This item originally appeared in the April 14, 2005 issue of The Tech Talk.
By Josh Milton
It has been said knowledge speaks but wisdom listens.
If that is true, Tech President Dr. Dan Reneau made the wise decision in hiring former Lady Techster assistant coach Chris Long as the fourth head coach in Tech women's basketball 31-year history last Friday.
Only 12 days after Kurt Budke departed for Oklahoma State University, the majority of Tech fans, alumni, players and community voted for the assistant coach, and Reneau heeded their words.
"I worked with our Athletics Council, the Tip Off Club, an informal steering committee and our athletic director, Jim Oakes," Reneau said. "I listened to our community, and I listened to the Lady Techsters themselves. We did conduct a national search, and we had some very interesting applicants.
"But when it all came down to it, and you looked at who was here, and you thought about the future of this program and the abilities of the individual who was here Ð the character and integrity of him Ð and the fact that most of the fans, his team and community really loved him, Chris Long is by far the choice and the man of the hour to lead this program forward and keep it as a storied program at Louisiana Tech."
Reneau began the press conference inducting Long as the new head coach and was not short of compliments for the former six-year assistant.
"He knows the game, he knows coaching and he knows people," Reneau. "He is a man of character, but he means something else to me also. I believe in rewarding loyalty, and he's been loyal to this program. He's asked for no credit, but he's been the glue that's kept us together."
Following Reneau was legendary Leon Barmore, who guided the Lady Techsters to the 1982 national championship and is the winningest coach in Division I basketball history with a 576-87 record. Barmore revealed that he was as concerned as anyone else about the future of the Lady Techster program, but he has complete confidence in Long to continue the tradition at Tech.
"I don't know if there's any other team in the history of basketball that endured as much criticism as this year's team, but they went 20-10, won the WAC and made it to the NCAA Tournament for the 24th straight time," Barmore said. "I think you deserve a lot of credit, and I appreciate what you did for our basketball program this year."
"I'm nervous about where we are now as you are nervous. I'm concerned as you're concerned. Everybody in this room is here because they want the Lady Techsters to do well, and they will do well. I've made the comment many times. No one has a lock on tradition. If you don't guard it, it's gone. But Chris Long is the right man to continue the tradition at Louisiana Tech."
Long knew he had the support of most Tech fans and the community, but the encouragement from his mentor, Barmore, set the stage for the passing of one of the most reputable positions in all of women's basketball, as Long took the podium amid the thunderous standing ovation at the mention of his name.
After thanking Reneau, Oakes, the Athletics Council, and his family, Long issued his thanks to Barmore and the Lady Techsters for their backing.
"I would not be here today if it were not for Leon Barmore," Long said. "He is the best coach ever in women's basketball. He means a lot to me, and I appreciate all he has done for me.
"I've sent so much time with this team over the past six or seven months, and their support behind me probably means more than anything. They believe in me, and I promise you that I believe in them. This is a great group of girls, and I'm excited to get to work with them."
However, along with the confidence of Reneau, players and community come the expectations set by Lady Techster tradition.
"I've been loyal to this program, and I will continue to be loyal," Long said. "I understand the expectations of leading this program. There's not a person in this room that I want to let down. I know what it takes to keep a program at the top level. I learned from the best. It takes an incredible toughness by the coaches and players. We need everybody to rally behind this team, and I know you will."
To fulfill those expectations, Long sang out a resounding emphasis on recruiting.
"The name of the game is recruiting," Long said. "I will put together the best staff possible that can recruit, coach on the floor and represent this university well. I have been in contact with different people, but it is a process. We have a very good schedule next year. Ten of the 12 nonconference games will be against teams in this year's postseason."
Also in attendance for the press conference was former Tech president, Dr. F. Jay Taylor, who agreed with Long's highlighting of recruiting and cast another vote of confidence in him.
"I am very pleased with the decision to hire Chris Long as the new head coach of the Lady Techsters," Taylor said. "I had not been pleased with the direction of this program, and it needed help badly. Long will provide that help, along with a very capable staff to revive the program."
Tech's athletic director, Jim Oakes, agreed with Reneau on rewarding Long's loyalty to the program and complimented Long's character.
"You're always happy to see quality people rewarded for their hard work and loyalty," Oakes said. "Chris deserves this opportunity. He's an outstanding person and a quality coach, and I'm excited to have him here. What he stands for, his values, knowledge of the game and ability to coach all pointed to him for our new head coach."
And as Long stated, the rally of the players behind him meant as much as anything else, and sophomore guard Shan Moore noted her excitement at the new opportunity.
"I'm happy that coach Long is our new head coach," Moore said. "The fact that he believes in us will make us play better. Knowing that our coach has faith in us helps us out a lot. He'll bring out the best in us."
Reneau said the open position received wide national recognition, and the Athletics Council reviewed many resumes. But wisdom prompted Reneau to listen, and the answer came in a unified echo.