North Central senior point guard Rodrick Smith had become accustomed to the end-of-the-season drill in watching the departure of another basketball coach.
Having gone through it twice before, Smith was almost resigned to the fact another nondescript coach would drop in to coach his final season.
That was until the St. Landry Parish school went the unconventional route and hired a woman — Apphia Jordan — to coach the boys basketball team.
“When I first met her, it wasn’t how I expected it to be,” Smith said. “She worked with us and said we would get through everything together.”
Once a group of 15 teen-aged boys got past the obvious gender barrier and embraced Jordan’s message of family, focus and fundamentals, North Central flourished with a 12-13 overall record and won the District 5-1A championship.
The Hurricanes look to complete a perfect run through the league, hosting Westminster Christian in Friday’s regular-season finale.
“I try to keep a low-key approach about being a woman (coach) as much as possible,” Jordan said. “I’ve always tried to make the boys believe that it wasn’t something noticeable; that I was a coach, and that’s it.”
Jordan was a standout player for North Central’s Vanessa Taylor, scoring more than 1,500 points and leading the Lady Hurricanes to the school’s first Sweet 16 appearance in 2002. She was selected all-district, all-parish and all-state and was headed to Southern Mississippi before ankle surgery curtailed her basketball career.
Jordan attended Louisiana-Lafayette on an academic scholarship and upon graduation, returned to North Central and served on Taylor’s coaching staff for two years. She was an assistant for a year at Opelousas before being elevated to head coach for three nonproductive years — a span that nearly discouraged Jordan from coaching again.
“I felt deflated and lost the love of coaching,” she said.
With three small children and her husband having left the education field, Jordan opted to teach for two years and eventually wound up coaching her oldest son’s basketball team.
Jordan enjoyed coaching her son’s team so much, she joked to close friend Lavonya Malveaux that if she could start over, she would only coach boys.
Two years later, with North Central in the market for a new boys coach and having interviewed four or five male candidates, Malveaux called Jordan to gauge her interest in the opening, to which she accepted.
“I told them to understand there are two things that come before basketball,” Jordan said of the screening committee. “You have to teach boys how to be men and academics come before anything else.”
The early results didn’t match Jordan’s enthusiasm for the job as she took the opportunity to return to her roots and have the same positive impact on a place that was her launching pad.
North Central lost its first four games, went 2-10 and eventually 3-13 after Jan. 5.
“We could have won some more games in the regular season, but we weren’t disciplined enough,” said Smith, the team’s leading scorer at 14.5 points. “We had to add that team chemistry and come together as a family. That’s a credit to her.”
Jordan’s pressure defense wasn’t so much the problem as North Central’s inability to share and take care of the basketball. She spoke at length to each player, raising their awareness in the value of an assist and team play.
She stressed the importance of setting goals whether they were on a daily basis, game-by-game or season long.
All the pieces of the puzzle have come together for North Central, winning eight of its nine district games by an average of 45 points.
Moreover, Jordan instituted annual grade checks with every player having met her criteria of a 2.3 grade-point average with no Fs on their report card.
“We all came together and said we could accept the fact she was a woman coach and may be better than a man,” Smith said. “She’s really smart and knows the game. I look at her as a regular coach.”