Jim Robarts to be Inducted into Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame
NEW ORLEANS (July 10, 2019) – Upon learning of his selection to the Allstate Sugar Bowl’s Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame, legendary high school basketball coach Jim Robarts sounded most appreciative.
“Never in my life did I ever think something like this would happen to me,” he said. “I cannot begin to tell you how much this means to me.”
Robarts will be one of four standout local sports figures to be inducted into the Allstate Sugar Bowl’s Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, August 10 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Each year’s Hall of Fame class is selected by the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee, a group of current and former media members who annually recognize a variety of award-winners, including the Hall of Fame, the Corbett Awards and the Eddie Robinson Award. The group also selects the Greater New Orleans Amateur Athlete of the Month each month.
A total of 26 individuals, including this year’s Hall of Fame class, and two teams will be honored at this year’s banquet.
While his induction into the Hall of Fame means a lot to Robarts, the coach has meant even more to generations of high school athletes whom he mentored for 46 years, including 39 seasons as a head coach.
That lengthy career began with a three-year stint at Jesuit High in Shreveport (now Loyola Prep) and concluded with a one-year stint at Shaw. Sandwiched in between were 19 years at Archbishop Rummel and 15 years at East Jefferson as well as one season at Haynes.
A graduate of Loyola University, Robarts also attended Jesuit where he gave prep sports the ole high school try. “I tried out for basketball and was cut. I tried out for baseball and was cut. I tried out for football and was cut.”
Seeing a familiar pattern, he turned to coaching instead, putting his trust in Kevin Trower, a state championship basketball coach at Jesuit who had coached all three major sports for about five decades.
“He taught me how to coach and what to coach,” said Robarts. “He emphasized the little things.”
His long tenures at Rummel and East Jeff provided Robarts with a lifetime of highlights, including five landmark efforts.
In 1972 at the state Top 28 Tournament in Alexandria, Rummel advanced to the Class 4A finals against Woodlawn-Shreveport, which featured 7-foot-1 Robert Parish, the No. 1-rated player in the nation and a future Basketball Hall-of-Famer who won multiple NBA championships with the Boston Celtics.
In preparation for Parish, Robarts had one player standing beneath the goal with a broom to acclimate his players on how to shoot against a taller man. The practice was effective as Rummel managed to foul Parish out of the game in the fourth quarter. However, despite several potential game-winning shots in the final seconds, the Raiders couldn’t connect as Woodlawn triumphed 50-49.
In his next two trips to the Top 28 in Lake Charles, close games tilted his way.
In a memorable 1977 final against a 41-0 DeRidder team playing before a home crowd, Rummel stunned the Dragons 52-48 to finish with a 31-4 record. The core of that team returned in 1978 – the Raiders’ lineup featured an all-state player at each position: 6-11 center Dean Carpenter, 6-4 forward Wade Blundell and an uncanny shooter in point guard Barry Barocco.
The loaded Raiders rattled off 33 straight wins to reach the state semifinals. After surviving a serious scare against Carroll of Monroe, 52-51, the Raiders routed Fair Park 83-64 for a second consecutive title and a perfect 35-0 record. A win to open the next season enabled Rummel to complete a 50-game winning streak.
Robarts completed his stay at Rummel in 1988, moving about a mile down the road to East Jefferson. In 1993, a standout guard from Bloomington, Ind., moved south with his father. Neil Reed received overtures from schools around the city, but he ended up attending East Jeff.
With Reed earning all-metro and all-state MVP honors twice and averaging 24.7 and 24.3 points, Robarts directed the Warriors to back-to-back state semifinal appearances (1994 and 1995).
Robarts coached at Haynes and did some volunteer coaching at Rummel and St. Martin’s before returning to the bench as head coach at Shaw in 2011-12. But the rigors relative to crossing the Mississippi River Bridge twice daily combined with games and practice took their toll on a man who has endured eight operations to the back and neck.
He coached 1,095 games and finished with a career record of 714-381, a mark that enabled him to be elected to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association and the Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches Halls of Fame.
Now retired he lives in Metairie with his wife of 55 years, Mary Ann. They have three children and seven grandchildren.
Robarts is 77. “A real good number,” he says. “Because ’77 was my first state championship team.”
Rummel named its gymnasium floor after him in 2015. A wall in that gym lists all of the school’s district and state championship teams. Two state and four district championship teams – the last in 1985 – played for Robarts. The Raiders have not laid claim to another title since.
The Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee began in 1957 when James Collins spearheaded a group of sports journalists to form a sports awards committee to immortalize local sports history. For 13 years, the committee honored local athletes each month. In 1970, the Sugar Bowl stepped in to sponsor and revitalize the committee, leading to the creation of the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame in 1971, honoring 10 legends from the Crescent City in its first induction class. While adding the responsibility of selecting Hall of Famers, the committee has continued to recognize the top amateur athlete in the Greater New Orleans area each month – the honors enter their 63rd year in 2019. To be eligible, an athlete must be a native of the greater New Orleans area or must compete for a team in the metropolitan region.
The Allstate Sugar Bowl has established itself as one of the premier college football bowl games, having hosted 28 national champions, 93 Hall of Fame players, 50 Hall of Fame coaches and 18 Heisman Trophy winners in its 85-year history. The 86th Allstate Sugar Bowl Football Classic, featuring top teams from the Big 12 and the SEC, will be played on January 1, 2020. In addition to football, the Sugar Bowl Committee annually invests over $1.6 million into the community through the hosting and sponsorship of sporting events, awards and clinics. Through these efforts, the organization supports and honors over 100,000 student-athletes each year, while injecting over $2.5 billion into the local economy in the last decade.
Story by Bill Bumgarner of the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee.