Bob Marlin Sends a Message – From the Bird’s Nest
When Bob Marlin was hired to coach Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns, he was pretty clear about his plans for the program.
Academics were crucial. Little things were important, like showing up on time.
And, most importantly, at the end of the day, it was always team first, individuals second.
Last year at the end of the first semester, Marlin made tough decisions in removing seniors Colby Batiste and Courtney Wallace from the team. But, Batiste had his degree. Wallace, who was academically ineligible after the first semester, remained on scholarship to graduate as well. Both had played more under the previous staff than they were playing under Marlin. And, they didn’t like it and made their feelings known.
It should not be dismissed as coincidence that the Cajuns, not long after those decisions were made, went on an eleven game winning streak. A leader, La’Ryan Gary stepped forward. The remaining players understood the message. It was always about the team.
And, now, Marlin has had to show some tough love…again.
Yesterday it was announced junior guard Raymone Andrews and forward J. J. Thomas have been suspended indefinitely for what was termed “conduct detrimental to the team.” These moves weren’t to guys at the end of the Cajuns’ bench. Andrews has been the starting point guard since midway through his freshman season. Thomas was an all-conference second team player as a freshman and a preseason first team player this year.
For Thomas, there are some that saw this coming. The Opelousas native injured a knee in the off-season which required surgery. And, he just hasn’t been the same player since. After trying to play early in the season, the coaching staff shut him down for six games, bringing him back as conference play was about to begin. But when he came back, it was not as a starter. Darshawn McClellan had performed well at that spot and was Marlin’s choice to start.
Then, a few weeks ago, Thomas’ brother, Cleveland “Pancake” Thomas, who signed with the Cajuns last fall, asked to be released from his letter of intent. Although it was said the younger Thomas’ decision was unrelated to his brother, the rumblings of the family not being happy with J. J.’s treatment came to the surface.
The final straw for Marlin came Saturday night. Thomas was asked to go into the game. And, when he took off his warmup, he had forgotten to put on his game jersey. And, to compound the situation, Thomas could be seen laughing about it on the bench. He played only four minutes in the game.
For Andrews, the reasons are not as obvious. But, this is the third time Andrews has been suspended. He served a one-game suspension last season against Texas College for what Marlin termed a failure to take care of business off the court. Then, as students returned for the fall semester, Andrews was suspended again, this time because a housing issue wasn’t to his liking. Now comes the third, and probably final suspension. Andrews is the one holdover from the Robert Lee regime and many close to the program feel Andrews has never completely bought into Marlin’s philosophy. To Andrews’ credit, those feelings haven’t translated onto the court very often. But, Elfrid Payton started in place of Andrews Saturday night against ULM. Marlin said afterward Payton “practiced better.”
The release from the sports information department yesterday says Marlin and the University would have no further comment on the situation, so we may never know all of the exact details.
But really, we don’t need the details. All we need is the original explanation.
“Conduct detrimental to the team.”
Because, with Marlin, it’s always team first.