By T. Scott Boatright
Long ago, Leon Barmore cemented himself into the annals of Ruston and Louisiana Tech sports history.
That cement became even more permanent on Friday with a bronze statue of Barmore unveiling outside the front of the Thomas Assembly Center.
Barmore, who was a Ruston High School hoops standout before taking his talent to Louisiana Tech, became a Tech Athletics Hall of Famer for the Bulldogs.
As head coach of the Lady Techsters, he tallied a 300-15 home record and a 576-87 overall record in 20 seasons (1982-2002) — retiring with the highest winning percentage in the history of both men’s and women’s college basketball.
Barmore helped his Lady Techsters capture the AIAW national title in 1981 and the NCAA title in 1982 and 1988. Barmore is a member of the Louisiana Tech Athletics Hall of Fame (2003), the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame (2004) the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (2003) and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame (2004).
Debbie Primeaux Williamson, who helped lead the Lady Techsters to four Women’s Basketball Final Four appearances and was co-captain of the 1984 team, admitted seeing the unveiling happen was emotional.
“It was just so surreal having him up there watching the whole thing unfold, with his family, his closest friends … his former players,” said Williamson. “Just seeing him enjoy what was happening around him. With everybody there watching. That was incredible. Amazing.
“Just to watch all the pieces come together for him, with the closest people to him standing there. All the pieces were there together at the same time, and I can’t remember another time I’ve been part of something like that.”
Katie (Cochran) Hall also played for Barmore before later becoming an assistant coach for the Lady Techsters.
“He’s part of my family,” Hall said. “Ruston is my home now. He brought so many of his former players together, and helped them get through life lessons … I don’t know, but I think one day we’ll think about and appreciate it that much more.
“I’m out of coaching. I’m not in coaching anymore. But he still kind of knows when to reach out, or when to give that extra little, ‘Hey, I’m thinking of you.’ And that jolt just hits you. The feeling makes me just feel good, because he just knows how to do that. I don’t know how, but he just knows.”
Barmore had bigger opportunities offered over the years. But he was from Ruston.
“It’s the perfect size for me,” Barmore said of his hometown. “I was just so comfortable. We won championships in high school At Louisiana Tech we went to the tournament under (head coach) Scotty (Robinson). I just remember at the last game my senior year, at the last game, when I was announced I got a five-minute standing ovation. You just don’t forget those things. I could have gone to bigger schools, but this was the perfect place for me.”
For Barmore, the statue isn’t about who he is, but instead the hometown he loves.
“I’ve given Ruston and Louisiana Tech a lot of years, five as a player but then I grew up here, too,” Barmore said. “It’s a two-way street. I gave them a lot. But they gave me a lot more. And I so much appreciate what Ruston, Louisiana Tech and the people here have done for me. But it’s the kind of thinking that I believe everybody shares in – former players, coaches, fans and community.
“It wasn’t just me. I look at that statue and I see Pam Kelly. I see Kim Mulkey. I see all the things and people that went into making the Techsters successful. That’s what that statue is about — way more than me.”
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