New Northwestern State head coach Lacy Prejean added two things to her life Wednesday afternoon, a new family and a new color scheme to her wardrobe.
After years spent wearing the crimson of Alabama and the vermillion of UL Lafayette, the addition of NSU purple to her closet was made easier thanks to one of the most important things in her life – family.
“There is no doubt that God orchestrated every step in the journey that led me here today,” Prejean said in front of a packed Stroud Room inside the Donald G. Kelly Fieldhouse. “I want to thank Him for instilling in me an unwavering faith and making it very clear that the Northwestern State family was special.
“I felt that sense of family from the first conversation I had with (NSU Director of Athletics) Kevin Bostian, and it only got stronger when I got to campus and met Mr. Mike Newton, Mr. Buddy Wood, (NSU President) Dr. (Marcus) Jones and so many other administrators and staff. Every single person that I met made me feel like family.”
Prejean became NSU’s 12th head softball coach after Donald Pickett resigned in late July after 15 years with the program and multiple conference tournament championships. Both Bostian and Prejean made it a point to thank Pickett and his family for their service to NSU and Natchitoches.
One week after Pickett’s resignation, the clear-cut favorite rose to the top for Bostian and the hiring committee who moved quickly getting Prejean to Natchitoches.
“We had a great pool of candidates and what became obvious as we got into the details was a clear person we felt would be the best fit for Northwestern State,” Bostian said. “For us to get someone coming from the premiere mid-major program in the country in UL Lafayette is big for our program. I think she’s going to have the energy and wherewithal to get our program moving forward.”
Prejean’s desire to be a coach was stoked by a Cooperstown elite during her playing days at Alabama prior to a pivotal game against UCLA.
“We were in the locker room getting ready for our game when the door opens and in walks legendary coach Tommy Lasorda,” she said. “I look up in shock and say to myself, ‘Oh my gosh that’s Tommy Lasorda.’ He comes in and gives us the best motivational speech ever. His face is red, he’s spitting and just going at it. It was then that I knew I wanted to be a coach like that. A coach that inspires their players.”
It was another Hall of Famer that helped form Prejean’s coaching acumen and the basis of her family culture and philosophy in Alabama skipper Patrick Murphy and long-time assistant Alyson Habetz.
“They gave this country girl from Scott a chance to play Division I softball at a high level,” Prejean said. “They helped mold my coaching philosophy and were the ultimate role models on and off the field. If I can be as good as they are at developing players and inspiring student-athletes like they’ve inspired me, then the Southland Conference better watch out.”
Prejean also thanked UL head coach Gerry Glasco for the opportunity to coach alongside him for the past five seasons for the Ragun Cajuns and serving as another mentor in preparing her to be a head coach.
The ties that connect Prejean coaching mentors like Murphy and Glasco are equally as strong as the ones that connect her to her parents, siblings and laundry list of others that have become part of her journey.
“They are truly my backbone,” Prejean said of her parents John Wayne and Rebecca and three siblings. “They have always shown unconditional love and support during my entire career and especially the last few days.”
After a promise to her new players to work hard to make their college experience unforgettable, Prejean shared her family-based philosophy that reinforced the notion of NSU being the right fit at the right time.
“Person over athlete is the fundamental basis of my coaching philosophy,” Prejean said. “It’s critical that every student-athlete knows that she is valued and appreciated as a person first and that will be my number one priority. Secondly, I believe that an authentic culture of excellence can only exist in a family environment.
“My definition of family is summed up in the acronym – forget about me, I love you. Building this kind of family isn’t easy in today’s culture. It requires sacrificing personal feelings and egos, investing time to building relationships that cultivate trust, believing in something bigger than self and having hope in the greatness that can be accomplished together. And it requires loving others even when they don’t deserve it. If these things are practiced consistently over time, a culture of excellence will grow and that’s when the real magic happens.”