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Unfinished business

dobee.plaisance.voila.2013DoBee Plaisance has had unprecedented success as the Nicholls women’s basketball coach, but she’s not done yet.

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t wasn’t supposed to happen this way.

Nicholls women’s basketball had just wrapped up its best season in team history, securing a coveted spot in the 2013 Southland Conference tournament.

At the previous year’s tournament, the Colonels had done the unthinkable — winning their first postseason game while knocking off top-seeded Central Arkansas. The 20-point upset announced to the conference that the historically downtrodden Nicholls program was now one to be contended with.

All season long, Coach DoBee Plaisance and her players had worked to ensure that 2013 would be their year. And it seemed like it might be. Back on the Merrell Center court in Katy, Texas, the Colonels were as close as they had ever come to a championship title. But in the tournament’s second round, that dream unraveled as they fell 86-70 to McNeese State University, a team they had beaten twice during the season.

The loss stung, no doubt. But one defeat wasn’t enough to weaken Plaisance’s resolve to win a conference championship. When it comes to winning, she doesn’t mince words.

“I think I’m going to win a championship every year,” she says, “and that’s never going to change.”

Standing out, on and off the court

Mere mention of a Nicholls women’s basketball championship would have been considered foolish when Plaisance arrived at Nicholls in 2008. The team went 2-25 that season, but Plaisance didn’t lose hope.

Slowly, she turned the tide after that two-win season, doubling team wins to four in 2010 and eight in 2011, then 15 in 2012 and 19 in 2013. Methodically, season by season, she’s built up not only the program but also the integrity of her players.

Ask her how she did it, and Plaisance attributes everything to faith, family and education — a trinity of values that her parents, Ray and Judy Ronquillo, instilled in her from an early age.

The oldest of four girls and one boy, Plaisance grew up in a large, tightknit New Orleans family. Even back then, she was a social ringleader with a supersized personality. As a slightly mischievous teen, she once caused a gas leak that closed a wing of her high school. With her biology teacher away from the classroom, Plaisance unknowingly kicked a gas knob while dancing on top of a lab table and showing off her Elvis impersonation to “Blue Suede Shoes.”

“I’ve been told I’ve never met a stranger, and that’s because I love people,” says Plaisance, who describes herself as being the “good kind of bad kid.”

As the first of three Ronquillo children to play Division I athletics, Plaisance made a name for herself by adopting an aggressive, scrappy playing style. At Southeastern Louisiana University, where she played for two years, Plaisance was ejected from a game after unintentionally knocking an opposing player out cold with her elbow. Known on campus as the “Hammond Hammer,” the 6-foot-2-inch Plaisance planned to continue her playing career in Germany until her father insisted she complete her degree.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in health science and attending graduate school, Plaisance switched gears and embarked on a coaching career.

Having a little faith

More than 25 years later, coaching underdog teams into championship winners has become the story of Plaisance’s career.

The women’s basketball program at St. Martin’s Episcopal School in Metairie was largely disregarded when Plaisance took over as head coach in 1986. Handed a team with only “three preppy girls who didn’t like to sweat,” Plaisance still believed she could win state championships there. In her eight years, she led the team to seven state playoffs and two state titles.

Women's Basketball vs Lamar 2013“I didn’t plan to leave St. Martin’s,” she says. “In my mind, I was going to continue to win state championships and then retire. That was my plan. I always tell people, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plan.”

In 1995, Loyola University approached Plaisance with an offer to be the first head coach of its newly established women’s basketball program. The opportunity was too big for Plaisance to turn down.

With no assistant coaches, no scholarships to offer and few resources, Plaisance — now a mother of two — juggled the roles of head coach, recruiter, athletic trainer and operations manager. She taped ankles, set up bleachers before games, mopped floors and washed uniforms. After multiple seasons with only single-digit wins, Plaisance turned to her Christian faith for guidance and led an inspired season-opening practice.

“I told those kids: ‘You have two choices in life. You can look at what you have or what you don’t have. You have a staff that cares, but if you look at what we don’t have, we’re screwed. I’m tired of losing; it’s time we win here.’”

The Loyola Wolfpack went 21-11 that season, beating three Division I schools.

“All I wanted to do was get a banner up at Loyola,” she remembers. “Well, by the time I left, there were two conference and two tournament championship banners hanging.”

After leading her team to the NAIA Elite Eight in 2008, Plaisance once again found herself with an offer to leave a successful program and take over a struggling one — this time at Nicholls.

“When I learned that Nicholls women’s basketball had never had a winning season and had never won a postseason game, that’s what hooked me,” says the headstrong Plaisance. “I felt like this was a place where I could make a difference. Some of my friends in Division I said, ‘This isn’t the one, DoBee. Wait for another opportunity. It’s going to be a career-ender for you.’ But that just fired me up more.”

Making basketball a family affair

Plaisance calls herself a “coach mom,” and it’s a fitting description for how she interacts with her players and her own children. Whether she’s talking to her daughter, Theresa — a senior on the LSU basketball team and National Player of the Year candidate — or her son, Scott Jr. — a senior at Metairie Park Country Day School and highly recruited basketball player — or her team, Plaisance doles out the same basic advice: Do the right thing. And trust that doing the right thing will eventually pay off.

She deliberately blurs the lines between basketball and life principles. “When my players don’t run a line drill fast enough, I don’t get on them about being lazy; I get on them about settling,” Plaisance says. “I ask, ‘What are you going to do, settle in life? You can’t just do what you feel like every day. You have to get up every morning, push yourself and do what you don’t feel like.’ It’s all about accountability, faith and discipline — in life and on the court.”

Plaisance’s own children learned these lessons early, often accompanying their mom to her practices and camps. She didn’t force them to go the athletics route, but she made sure they were in that environment from a young age. Now in their ultracompetitive household, it’s Plaisance’s husband, Scott, who helps everyone keep life in perspective.

Married for 23 years, Plaisance and Scott have known each other since they were 9 years old — back when she asked him to join a neighborhood backyard kickball game. An outside salesman for DCL Mooring and Rigging, Scott is an easygoing dad and husband who splits his time among his wife’s, daughter’s and son’s athletic events.

“He’s the perfect complement to me,” Plaisance says. “He’s just a fun guy who loves to fish, loves a good joke and has fun just playing.”

Coaching with confidence

Plaisance, on the other hand, readily admits that she wants to win at everything. “I want to beat my players on the bus at spades, for Pete’s sake,” she says with her room-filling laugh.

When she recruits potential players, Plaisance sells them on the idea that they can make a difference at Nicholls and be a part of something special. Even though she has had unprecedented success with the Nicholls women’s basketball program, Plaisance wants more for herself and her players.

“I didn’t come here as a stepping stone. I came here to do something, and I haven’t done it yet,” she says. “I never said how long it was going to take me to win a championship here. It took me 13 years to reach sustained success at Loyola. But I feel like it’s time at Nicholls. This year, we have no excuses. We will have no distractions. We will all be on the same page.

“I’m not afraid to say it — we’re supposed to win this year.”

— Written by Clyde Verdin Jr., media relations director for athletics

This article originally appeared in the fall 2013 issue of Voila! magazine. Click here to read the entire issue.

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