By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
Bob Marlin’s body of work in Huntsville, Texas, suggests he could have remained at Sam Houston State for a long time.
But he was open to a different challenge.
Now Marlin, a Tupelo native who helped the Golden Wave to the state tournament as a senior point guard in the late ’70s, faces the challenge of getting all of his pieces together and building Louisiana-Lafayette into the kind of consistent program he left at Sam Houston.
He went was 225-131 in 12 seasons there, one of only two coaches in Southland Conference history to post more than 200 wins and guided the Bearkats to three conference championships and two NCAA tournament appearances.
Prior to Marlin’s arrival, Sam Houston State was a collective 93-202 in its 11 seasons in Division 1.
“This was just a good opportunity. Lafayette is a basketball city,” said Marlin, following the Ragin Cajuns’ 66-54 loss at Ole Miss on Wednesday night. “They contacted me and were very aggressive about it.”
Marlin was also in talks with Auburn and Houston before moving to Lafayette.
His first ULL team finished 14-15 but won 11-straight games going into the Sun Belt Conference tournament where its season ended in the first round.
His current team is 5-7 and adjusting without sophomore forward J.J. Thomas, a preseason All-Sun Belt pick who has missed the last five games. The Cajuns were picked to finish second by Sun Belt coaches.
Wednesday in Oxford, the Cajuns outrebounded Ole Miss 35-34, but the Rebels shot 42.1 percent from 3-point range, led by a 5-for-9 performance off the bench from Dundrecous Nelson.
“Ole Miss has a good club, and I think they’re getting the most out of what they have. They’ve got some guys becoming eligible for them that will give them more depth, and that will give the coaching staff more flexibility, the chance to do different things offensively and defensively,” Marlin said.
Ole Miss scored in bunches against the Cajuns, eliminating an early first-half deficit to build a 14-point lead, only to see Lafayette make it a seven-point game at halftime.
The Rebels’ lead hovered around 10 points much of the season half before they pushed it up to 19 with 7 minutes, 9 seconds to play.
“Bob’s teams aren’t going to give you anything. You have to execute and make right decisions with the ball, or you’re not going to be fluid,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “We saw some of that tonight.”
Marlin graduated from Mississippi State in 1981. He coached Pensacola Junior College to the national championship in 1993 and later served as an assistant coach to David Hobbs at Alabama.
Marlin’s last Sam Houston team went 25-8, won the Southland and reached the NCAA tournament. Starting over seemed like the right thing to do.
“They’ve had good basketball coaches in Lafayette,” Marlin said. “It was time to make a move and see if we could continue to get to the NCAA tournament.”