Redemptorist girls basketball coach Valencia Wilson was preparing for a Friday night game when she was called into a faculty meeting.
Along with 24 other faculty members, Wilson was told the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge plans to close the school on June 30. Though she was shaken by the news, Wilson said her goals remain the same.
“There’s a purpose in everything,” Wilson said. “Right now, I’m not sure what that is, but that’s not going to change my goals or the goals of this team.
“We’re going to get a chance to meet with the girls before the game. We’ll calm them down and then we’ll go play. My goal when I came here was to help Redemptorist win its first state title in girls basketball since the year I was born, 1987.
“That’s still going to be the goal. It’s going to be important for us to remain focused and to continue to work toward our goals.”
The announcement of Redemptorist’s closure came during a noon news conference that took coaches, faculty and alumni by surprise.
“This has not been our best day,” Redemptorist’s first-year Principal Daryl Glueck said. “When I came in last summer, I think there was an anticipation that certain things could happen.
“The bottom line is we’ve had to rely too much on money from the diocese to keep things running. All of our coaches have been busy working and building toward the future. That’s tough. They’re all young coaches, and I believe they’ll land on their feet.”
Glueck said Redemptorist has 223 students in grades seven through 12. That total for the Class 2A school includes 185 students in grades nine through 12. It’s a far cry from the enrollment of around 800 students that the north Baton Rouge school had when it won a Class 4A football title in 2003. The Wolves won football titles in 3A in 2002 and 2005.
“Sad, sad, sad,” former Redemptorist coach and alumnus Sid Edwards said. “Right now, I’ve got a lot of emotions, and I’ve got some anger because I’m not convinced it had to go down this way.
“I’ve been gone from the school for 10 years now, but emotionally, I’ve never left. Redemptorist is a big part of who I am and always will be. A lot of us feel that way.”
Edwards, who is now head football coach and athletic director at Central, said he received approximately 100 texts from other alumni and former coaches in the minutes that followed the announcement. Edwards coached the Wolves to state football titles in 2002 and 2003, along with a 3A basketball title in 2003.
One of the coaches sending texts to Edwards was Guy Mistretta, another alumnus who coached the Wolves to the 3A football title in 2005. Mistretta coached another school, Livonia High, to a 3A football title last weekend.
“It’s like having a death in the family,” Mistretta said. “I think we all thought things had hit rock bottom a couple of years ago. We assumed that when Mr. Glueck came in, it would move back up.
“As tough as this is for us as alumni, it’s even tougher for those coaches and students at the school right now. We’re remembering our past; they’ve got questions about the future.”
Louisiana High School Coaches Association Executive Director Gary Duhe and the Wolves’ current head football coach/athletic director, Terence Williams, received word of the school’s closure in Shreveport, where both are preparing for the LHSCA’s All-Star football game Saturday.
“I started getting calls this morning,” Duhe said. “I’m a guy who went to school there for 12 years, coached there for eight and still bleeds green and white.
“Everything I am and everything I’ve done in my life is based on the foundation I got at Redemptorist. I know things have changed. Most of the people I went to school with have moved to other parts of town or to Ascension or Livingston parishes. But you hate to see this happen.”
In addition to its recent football titles, Redemptorist has one of Louisiana’s richest traditions in boys basketball. Duhe was part of the school’s basketball heyday in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Wolves have made 18 Top 28 state tournament appearances, winning 10 titles and claiming two runner-up finishes. The 2003 title was the Wolves’ last. Only Southern Lab (27), White Castle (20) and Zwolle (19) have more state tourney appearances.
“There’s always been a rich tradition in athletics,” Glueck noted. “It spans lots of different eras.”
Williams expressed no anger, just sadness.
“Right now I can’t really say how I feel,” Williams said. “I’m disappointed. My first priority when I get back will be talking to the players I can get in touch with. What I’ll do … I honestly can’t think about that right now.”
Edwards said his son, Cody, also a Redemptorist graduate, asked a question he couldn’t answer.
“Cody texted me wanting to know what would happen to all the trophies and the pictures,” Edwards said. “I told him I don’t know.”