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Former ULL coach fitting in at Vandy

Former Louisiana-Lafayette girls head basketball coach Errol Rogers (center) is now serving as an assistant coach for the Vandebilt Ctaholic girls' basketball team. (Photo by Chris Heller/Staff)

Errol Rogers' coaching career started on the high-school level and later led to an opportunity to guide the women's basketball program at Louisiana-Lafayette.

Rogers was the Lady Cajuns coach for five seasons from 2007-12, compiling a 38-113 record before resigning from the position after the 2011-12 season.

Now Rogers, a coaching veteran of nearly 30 years with head coaching stints at Lafayette High, Opelousas Catholic and Holy Rosary Institute and was an assistant at Mississippi State and Bethune-Cookman, is back on the high-school scene as an assistant coach on the Vandebilt Catholic girls basketball team this season.

Rogers said joining Vandebilt was an opportunity to unite with a longtime friend and colleague in Vandebilt head coach Kathy Luke. Over the years, Rogers has recruited several of Luke's former high school standouts, including former Mississippi State player Bethany Washington and former Nicholls State player Sumar Leslie.

"It's been great," Rogers said. "I recruited a couple of Kathy's kids. Coach Luke and I stayed in contact and became good friends. I like her program. When things weren't working at UL and I was let go, she offered me a job, and I came over here and liked it. I think it's a great thing."

Luke said it was "a blessing" to get Rogers as an assistant coach.

"He is a tremendous asset for our program," Luke said. "Coach Rogers and I have been friends for a long time. I've always known him as a good basketball man, but more important, he's just a good person of character. Our kids respond well to him. We would like to hold on to him for a long time, but I do think he'll get another head coaching chance. We're going to try to learn as much from him the whole time that he's here."

When Rogers was struggling with a 7-23 record in his last season at Louisiana-Lafayette, Luke said she was ready to reach out to her friend. Although the wins weren't there, Luke said Rogers had success in other areas such as recruiting and graduating players.

"I offered him a job before he was fired," Luke said. "I told him that if things don't go your way, I would sure like him to come to Vandebilt. When he was let go, I called him back and held on to that promise."

Rogers, a 52-year-old Lake Charles native, accepted Luke's offer over several other opportunities, and he said he is happy with his choice, despite having to drive back and forth from his home in Lafayette to Houma each day.

"The kids here at Vandebilt work really hard," Rogers said. "(Luke) runs this program like a college program, so it was easy to come over here. Everything here is first class. It's not like a lot of high schools. It's a great place to be. I don't mind driving because I'm happy."

Luke said she loves having an experienced coach like Rogers on her staff because he knows how to relate to the players and give her valuable coaching advice.

"As a coach, you don't get better if you don't bring in people who are good, or if not even better than you are," Luke said. "I want to be the best that I can be, so in order to do that, I have to surround myself with good people. I don't know if anyone in the state of Louisiana has a better assistant coach than me."

Both Luke and Rogers admitted they are intense competitors on the sideline during games, and while the two may disagree on different strategies at times, they have formed a mutual respect for each other's opinion.

"My job as an assistant coach is to see things that she don't see, and I point it out to her, and we go from there," Rogers said. "Everybody has a disagreement or two, but again, she's the head coach and the final say so is hers. We're just trying to get this program back to the state tournament."

Despite his losing stint at Louisiana-Lafayette, Rogers said the situation has helped him become a better coach.

"Being a head coach in college, I learned a lot, even though we weren't successful," Rogers said. "There are a lot of things that I look back on and think about what I should have did or shouldn't have done. You put all it together so that if I get another chance to be a head coach, I'll definitely be ready."

Rogers said his goal now is to help lead Vandebilt, which is one of the state's top girls basketball programs, back to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Ladies Top 28 state tournament. Vandebilt won a Class 4A state title in 2010, but lost in the state semifinals in each of the last two seasons.

Rogers said the Lady Terriers (10-2 overall) are "still a work in progress," but he believes the pieces are in place for another run at a state championship if the team continues to work hard, stay healthy and get a little luck along the way.

"Kathy has done a great job here," Rogers said. "I know she really wants to get back to the state tournament, and like I told her earlier in the year, I'm just along for the ride. Whatever she needs to me to do, I'm going to do it to help this team get better. Hopefully as the season goes along, things start to fall in place for us."