prove herself just like the rest of our players,” said Donald Williams. “That is what you want from your team. You want them to believe they can still win.
“We all feel like we can keep this thing going.”
Donald Williams stopped short of saying the team was looking forward to moving on, rather stating it was time.
“We all know that players are going to graduate and we have to adjust to that,” she said. “The point I wanted to make to these players is that this is now their time.
“We want to embrace what the twins and others before them have done for the program and take it to the next level. That’s what makes this so exciting. We have a chance to build off of what we have done in the past.”
The twins’ legacy is in place — two Southland Conference tournament titles and the school’s only two NCAA tournament appearances. They brought the program to life after years of woes.
However, they were not alone. They had help and Donald Williams is the one who got that all started.
Now she has to prove herself all over again.
“I think you are always doing that,” she said. “That happens every season. You are always under pressure to win. That is the business.”
That’s true, but there are a lot of questions about the program’s next steps after the twins’ graduation. This is something Donald Williams has been through before.
When she took over McNeese the program was down.
“You have to like a challenge and I do,” said Donald Williams, who admits there will be more teaching done this season.
“Last couple of years it has been more about team management,” she said. “That happens when you have a veteran team. This year is different, much more hands-on coaching.”
And a few more people out there she will try to prove wrong, which seems to be the way Donald Williams likes it.
Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org