Rick LeBato steps down as St. Louis basketball coach

Rick LeBato steps down as St. Louis basketball coach
Rick LeBato led St. Louis to four semifinal trips in eight seasons. (Source: KPLC)

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - St. Louis Catholic head basketball coach Rick LeBato informed the school Wednesday morning that he’s stepping down from his position due to concerns over the coronavirus for the upcoming school year. LeBato spent eight seasons with the Saints.

“I was hoping in the summertime that everything would clear up, but we didn’t get the results we wanted, so here we are. It’s getting close to school time and I wanted to give them a chance to not be handcuffed, so they could get a good basketball coach in there,” said LeBato of his decision. “I think it is a good time to make the change that way it would help my family and also help our program.”

LeBato admitted that he had planned for the 2021 season to be his last with St. Louis regardless.

“I was hoping to at least get another year because this group I had is going to be special,” LeBato admitted. “It’s a group that we have been working with for three years now, so I was looking forward to their senior year.”

While with the Saints, LeBato’s team thrived compiling a record of 150-88 since 2013. During that time St. Louis won five district championships along with making the semifinal round four times in the past six seasons. He said he’ll remember his time at St. Louis most for the growth of the program.

“The very first year was such a struggle and I lost a good friend in Dwayne Henry who played for the McNeese Cowboys and he was one of the guys that encouraged me to take the job. We were not sure that we were going to be able to get it done and sure enough, after the second year, things started happening and we were able to get to the semifinals and play at Burton at McNeese a couple of times,” LeBato said. “It’s been a great experience doing that and trying to do it the right way too. We have had a lot of success with four semifinals and three quarterfinals. It’s been a good run.”

It’s fitting that LeBato is stepping down after eight seasons because he said it’s a number that has stuck with his for years since he met legendary NBA coach Pat Riley.

“I ran across Coach Riley when I was a young pup, about 28, and he told me to ‘be so darn good that they can’t fire you.’ As I was leaving he whispered to me, ‘but don’t stay anywhere for more than eight years.’ I’ve kind of lived by those rules for the last 35 years. It’s worked out for me.”

The UL Lafayette (undergrad) and McNeese (graduate) alum has had a decorated high school coaching career leading Northside High School to the 2006 LHSAA Class 4A State Title. It was the first state basketball title ever claimed by a Lafayette Parish public school. LeBato has spent a total of 28 years coaching high school basketball with stops at Grand Lake, Vinton, Sulphur, Northside and St. Louis. During that time he compiled a career record of 772-245.

LeBato is aiming to take the year off and return to coaching at the college level. He spent four years as an assistant coach under Robert Lee at UL Lafayette from 2006-2010. He also spent time at UT-Arlington from 1990-1992.

“We came [to St. Louis] so that my wife and I could help out with family responsibilities and we have lost both our fathers this past year so we are ready to get out on the road again and help out one of my buddies in whatever program,” said LeBato. “We’ll see if that happens in another year or so because they have the same problems [with COVID-19]. I think I’m ready for a change to try and do the college level again.”

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