When Chase Delrie got his Denham Springs High diploma 15 years ago this month, he knew one thing lay ahead in his future: Coaching.
That path has remained steadfast, but until a job opened at French Settlement as a result of a mid-season resignation, the chance to get back to his roots had eluded the former Yellow Jackets’ point guard.
Finally, though, Delrie is home, or at least in the neighborhood, and that’s a meaningful thing for the 33-year-old Denham native to say.
“The chance to come home is something I’ve always kept my eye on, and especially after the flooding last August, it’s become more important than ever for me to get closer to my family,” said Delrie, who was named the French Settlement boys basketball late last month.
“I’ve been an educator and a coach for almost a decade, and when you are around kids as much as I have been, you realize how important your family is to you. I was ready to be more connected than I have been the last several years.”
It’s not like Delrie has been too terribly far removed from his Livingston Parish roots.
Since graduating from Nicholls State, Delrie has remained relatively close, with most of that time spent at Lutcher where he was the varsity coach the last eight years.
All along, though, there was something tugging strongly at Delrie’s heart.
“Livingston Parish is like one big family and every time I talked to Chase, I could tell he wanted to come back home,” said DSHS legend Tasmin Mitchell, who was a freshman when Delrie was a senior point guard for the Jackets.
“I knew he wanted to come back and share his knowledge and give back to the community because our home gives so much to kids when they’re growing up. I think he made a great decision.”
Like any job change, there were myriad factors to consider before Delrie made the jump.
At Class 3A Lutcher, Delrie had guided the Bulldogs to a pair of playoff appearances in the last three years. There was never a shortage of athletes to pull from, but one of the perennial challenges he faced was waiting out the football season and the players who participated in both sports.
Likewise, in the spring and summer after basketball season, Delrie rarely saw players for offseason work because of their football commitments.
Those are hurdles he won’t have to scale at FSHS.
“At Lutcher, football is king and always will be, and for me, the emphasis on what I wanted to do had kind of reached the limit,” Delrie said.
“Five of eight years I was there, we didn’t get a full group of players until after Thanksgiving because of the football playoffs, which was great for the school. But it created some challenges for me as a basketball coach.”
Challenges are something Delrie has always embraced, particularly from the day when he stepped on Denham’s campus and learned former Jacket coach Paul Smith’s system as well as any point guard who played during the 79-year-old’s tenure.
Delrie started for three years and became a classic basketball cliché – a point guard who was an extension of the coach.
“As a coach, he was a player who always did exactly what you wanted him to do,” Smith said.
“He was a good leader on the floor and always found a way to get the job done. When we went four corners, he was the guy I wanted with the ball because he knew where it needed to be and if he got fouled, I knew he was going to make the free throws and put the game away for us.”
Never was Delrie’s value as a point guard and leader more apparent that when a budding star in a man-sized body walked into the high school in the fall of 2001.
Mitchell was regarded as a college prospect from the time he was a middle-school phenom and Smith wasted no time installing the thickly 6-foot-7 big man as the centerpiece of the Yellow Jackets’ 2001-02 team. For that to work, Smith and DSHS needed a veteran point guard to make things work.
“Chase was a great leader,” Mitchell said of Delrie. “He taught me a lot about how to get in position and get the ball where I could score. He averaged 10 or 11 assists a game and most of them came from me. He was a really good point guard, but the biggest thing he was for us was a leader.”
Leader, point guard, gym rat.
Those are terms of endearment that a lot of coaches are tagged with and Delrie fits in that group.
When his father Rick Delrie, a longtime coach, mentioned the job at French Settlement, Chase Delrie’s interest was piqued.
“We were starting to gear up for the offseason around Easter and my dad said there might be a job at French Settlement,” said Chase Delrie, who applied for the job at his alma mater two springs earlier when Kevin Caballero got the job. “
“I called (FSHS principal Lee Hawkins) and we spoke for a few days and then I drove over and sat down and met with him. I really liked his mindset and approach and what he’s trying to do – the vision he has for the entire school and not just basketball.
“These are different kinds of kids than I have coached over the years, but it’s the kind of kids I grew up with. They may not always be blessed with great athletic ability like I wasn’t, so I had to really understand and think the game and be gritty and do my job. I love the idea of being able to walk onto a campus where basketball is the main attraction. Regardless of what talent looks like, I believe culture beats strategy, so I’m excited to help create a culture of winning.
“Once I met people and saw what the situation was like, there were just so many positives. I’m big on following my gut and my gut told it was time to take advantage of that opportunity. I’m looking forward to a new challenge and I’m excited about it.”
The challenge is certainly steep.
Since a strong 2013-14 season when the Lions made their last playoff appearance under longtime coach Kenny Gautreau, FSHS has gone just 26-56 with only two district wins. Frank Schneider coached the team in 2015-16 and began this past season before stepping down in December.
With Livingston Parish neighbors Doyle and Springfield on an upswing in District 9-2A, standing still is not an option for the Lions. And Mitchell would expect the polar opposite once the new coach gets things rolling.
“Chase is a real competitive guy and he takes on any challenge, so he will push his guys and get the most out of them,” Mitchell said. “It’s going to be a great challenge for him to turn the program around but they couldn’t have found a better person to lead those guys. There might lot of people who probably wouldn’t have taken the job because it’s a small town and there aren’t a lot of great athletes to build around, but when I talked to Chase, I could tell how excited he was because it’s predominantly a basketball school.”
And as importantly as anything else, it’s home.
“This is an exciting next step for me and a lot of that is because I get to be around the people who mean the most to me,” Delrie said.
Randy Rosetta is Sports Editor of The Livingston Parish News.
You can reach him at (225) 610.5507 or RandyR@LivingstonParishNews.com.
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