Tony Robichaux in One Word – From the Bird’s Nest
If there's one thing I've learned over the last three or four days, there are a lot of people that write better than I do.
There are a lot of people who can put thoughts into words better than I can.
I have been thinking about writing this piece since I heard the news of Tony Robichaux's passing. But, writer's block is a real thing. And, I've had so much difficulty trying to find the right words.
There have been many adjectives that have been used to describe Tony Robichaux. But, I thought...what if I had to pick just one word....just one.
I'm sure you have yours. Here is mine:
Intensely loyal: To his wife. To his family. To his University. To the fans. To his players and friends. Not a lot of people know this, but Tony had chances to leave. The majority of the teams in the SEC would have loved to have had him as a pitching coach. Had he chosen to do so, a head coaching job in a major conference could have been his. But he famously said "I'll never use the University's FAX machine to get another job." His devotion to Colleen included being willing to go and sell cars if she was unhappy being a coach's wife. He fought for the fans when it was time to design Russo Park. He insisted everything be done with the fan experience in mind. And, if you played for Tony, you were one of his for life...not for four or five years.
Never compromising: Tony had values. Tony had rules. Tony had a plan. There were no short cuts. There were no exceptions. Tony's principles were never open to negotiation. His rules were clear and, therefore, not open to misinterpretation. His standards weren't easy to follow. That was by design.
Tough: Like I said, the standards weren't easy to follow. We've seen former player after player talk about how Tony made them better men...better husbands...better fathers. But a great part of those life lessons dealt with discipline, whether it was about what happened on the field or off the field. Tony wanted his players to be as tough as he was. He wanted players that "drink out of the water hose" because he drank from the same receptacle. In #AAIT, the core of the program, the T stood for toughness. And, the best way to make players tough was to be tough on them.
Ego-less: We all talk about Robe-isms. My favorite is EGO stands for Edging God Out. He never wanted honor. He never wanted glory. He did not like it when personal milestones were brought up. And, he understood that to be the type of man God wanted him to be, he had to deny self. He did it better than anyone I've ever known.
Grinder: The "grind" has been talked about a lot, especially in the last five years. But Tony was always a grinder. He never complained about the lack of funding for the program, especially in the early years, when the University only funded scholarships and (inadequate) coach's salaries. He knew the situation when he agreed to be the head coach. He and his staff just went out and raised the rest of the money necessary to keep the program afloat. He and his assistants build the outfield fence with donated materials. He, as Phil Devey pointed out in one of his Facebook posts, got up in a bucket to pressure wash the clock above the scoreboard. He did field maintenance. Whether it was at McNeese or at Louisiana, Tony was willing to grind and do whatever it was going to take to make the program great. And, as stated earlier, he did it without cutting corners.
Resilient: Neither life nor coaching comes without setbacks. Tony never let those setbacks defeat him. I'm sure they challenged him. But he met every challenge, both personally and professionally, head on. He had a lot of Energizer Bunny in him. He just kept going...and going...and going. And, eventually, he defeated the obstacles in his way. For me, there was no better example of his resilience than his effort to get baseball off Easter Sunday. That was a decade long fight. But he bucked the odds and finally, got others to see his point of view.
Innovative: Tony loved thinking outside the box. And, he loved it when others did the same. In the early years, he made sure there was some sort of improvement at the "Tigue." Some of them probably went unnoticed. But he found creative ways to make the ball park more fan friendly until such time the money was available to make real improvement. And, he was in high demand as a speaker about pitching. His pitching system was rather unique and the tools he used, in many cases, were his own inventions. He was always ahead of the game when it came to pitching. He may have taken some basic ideas from others, but he refined them himself.
Teacher: I asked him recently in a coach's show what he liked best about coaching. He, like so many coaches, answered immediately. He LOVED practice. He LOVED teaching pitching. He LOVED teaching baseball. And, he LOVED teaching young men how to be better husbands and fathers. Tony was more of a teacher than he was a coach. And, that was by design.
Yes we can: Why did Tony take the job at UL? It's simple. While others looked at the program for what it was, Tony looked at it for what it could be. He said early in his career that he wanted to take the Cajuns to the College World Series. Most people, including some in the administration, thought his goals were too lofty. Not Tony. He believed it could be done and he did not let anyone dissuade him. He carried that throughout his coaching career. He always believed his team could get it done. And, he never let negativity get to him. In fact, it only increased his resolve. It was a mistake to tell Tony what he couldn't accomplish. Because he always believed in "yes, we can."
One word. Integrity. A quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.
He had more than anyone I've ever known.