Former Ascension coaches make HOF
Throughout the years, Ascension Parish has seen some of the best coaches in the state prowling the sidelines during games and teaching their players how to be champions and upstanding young men at practice.
Parish sports have reaped the benefits as many of their teams have earned state titles and many of their players have gone on to have successful careers in collegiate and even professional athletics.
Two of these great Ascension coaches were honored last week when the Louisiana High School Sports Hall of Fame announced their 2017 induction class.
Former East Ascension basketball coach Kenny Almond and former Ascension Catholic football coach Bucky Mistretta were among the six new inductees.
They were joined by Roman Bates, Jr., Tim Detillier, Don Jones and Bob Stevens.
This isn’t the first time Almond has been elected to a hall of fame.
Back in 2012, Almond was inducted into the Louisiana High School Basketball Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame. In 2014, he was awarded the LABC’s Mr. Louisiana Basketball Award.
Almond made a name for himself while he was coaching at Woodlawn. He won three state titles with the Panthers.
His 2003 team went a perfect 39-0 and fished the year ranked sixth in the nation. His last two teams won a Class 5A record 56 consecutive games.
His next stop was Gonzales as he took over the East Ascension basketball program.
In his 10 years coaching there, the Spartans won 255 games.
"The kids did a fantastic job, and all the assistants did a great job. All of those guys put in a lot of hours and a lot of work," Almond said. "We built something that I think our supporters were proud of, and that makes me proud. We filled the gym many times. There was a time when there weren't many people watching."
Along with the big win total, East Ascension had tremendous playoff success under Almond. They made two semifinal appearances, and his tenure ended with three straight district titles.
“I was ecstatic to get there and try to have the same kind of success we had at Woodlawn, and with the exception of winning state, I think we did. We did things the right way,” Almond said.
In the summer of 2014, Almond left East Ascension to coach at Zachary.
Overall, Almond won 892 career games.
During his football coaching career, Mistretta coached at Lee High and Redemptorist, but his greatest success came at Ascension Catholic.
He had two stints with the Bulldogs.
His first go-around in Donaldsonville lasted 14 years and culminated in Ascension Catholic capturing the Class 1A state title in 1973. It was their first football state title since 1941.
Mistretta then left to coach at Redemptorist from 1977-84.
When he returned to Ascension Catholic in 1985, the Bulldogs instantly built themselves back into a 1A powerhouse.
In 1987, they reached the state semifinals, and in 1991, they finished as state runners-up.
In 1992, Ascension Catholic outscored their opponents, 254-64, in the postseason—including a drubbing of West St. John in the title game to claim another state championship.
When talking about those great Bulldog glory days, Mistretta said, "It's really heartwarming. A small community like that, they're really invested in the program. It was special for me because I was a small-town boy, and I was born and raised in Donaldsonville and graduated from Ascension Catholic. It was a great experience.
"A lot of the players on the '73 team were my classmates, and a lot of the players on the '92 team, they had parents that were on the '73 team. So, there was great continuity there."
Mistretta has passed on his football knowledge to his son, Guy. He currently coaches at Livonia—where he has also won a state title.
Another former Ascension coaching great that was honored last week was Bill Jones as he received the Louisiana Track & Field Coaches Association’s Lifetime Achievement award at the LTFCA’s clinic in Lafayette.
Jones coached at both Donaldsonville and Dutchtown.
At Donaldsonville, his teams won four state titles, eight regional crowns and 11 district championships.
Under Jones, Dutchtown won one state championship and finished as runner-up on three separate occasions.