BASKETBALL

Florien girls basketball coach Dewain Strother coaching and winning on granddaughter's time

Jimmy Watson
Shreveport Times
Florien coach Dewain Strother talks with granddaughter Marleigh Sparks during a game this season.

The coaching days for Dewain Strother are numbered. The longtime Florien girls basketball coach put an ending date on them a few years ago when his granddaughter, Marleigh Sparks,  became the last in a long line of his relatives performing under his tutelage.

Strother, 71, the winningest active coach in Louisiana basketball, has put in 39 years on the sidelines, and surpassed 1,200 wins in the Blackcats’ final district game.  Florien has won two more and advanced  to the LHSAA Class B semifinals in Hammond at 7 p.m. Tuesday  in Southeastern Louisiana’s University Center.

Not the most verbal of coaches, possibly because he’s said it all over the past four decades, Strother’s pregame speech to the Blackcats (36-2) before facing Fairview (35-5) for a berth in the state championship game will be short and sweet.

“l’ll tell them to play with confidence and go hard,” Strother said.

Fairview, the defending champions, has knocked off Florien in the semifinals both of the past two seasons.

RETIREMENT SET: Florien's Dewain Strother has a 7-year retirement plan

Florien's Dewain Strother poses with a jersey signifying his 1,000th career coaching victory in 2016.

Strother’s teams have advanced to the LHSAA Top 28 Tournament 20 times, advancing to the title game 11 times. He has six state championships on his resume.

Among Tuesday’s pregame listeners will be Sparks, the third granddaughter Strother has coached. He also coached his daughter, one niece and his daughter-in-law. Marleigh was a fifth-grader and a manager on the 2016 team that saw Strother surpass 1,000 wins. He said at that time he would coach seven more years, which will end in 2023 when Sparks graduates.

“Then my retirement becomes official,” Strother said. 

The 2022 edition isn't  blessed with a superstar, but the Blackcats   have been solid across board. Jay Richardson and Latoya Holmes lead the team in rebounds, while Marleigh and Londyn Sparks (Marleigh’s cousin) are the points leaders. Gracie Rutherford and Holmes lead in assists. 

“I told them in the middle of the year that if we would start doing the little things in games, we would have a chance to win,” Strother said. 

Strother started with Florien in 1983 and has continued racking up the victories since, no matter what kind of talent he was dealt. His sixth title came in 2017 with a 53-38 win over Anacoco.

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

Jimmy Watson covers Shreveport-Bossier area sports. Email him at jwatson@shreveporttimes.com and follow him on Twitter @JimmyWatson6.