Legendary high school basketball coach recognized as one of the best in city history
Griffith is one of five notable local sports figures to be added to the Hall of Fame this year. Each year, the Hall of Fame class is selected by the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee, a group of current and former members of the media who annually recognize a variety of winners including the Hall of Fame, the Corbett Awards and the Eddie Robinson Award. The group also selects the Greater New Orleans Amateur Athlete of the Month monthly.
A total of 23 people and two teams will be honored this year for their accomplishments at the committee’s annual banquet on Saturday, July 24. The winners are announced over a 23-day period, ending with the Corbett Awards for the best male and female amateur athletes in the state on July 20 and 21.
Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame Inducted into the Class of 2020: July 13 (Tuesday)
Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame Inducted into the Class of 2020: July 14 (Wednesday)
Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame Inducted into the Class of 2020: July 15 (Thursday)
Corbett Prize – Female: July 20 (Tuesday)
Corbett Prize – Male: July 21 (Wednesday)
Bernard Griffith – Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame, Class of 2021
Article by Ro Brown of the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee
Perhaps you have heard of the “KISS Principle”. You know-Kthick It Senforce Sstupid ?
It’s one of the guiding principles of one of Louisiana’s most successful basketball coaches.
However, Bernard Griffith has his own unique and uniquely Griffith interpretation. “The difficulty is determining who is stupid,” he said. “Sometimes it’s the players, sometimes it’s the coach. So we have to keep that in perspective. “
The Washington DC native who led the Purple Knights of St Augustine High School for 18 seasons, winning a national championship (ESPN, 1995) and three Louisiana High School Athletic Association state titles (1992-95-99), no. didn’t spend a lot of time in the stupid category. That’s why he’s set to be inducted into the 2021 class of the Allstate Sugar Bowl Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame.
“Coach Griff,” as his players usually call him, graduated from Xavier University in 1971 after joining the Gold Rush as a transfer from Kansas State in 1967.
Griffith was an assistant coach at St. Aug when head coach Watson Jones led the Purple Knights to a perfect 35-0 mark and the 1983 State Championship. In 1987 he became head coach at St. Aug and continued the school’s tradition of success, amassing a win-lose record of 491-127, a winning percentage of 79.4.
What separated Bernard Griffith’s teams from most was discipline.
“It’s about focusing on your task,” he said. “You don’t have to be the best at your job, but you have to be able to do it. The more you practice it, the better you get at it.
“A lot of things in life are not working your way, including officiating. You can’t get the hell out of it. Take a step back, assess the situation and rise to the challenge.
Winner of 13 Catholic League titles, including 11 in a row, Coach Griff had a few decorated players; like Torrey Andrews (Rice), Pointer Williams (Tulane), Hollis Price (Oklahoma) and Kerry Kittles (Villanova). But the “star system” was never part of the “Griffith plan”.
“He always insisted on the team concept. No one was bigger than the collective, ”said Kittles, the 2014 Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame inductee. “He was demanding of everyone and was always determined to work hard to achieve it. If you didn’t, you suffered the consequences. You didn’t want to suffer the consequences of Coach Griff.
There was another reason for the “starless” system. The Coach wanted everyone to get in on the act.
“People were amazed that we were doing things like putting in a whole new starting five and we didn’t lose a beat,” said Griffith. “If a child knows he’s going to play, he’s going to be careful. And besides, sometimes his grandparents were in the stands and they would come to see him play.
Bob Hopkins, his coach at Xavier, was a major influence focusing on positionless basketball. Everyone should be able to play in all positions.
Paul Furlong, his trainer at Mackin High School in Washington, DC, taught him the importance of speed and endurance: “They can’t push you if they can’t catch you.
His first coach was a swim coach in the nation’s capital, Clarence Bell. Griffith says that between the ages of 6 and 16, Bell coached the local playground’s swim team. He was a strict disciplinarian who insisted that every team member work on water safety certification.
Coach Bell is the reason Griffith is a certified water safety instructor and lifeguard. For 20 summers, Griffith was director of aquatics for the New Orleans recreation department.
Chris Jennings has a unique perspective on Bernard Griffith. In 1974-75, as a ninth grade student in Jesuit High School, Jennings learned from Griffith, who was his teacher of world cultures. When Jennings later became the Jesuits’ basketball coach, he faced his former teacher from the opposing bench for 13 seasons. Jennings says the two views were eerily similar.
“Both the history teacher and the coach didn’t tolerate any nonsense,” Jennings said. “He was prepared and he got his message across. His teams were tough and relentless.
The man who has taken his team to the last four in nine of his 18 seasons said entering the Allstate Sugar Bowl Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame is indeed a team effort, like all years of victory – with discipline.
“I didn’t take any shots and didn’t play any defense. Some might say that all I did was ‘fuss and swear,’ ”Griffith said with a laugh. “But it’s about all of those guys who competed. The majority of them have graduated and they are doing well. And many of them still use the discipline and the principles that we tried to teach them.
“A star does not shine brighter than the whole galaxy. I’m proud that there are a whole bunch of ‘twinklers’ out there.
Griffith also coached with Sarah Towles Reed (three years); at Dillard University (head coach, 2011-15); and with the Dallas Mavericks (assistant coach, 2005-07). He has also served as Athletic Director at Landry High, Sophie B. Wright High and SUNO (2017-20).
The Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee was formed in 1957 when James Collins led a group of sports journalists to form a Sports Awards Committee to immortalize the history of local sport. For 13 years, the committee has honored local athletes on a monthly basis. In 1970, the Sugar Bowl stepped in to sponsor and revitalize the committee, leading to the establishment of the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame in 1971, honoring 10 legends of Crescent City in its first induction class. While adding the responsibility of selecting the Hall of Fame, the committee continued to recognize the best amateur athlete in the Greater New Orleans area each month – the honors enter their 65th year in 2021. To be eligible, a athlete must be from the greater New Orleans area or must compete for a team in the metro area.
The Allstate Sugar Bowl has established itself as one of the premier college football bowl games, hosting 28 National Champions, 99 Hall of Fame players, 51 Hall of Fame coaches and 19 Heisman Trophy winners at the during its 87 years of history. The 88th Allstate Sugar Bowl Football Classic, which will feature the best teams from the Big 12 and the SEC, is scheduled to be played on January 1, 2022. In addition to football, the Sugar Bowl Committee invests over $ 1 million annually. in the community through hosting and sponsoring sporting events, awards, scholarships and clinics. Through these efforts, the organization supports and honors thousands of student-athletes each year, while injecting more than $ 2.7 billion into the local economy over the past decade. For more information visit www.AllstateSugarBowl.org.