UL-Lafayette assistant coach Eddie Vaughn (left) makes a point to head coach Jessie Evans during the Ragin' Cajuns game against LSU Tuesday. Vaughn, a Denham Springs resident, is a first-year ULL assistant after 22 years in the business. (News photo by Sam Muffoletto)
BATON ROUGE Someone who knew Eddie Vaughn from his six years as head basketball coach at Walker High School could have easily not recognized him Tuesday night as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette visited LSU in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Vaughn, animated in his own way while heading up the Wildcat program, was constantly up and about, pacing the bench and letting his voice be heard at Walker.
Now, as an assistant coach at ULL, the 22-year coaching veteran was nestled quietly on the bench between his Ragin' Cajun players, jotting note after note of what transpired on the Assembly Center floor much like a student taking a final exam.
But then again, there was one time Tuesday night, when a controversial charging call against a Ragin' Cajun player brought Vaughn back to life.
"I'm having fun," said Vaughn, still a resident of Denham Springs who commutes the 100 mile-plus round trip to his job in Lafayette. "It wasn't that I didn't have fun at Walker, because every single day, practices and games were fun. But in high school, there's more to it than just being a basketball coach and now I'm a basketball coach. I do what I do best. I teach basketball. I run about 90 percent of the individual improvement programs for our team, which is a pure teaching situation. And it's fun.
"From my seat, it's no pressure," Vaughn said. "I'm riding the coattail of my boss (fifth-year head coach Jessie Evans) and these players, but it's great, I'm having a great time. We have a great bunch of guys and it was time to get back in."
Vaughn, whose coaching history has covered the spectrum from Valley Forge Academy to the likes of Mississippi State and Kansas State to a six-year stint as a head coach in junior college in Kansas.
After two years at Marshall University, Vaughn took over the Walker program in 1995 and led the Wildcats to 115 victories and five playoff appearances, twice advancing as far as the quarterfinals. Last spring, the 46-year-old Vaughn was relieved of his duties.
"I turned down calls (from colleges this past year)," Vaughn said. "I promised my wife (Alana) that I would sit still, stay put. You think about it and especially when not everything is going your way, you really get mad and start to think about it. There were two places I really wanted to be if I made the move back to college coaching.
"One was obviously LSU and (head coach) John Brady and I talked about a situation, but it never developed," said Vaughn, who coached with Brady during his three-year stint at Mississippi State (1982-85). "No big deal. That's the way it goes sometime. The other would be to be in Lafayette, a town I loved when I lived in Rayne.
"This was the school where I wanted to play and didn't get a chance to play," said the Amite native, who ended up playing his college ball at Southeastern Louisiana University (1973-77). "I wanted to be the next (All-American) Bo Lamar and I didn't get that chance.
"So it's always been a place that's always had a little spot held for in my heart," Vaughn said. "And to think, it's been a long time, but I made it. I'm back in Acadiana, where I loved Rayne and I have a lot of my friends been calling since I've been back in the area. I feel like I've come full-circle. I'm at a wonderful place and we have tremendous potential."
"If anything sums up Eddie Vaughn and his coaching career, I always went to school where I identified having potential," Vaughn said. "And Neosho (Community College) while I was there, we achieved a lot of that. And hopefully that's the way people see my six years at Walker. It had potential and wasn't getting it done. By the time I left, face it, by the time I left, a lot of things about that program is second to none and definitely as good as most.
"One of my goals in my life and kept it pretty much to myself and wife, was that I always wanted to coach in a (NCAA) Final Four," Vaughn said. "And I had to give that goal up to do what was best for (son) Robert. I put him in an elementary school where he didn't have to move around during those developmental years. But now, maybe I can go back and rekindle the fire and fulfill that goal and one time coach in a Final Four.
"And I'm not going to kid you, in three to five years, I want to be a head coach," Vaughn said. "I look around, I see the people we play against, friends of mine who are head coaches. I get to come (to LSU) and visit with John (Brady) and (LSU assistant coaches) Kermit (Davis) and Butch (Pierre). These are old, old friends of mine for many years and it's wonderful. Yes, Eddie Vaughn, three to five years from now, wants to be a head coach at a Division I.
Vaughn and the Ragin' Cajuns did not experience the thrill of victory Tuesday night as LSU defeated ULL 83-65 in the two schools first meeting on the basketball court since 1945. The estimated crowd of about 8,000, largest so for this year for LSU, included many of which wore the red of ULL.
"For ULL to become the University of Louisiana, like you have the University of Texas, Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama, we have to elevate," Vaughn said. "And a lot of that is going to be dreams. Dreams that there will be a University of Louisiana and there's a Louisiana State University. The way Mississippi is and the way Florida is. And that's part of our goal. And we feel to elevate, we need to compete and sign Top 10 Louisiana kids. And with our recent signing of Spencer Ford, we feel like we're in that element.
"THIS (LSU's Pete Maravich Assembly Center) is a great place to play," Vaughn said. "I get to come back and all these people came out to see this game. Usually in December games, they're doing good to get 3,000 here. I think its a great series and a series that needs to be played because it gives LSU a game that more than 3,000 people are interested in. And it gives us a great opportunity to elevate from Southwest Louisiana to the University of Louisiana. I think it's a beneficial game for both sides.
Many well wishers approached Vaughn before and after the game, including former Walker High basketball player and now LSU football player Lionel Turner.
"I'm so thrilled and honored that he (Turner) would take the time to walk down," Vaughn said. "And look at the great things he's doing, leaving to go on Friday (to Atlanta) and do great things (at the SEC Football Championship).
One of Turner's teammates at Walker, Brett Smith, played his last four years at ULL. Smith came to Walker for his senior year as an Australian-exchange student.
"He's great to have on the staff," said ULL head coach Jessie Evans. "I really was impressed with Eddie when I recruited Brett Smith at Walker High School and got a chance to visit a little with Eddie and watch him coach. I saw how he was so demanding and well organized and knows the game. And I thought he would bring something really special to our staff and he has.
"He has that little squeaky voice of his and there's no question about when he's around. You know that voice anywhere."
And when that charging call that halted ULL's momentum as the Ragin' Cajuns were attempting to cut into the Tiger lead in the second half, Vaughn's squeaky little voice was indeed resurrected.