Florien's Dewain Strother sets retirement -- in 7 years

Florien's Dewain Strother poses with a jersey signifying his 1,000th career coaching victory.

Some might find it hard to believe that a major influence on Louisiana Class B basketball hinges on a fifth grader in the Sabine Parish school system.

When Marleigh Sparks graduates from high school in seven years, her Papaw, Florien coaching legend Dewain Strother, plans to hang up his whistle. With him will go 1,000-plus victories and a miniscule number of losses.

“I’ve had a great career and been blessed with a lot of talented athletes,” Strother told The Times. “When Marleigh graduates I’ll walk away. That’s the plan.”

Meanwhile, there are many more games to be won by the coach who started with the Florien girls program in 1983 and has remained firmly in control since. He picked up win 1,000 earlier this season against Negreet in the finals of Negreet’s tournament.

“It was just another win. I knew it was probably going to come at some point this year, because our principal and assistant principal were keeping up with it,” Strother said.

The Lady Cats (34-4) will try to add to Strother’s 1,014 victories at 1 p.m. Wednesday when they meet Anacoco in the Class B semifinals of the 2016 Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Girls’ Top 28 basketball tournament in Southeastern’s University Center in Hammond. The Lady Cats and Lady Indians (26-10) have played three close games already this season with Florien winning two.

Strother can tell you just about anything you’d like about any of his wins, or losses, since he keeps a score sheet of each contest in a desk drawer.

“I started that when I first began coaching because we had some Division I prospects and people were always calling wanting to know some of their stats,” he said.

The most memorable of Strother’s victories wasn’t one of his five state championships or one of his four runner-up contests. It was victory No. 800 that sticks with the 65-year-old coach the most.

“The night I got that one – it was against Anacoco, I think – my late wife was rolled in in a wheel chair to share it with me,” said Strother, who says he runs from cameras. “I have photos of her and I together at that one.”

The 2016 version of Florien basketball has one of the area’s best players in sophomore Aja Law, a 6-foot center who averages 20 points and 11 rebounds per outing. The team also features junior Destinee Strother and seventh grader Kylee Strother, granddaughters of the coach. Neither Strother starts but they get to spend quality time with their Papaw on a daily basis.

It took a full team effort to lift the Lady Cats past Stanley in last week’s quarterfinal contest. Kendra Richardson, Morgan Miller, Alasia Gipson and Katie Alford joined Law in setting up the victory.

“But it was our bench play from MaCayla Miller, Gracie Sylvia, Ashlyn Anthony and Destinee that carried us,” Strother said. “We needed all nine of those in that game and they stepped up.”

Strother is still enjoying what he’s doing, teaching other folks’ kids as well as his own grandkids, and believes the next seven years will be a breeze if one thing happens.

“As long as the kids behave, and this group does,” he said. “This is a team that plays team ball, even though they’re still young and learning. We have ball handlers and we have an inside presence that’s working for us this year.”

It’s also keeping retirement at bay.

Twitter: @JimmyWatson6