Tony Robichaux’s legacy will go far beyond his stellar coaching career that included becoming the youngest Division I head coach in the country and a trip to the College World Series.
Robichaux, the head baseball coach at Louisiana-Lafayette and former McNeese State head coach, died Wednesday in New Orleans at the age of 57. He had been hospitalized since June 23 after he suffered a heart attack.
Robichaux underwent two open-heart procedures. The first was on June 24 at Lafayette General Medical Center. A Louisiana-Lafayette news release said Robichaux was “expected to make a full and complete recovery.”
On Friday he was moved to Oschner Health Center in New Orleans “to initiate the advancement of his recovery” and underwent a second surgery on Sunday. He remained in critical condition in the intensive care unit.
A prayer vigil was held Tuesday night in Lafayette.
Barbe head coach Glenn Cecchini was Robichaux’s teammate and roommate at ULL, then Southwestern Louisiana. The two remained friends after school. Cecchini said Robichaux was a dear friend who impacted hundreds of lives.
“He was a great man, a great human being, friend, father and husband,” Cecchini said. “He personified being a solid, Christian man. He was a tremendous role model for his players. He really tried to impact lives through Christ.”
Cecchini said he spoke often with Robichaux, particularly when facing life-altering decisions.
“We talked at least once a month, often more,” Cecchini said. “We saw life in a similar way. He was all about helping others. He encouraged his players and people he knew to become better people. So many people have been impacted by his wisdom, his faith. He was entertaining to be around. A great storyteller. He was funny and knowledgeable.
“He loved the game and his players. He was a master of building relationships. That was his greatest strengths. He built great relationships with friends and family, including his extended family of players. He empowered people to do great things and pass it on to the next generation.”
The winningest baseball coach at McNeese and ULL, Robichaux won 1,177 games in 33 seasons as a head coach. He led the Cowboys program from 1987-94 before moving on to ULL, where the Crowley native coached for the past 25 seasons. He led the Ragin’ Cajuns to the 2000 College World Series and to the No. 1 ranking in the nation in 2014, when the Cajuns went 58-10, setting a single-season school record for wins.
His sons, Justin and Austin, played for him at ULL.
Former major league catcher Danny Ardoin was recruited to McNeese by Robichaux.
“I played for him in fall of 1994, right before Robichaux took job at ULL,” Ardoin said. “We lost a great one for sure. It teaches us how fragile life can be. It is a sad day for everyone. McNeese was continually getting better with him there. He has been a winner everywhere he has gone.
“One day I was taking (batting practice) and he was at the cage getting all over me. He was riding me pretty good. And when I got out of the cage he told me I was one of his best players and that he had to get on me to show the other players. I told him I would follow his lead. He was coaching me hard, but he still cared about me as a young man.
“It was a short time I had with him. I wish I would have had more. Even that short fall was treasured and valued. He is a legend. He is going to be missed dearly. My prayers go out to his immediate family and all that are close to him.”
McNeese head coach Justin Hill, who was recruited by Robichaux and later played at LSU, issued this statement on social media:
“My heart hurts right now for the entire Robichaux family. Coach Robe changed lives through baseball. He had every opportunity to elevate himself but he always chose to profess his faith and heap praise on his boys. His life is a model for leadership in every area from baseball to business, but most importantly how to be a man.
“I love you coach. Thank you for always giving me your most precious resource, your time. I will always do my best to make you proud.”
Robichaux, the dean of college baseball coaches in Louisiana, was inducted in the McNeese State Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.
LSU head coach Paul Mainieri issued a statement proclaiming his respect for Robichaux.
“We are heartbroken by the news that Tony Robichaux has passed away, and we offer our sincere condolences to Tony’s family, friends and the entire Ragin’ Cajun community. Tony was an outstanding coach, but he was an even greater molder of young men, and the positive impact he made upon his players is immeasurable.
“Tony and I shared a mutual respect that was reflected in the way our teams competed against one another over the years, and I will always cherish those matchups between the Cajuns and the Tigers. Tony lived a life of profound significance, and he will be missed by all of us.”