Back to his roots _lowres

 

Nearly three decades since his basketball odyssey took him from Baton Rouge to northeast Louisiana, Kevin Caballero is making a homecoming.

The 55-year-old Caballero, who has spent the past eight years as the boys basketball coach at Sterlington, will take over in that same capacity at Denham Springs, the school confirmed Monday morning.

Caballero will succeed Wynn Wingate, who retired from coaching the Yellow Jackets after 10 seasons.

“It’s kind of homecoming, and I’m really excited,” Caballero said. “It should make for almost a reunion.”

Caballero graduated from Redemptorist before getting his undergraduate degree from Northeast Louisiana (now UL-Monroe) and master’s from Louisiana Tech, but still has several family members living in the Baton Rouge area.

Caballero said his mother, daughter, two grandchildren, sister and two brothers reside in the region.

“The distance and closeness to home was one of the intriguing parts,” Caballero said. “I’m real excited about joining the Denham Springs community. I was very impressed with (Athletic Director Dru Nettles) and (Principal Kelly) Jones during the interview process. The facilities are top-notch. Denham has a rich tradition in athletics and I’m real excited about being a part of that.”

Nettles said he and Jones conducted six interviews, with Caballero emerging as Wingate’s successor. Nettles said he expects the recommendation of Caballero to be finalized by the Livingston Parish School Board.

“We had some great candidates,” Nettles said. “We thought we had multiple guys that could take over; most of them were on the younger side. So his experience, a college background and some people he worked under really gave him an edge on the basketball side of it. His work in the classroom as a teacher was also something very beneficial.”

Caballero led Sterlington to a 168-89 record or an average of 21 wins per season. He guided the Panthers to a pair of District 2-2A titles and four runners-up finishes, including this past season.

Caballero has also twice coached at Class 4A West Ouachita for a total of six years, starting in 1990-94.

Before embarking on his high school coaching career Caballero spent five years as an assistant on the staff of fellow Baton Rouge native — Keith Richard — at Louisiana Tech.

Richard, now coaching at UL-Monroe, was among those in the basketball community with high praise of Caballero.

“We got some input from people that worked with him and know him,” Nettles said. “They all said he’s a quality guy.”

Caballero said among his priorities are meeting with the returning players, putting together a staff and forming a direction for the summer to get a better handle on personnel and implement a style of play suited to their strengths.

“During the interview process I told them everyone wants to press and run, but you’ve got to have athletes to do that,” he said. “I like to push the ball up the floor, but if you can’t score you can get beat real bad. It depends on what our personnel is. We’ll be fun to watch, and I look forward to working with these kids.”

The opportunity to coach at Denham Springs provided Caballero with another selling point — his first chance to coach at the Class 5A level and compete in the same district as state champion Scotlandville and against longtime friend Kenny Almond of Zachary.

“At 55 some people may consider that I’m old but I still enjoy practice, the game situations and still enjoy basketball,” Caballero said. “I think it was opportunity and timing meeting together. It’s been almost 28 years since I left the Baton Rouge area. I look forward to getting back in the area.”