Men’s basketball coach entertains crowd by wins and character

Men’s head basketball coach Bobby Champagne coaches his team during a game against Shorter University Feb. 3, 2014. Champagne is in his 12th season at UNA and has 195 career wins with the Lions.

Over the past decade, Flowers Hall has drawn large crowds, thanks in part to longtime men’s basketball coach Bobby Champagne.

Champagne is in his 12th season of coaching men’s hoops at UNA, guiding the Lions to the postseason in each of his 11 previous campaigns. Champagne led the Lions last year to the 2014 Gulf South Conference Championship and an appearance in the NCAA tournament.

While his on-the-court resume speaks for itself, Champagne believes in entertaining the fans, whether or not they like basketball.

“The average fan may not be too interested in coming to a ball game,” Champagne said. “Sometimes, you have to give them something.”

Some of the fans chatter about the way the team is playing, while others wonder what kind of flamboyant suit Champagne will wear in the next game.

“If we have a white out, I’ll wear a white suit,” he said. “For breast cancer awareness, I’ll wear pink. Those things are simple to do. Showing school spirit goes a long way.”

Senior forward Marcus Landry said Champagne’s attire has a positive effect on the coach and the team.

“I think (Champagne’s) loudmouth pants and shirt are what bring out the coach in him and show his personality,” Landry said. “It’s a positive thing because if you stay with the traditional all of the time, it would get old and boring. He rarely ever wears the same thing back-to-back.”

Champagne said he would do just about anything he could to draw one’s interest to UNA basketball.

“I think, first and foremost, you have to win ballgames,” he said. “People will always come to watch a winner. When the kids are playing hard and competing, fans enjoy seeing that. I like having fun, so if there is something entertaining I can do on the sidelines that will keep people interested in UNA basketball, I’ll sure try it.”

Champagne said he has a simple coaching philosophy that he derived as a protégé under coaches such as Charles “Lefty” Driesell, Ronnie Arrow and Kelvin Sampson. He said the three were different in strategizing, but all had one thing in common.

“All three of those guys were very successful,” Champagne said. “Each had a different style, but all three were similar in how hard their teams competed. The main thing we try to do is compete really hard, play with a whole lot of energy and play with a whole lot of effort.”

He said his favorite part of coaching is not necessarily his passion for the game, but rather building relationships with his players.

“I like being around the players and the relationships that form,” Champagne said. “It’s always nice to go to a game and one of your former players is at the game, you get to see how he’s doing with his life, his job, his family and that sort of stuff.”

Champagne has 195 career wins at UNA and will have ample chances to surpass the 200-win mark this season. As for the future, things are looking bright for Champagne, but only time can tell what the future holds.

“I hope I will be coaching for a long time,” said Champagne. “(Coaching) is all I’ve ever done and I love it here at UNA. As long as they will keep me, I will stay.”