Zachary replaces girls hoops coach Barnes with Stephens _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Zachary coach April Brown Barnes directs players during the game between Destrehan and Zachary in February 2014 at Zachary High School in Zachary.

April Brown Barnes has been replaced as head girls basketball coach and assistant Mike Stephens has been named the head coach, Zachary Principal Joe LeBlanc said.

“This is a decision I made before this morning, and I just told the team,” LeBlanc said. “April remains at our school as a teacher. For personnel reasons, I really can’t say much more.”

Barnes, a former LSU player, led the Broncos to a 21-11 record last season that included a Class 5A playoff berth.

Stephens came to Zachary two years ago after leading Baker to prominence, including Class 3A runner-up finishes in 2010 and 2013.

“Given the time factor, I didn’t think it would be fair to anyone to open the job up for applications, considering how close we are to the season,” LeBlanc said. “Mike has done a good job here as an assistant, and I’ve gotten a chance to watch him work. I’m also familiar with him from his time at Baker, because I was still an official at that time. He really turned that program around.”

Barnes was set to enter her eighth season at Zachary. She was head coach at St. Joseph’s Academy before coming Zachary.

Barnes played for legendary coach Sue Gunter at LSU from 1997-2001. The Gulfport, Mississippi, native helped the Tigers advance to the NCAA tourney three times, including an Elite Eight berth in 2000.

LeBlanc said he did not consider the option of making Stephens an interim coach. He said he and Stephens will “revisit” the situation after the season.

“It could be a case where Mike would want to be an assistant,” LeBlanc said. “We’ll have to see what happens later. The important thing was to take care of things now.”