Guy Mistretta vividly recalls the day his career choice prompted a fiery exchange with his father.
“I can remember the first time I told him I was switching my major to education,” the Livonia High football coach said. “He told me I was nuts and said, ‘You really need to think about this.’ And that’s when I told him, ‘It’s the only thing I know.’ ”
More than 25 years later, G.J. “Bucky” Mistretta responds to the story with a glance and a wry smile.
Guy returns the glance and adds, “He also told me, ‘You know absolutely nothing about coaching.’ And you know, I probably still don’t.”
With all that said, father and son share a laugh. It fits well with their shared passion for high school football.
Football is a way of life for the Mistrettas, who share a unique accomplishment in Louisiana history.
Ask most knowledgeable fans to name a father and son who have coached teams to state championships, and you’ll likely get a quick answer: Alton “Red” Franklin and his son David. The Franklins have ruled Haynesville High’s north Louisiana dynasty for decades.
The Mistrettas have their own story.
Bucky won Class 1A state titles at Ascension Catholic in 1973 and ’92. In between, he coached at Redemptorist and Lee High.
Guy has won two Class 3A titles — one at Redemptorist in 2005 and another at Livonia last fall. He had a stint at The Dunham School in between.
There have been ups and downs, but there’s always football. Bucky attends just about every Livonia game. He’s down on the field before kickoff and spends the game in the stands before returning to the sideline as the game ends.
The 75-year-old father has learned a thing or two from his 45-year-old son, like how to use the Hudl video system to check out game film. They talk about family and football nearly every day.
“I really didn’t prepare for coaching,” Bucky said. “I was in physical education in college. When I was trying to find a job, I was having a hard time finding one just doing P.E. They were looking for another assistant coach in Donaldsonville at Ascension Catholic, and of course I graduated from there (in 1958). That’s how I got started.”
After two years as an assistant, Bucky became the Bulldogs’ head coach. Guy, the fifth of eight children, was 4 when ACHS won the 1A title in 1973.
“I really started understanding what was going on about the time they won the first one,” Guy said. “You see the emotions involved. That pulls you in. At Redemptorist, we were always together. I was a ball boy. I’d go to my practices and wait for Dad and my brothers. I’d do homework. I’d fall asleep in the film room.
“I can understand why he was hesitant about us going into coaching. It’s not an easy life, and he was doing it while raising eight kids. He loved it, and so did we.”
Bucky coached older sons Craig and Corey, but not Guy. He stepped down at Redemptorist and moved on to Lee High after his third son’s freshman season. Guy went on to play quarterback for the Wolves and was a state champion wrestler coached by older brother Craig before spending two years wrestling at Colby Community College in Kansas.
By the time he earned his degree from Southeastern Louisiana in 1992, Guy already was coaching wrestling and football at Redemptorist.
“I missed my graduation,” he notes. “Our spring game was that day.”
That fall, the Mistrettas met as coaches for the first time. Redemptorist took a 3-0 lead, but Ascension Catholic won 63-3 en route to winning that second state title.
Bucky retired from coaching after 38 years and fully retired in 2003. As Bucky’s career reached its sunset, Guy’s was on the rise.
As he worked for a series of football coaches in the early 1990s, Guy’s Redemptorist wrestling teams were a state power. Once fellow alumnus Sid Edwards took over as head football coach, the Wolves quickly became dominant, winning Class 3A and 4A titles.
Guy was the defensive coordinator. When Edwards left after the 2003 season, Guy took over. Two years later, the Wolves beat Notre Dame to win the Class 3A title. Bucky and his best friend and former assistant, the late Bill Vice, were on the frigid sideline at Shreveport’s Independence Stadium.
“It was right to have them there on the sideline — my dad and his best friend,” Guy said. “We were behind, and I remember asking Dad what to do. He just said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’ ”
Bucky said he’s impressed by his son’s ability to delegate, calling himself more of a micro-manager. He sees differences. Corey Mistretta, now assistant track coach/recruiting coordinator at SLU, has his own point of view.
“Sometimes I think they’re the same person,” he said with a laugh. “Now you have to remember, I played for Dad. He was old-school and very strict. Guy is a straight-arrow. too. When I coached with him at Redemptorist, he made sure there was no favoritism. He’d leave on Saturdays after watching film and say goodbye to everybody but me. The other coaches laughed.”
But ultimately for the Mistrettas, it’s about family.
“Now I have Mom and Dad around, and my wife and daughter are around for the games,” Guy said. “Having family there feels right.”
So did the championship Livonia won last fall in Guy’s first season after taking over for friend and colleague David Brewerton, now the Zachary High head coach.
“My cup was running over,” Bucky said. “I’m so proud. There no better feeling.”