CARENCRO, La. (The Daily Advertiser) – To fully understand the impact Pat Kee had on football at Carencro High, one must look far past his 26-35 overall record in his six seasons as the Golden Bears’ head coach from 1981-86.
Kee, who died at the age of 79 in Houma on Monday, took over a football program that had lost 21 straight games.
From the time Carencro joined the LHSAA in 1966 through the 1980 season, the Bears had only won 28 total games.
In the entire decade of the 1970s, Carencro won 14 games.
So when Kee took over the program prior to the 1981 season and gave Rip Eveland a call to join him, the former Ragin’ Cajun football player was more than a bit skeptical.
After 20 years in the military, Kee served as a running backs coach at UL from 1976-79 and Eveland played at then-USL in 1977.
“I told him, ‘Coach, I don’t know about that. They hadn’t won a lot of games’,” said Eveland, who was coaching at Abbeville High at the time. “He told me that if you teach technique and work hard, you can win games.”
It didn’t take very long for Kee to turn that confidence into reality. After falling to Cecilia in the opener in 1981, Carencro beat Teurlings 26-0 and Sunset 22-15 in the next two games on the way to a respectable 4-6 first season.
Funeral services for Kee will be held at 3 p.m. Monday at Falgout Funeral Home in Houma with visitation beginning at 1 p.m.
Kee was a pioneer in many ways, always willing to experiment and push the issue, Eveland said. Under offensive coordinator Don Smith at then-USL, Kee initially brought the veer offense to the Bears.
By the second season, Kee was concerned about being able to block the likes of New Iberia’s Leroy Etienne and Lafayette High’s Cedric Figaro, so he was interested in switching to the wishbone.
“He asked if anyone on the staff knew anyone at Alabama,” said Eveland, whose never left Carencro and currently serves as the program’s head coach.
Amazingly, Eveland’s father had played college football at Memphis State in the 1950s where Alabama’s offensive coordinator Ken Donahue began his coaching career.
Before they knew it, Kee and his staff were in Tuscaloosa learning the wishbone.
“I can still remember the first thing they told us,” Eveland said. “They had a running back coach named Bruce Arians (current Cardinals head coach) who said, “If you can’t throw the football, don’t run the wishbone.”
That year, the Bears had a capable quarterback named Claude Brown and an outstanding receiver in Pat Constantine.
Then, two games into the 1983 season, the Bears switched to the I-formation.
“We went to Opelousas and a man named Mike Ortego taught us ‘Nebraska’ and the rest is history,” Eveland said. “We’re still running that today.”
Ironically, it was Ortego that replaced Kee at Carencro, but not before Kee made his impact. After laying the groundwork with marginal success for four years, the Bears beat Acadiana for the first time in school history 56-24 in 1985 and enjoyed a 7-3 season.
“We thought we were going to make the playoffs that year, but it was a lot tougher to make the playoffs back then,” Eveland said.
By 1986, Carencro made the playoffs for the first time since 1969 with an 8-3 campaign, beating traditional powerhouses like Acadiana and St. Martinville along the way.
“He was a great mentor for us,” said Wilson Landry, who played running back and linebacker for Kee. “He made sure the kids who lived a long way from school could get back and forth after practice. He knew how to get us going, kids like me who had a lot of things going on in their lives.
“He would always have motivational speakers come in to talk to us on a Thursday or a Friday before a game. Guys from the Pittsburgh Steelers or wherever. He was always pushing us a work harder.”
Jamie Arnaud was the starting quarterback on that 1986 playoff team that got the ball rolling at Carencro.
“I remember coach Kee just being a very fair, stand-up guy,” Arnaud said. “We played hard-nosed football. He had a big influence on the program.”
Kee left Carencro after the 1986 season and coached under his former UL mentor Don Smith in the Dallas area, before eventually settling in Houma where he was the head coach at Terrebonne High for 13 years and an assistant at Vandebilt Catholic for three years.
Four years after Kee left, the state playoffs began being an annual thing for the Golden Bears. And by 1992, coach Mac Barousse led Carencro High to the Class 5A state championship.
“We were able to take the program to a different level, but it was Pat that made it possible for us to do that,” Barousse said. “He deserves tremendous credit. I’ll be the first one to tell you that. He changed the whole culture of that program. He made it a lot easier for me and everybody else whose been there.”