Southern Lab Principal Ronnie Harrison announced Monday that former SLHS and Southern University player Devan Clark, ex-Zachary High and current Ruston coach Bakari Beckwith and Zachary assistant Jonathan McClinton are the finalists for the school’s boys basketball job.
Harrison said a search committee interviewed 22 applicants before selecting the finalists and expects to announce the new coach Friday.
Clark, who played on five state championship teams as a point guard at Southern Lab for legendary coach Joel Hawkins, has coached Northside-Lafayette to five Top 28 berths in Class 4A, including back-to-back appearances in 2013 and 2014.
Northside was the 4A runner-up in 2013 and a semifinalist in 2014. Clark also was an assistant to Hawkins, winning three more state titles before moving to Northside. He also coached the Vikings to Top 28 appearances in 2007 and 2011. The 35-year-old has a 225-52 record at Northside, including 22-11 in 2013-14.
“I’ve got a great situation where I am at Northside,” Clark said. “Any situation I’d consider would have to be 100 percent better than what I have now. When I got a call about (the Southern Lab job), they got my ear. It’s where I’m from, and there’s so much history there at the school and for me.”
Beckwith, who played at Louisiana College and Monroe’s Ouachita High, was head coach at Zachary for two seasons before taking over at Ruston last season. Beckwith’s Zachary team was 19-14 and lost in the first round of the playoffs in 2012-13. His 2013-14 Ruston squad finished 21-10 and lost to Higgins in the regional round.
“I’m very happy where I am in Ruston,” Beckwith said. “My wife is from here. We both enjoyed living in Baton Rouge. I was contacted by some people down there, including Southern Lab alumni about the job.
“Southern Lab has one of the great traditions with 15 state titles in boys basketball and 100 state titles overall at the school. That part definitely piques your interest.”
Beckwith, 34, also previously was head coach at West Monroe and an assistant at Ouachita and at Texas-based Longview High. He had a 48-20 record at WMHS from 2008-10 before moving to Longview.
The 25-year old McClinton was one of the finalists for the Zachary job; the Broncos hired veteran coach Kenny Almond last Wednesday. A 2007 Central High graduate, McClinton played two seasons of college football at Nicholls State. He has been a ZHS assistant for two years.
“When I was growing up, Southern Lab was the program with Joel Hawkins, all the great players they had and all the state titles,” he said. “There’s so much potential there. The chance to restore the program that glory is a challenge I’d love.”
Lonnie Machen, who led the Kittens to a runner-up finish in Class 1A in 2011 and a semifinals berth in 2012, was not retained after the 2013-14 season but could remain at the school as a teacher.