Brother Martin High School Varsity Basketball Team, 1973-1974. LHSAA AAAA State Champs. Don Newman is #11, bottom right. (courtesy Brother Martin High School)
Donald Newman, BMHS Class of 1975
We lost a good guy yesterday. Don Newman was a year ahead of me at Brother Martin. He was a basketball player, a member of the 1973-1974 Louisiana LHSAA 4-A championship team. Newman was point guard for that team, and the next year, as a senior. He also played baseball while at BMHS.
After Brother Martin, Don went to LSU, for a year, where he played basketball and baseball. He transferred to Lake City, then Grambling, he played one game at Lake City and not at all for Grambling. Newman landed at University of Idaho, where he played from 1978-1980.
Don was drafted by the Boston Celtics in the third round in 1980. He was the last person they cut before the start of the 1980 season. He signed with the Montana Golden Nuggets of the CBA.
In 1981, Newman tried out for the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL, as a cornerback. He never played football in high school or college. He didn’t make the team, but did play in Canada,first for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Montreal Concordes, Ottawa Roughriders, and Hamilton TigerCats. He began his coaching career at high schools in Idaho. Newman got his degree from Idaho in 1987, and moved up to collegiate coaching.
After coaching at Moscow (Idaho) High School, Newman took an assistant job at Washington State. He moved from there to head coach at Sacramento State, then Arizona State. He moved to the NBA from ASU, working as an assistant for the Bucks, Nets, Spurs, and Wizards. While with the Spurs, he earned two rings, as an assistant coach on the 2005 and 2007 championship teams. Newman was still with the Wizards when he passed yesterday.
High School Memories
Don was point guard on the “Robey team” in 1973-1974. Rick Robey was the classic big-man-in-the middle, and Don was the ball handler. Don was as important to the team as Robey, because when Rich would get into foul trouble, it was up to the rest of the guys to pick up the slack. Newman was the leader. Mind you, the rest of the team was pretty good as well, but Don was the best athlete, and I’ll go as far to say that he was a better overall athlete than Robey.
After the state win, Robey graduated and went on to the University of Kentucky, and then the Boston Celtics. That next year, it was up to the four juniors from the state team to keep it going. Newman, along with LeRoy Oliver, Reggie Hadley, and Rodney Montgomery were the subjects of many a “can they do it without Robey” articles. Junior Mike Litwinowicz stepped into the center position, when they weren’t running more of a small-ball offense. Sophomore Dwayne Vantress also got a bit of varsity time in 74-75.
The team didn’t repeat as state championships, but they did win the Catholic League a second year. While many at the school and in the media considered that a let-down, I was proud of those guys. They were under incredible pressure. Brother Martin won state in 1969-1970, 1970-1971, then again in 1974. The school also won state in football in the 1971 season. The combining of Cor Jesu and St. Aloysius made the teams from those early years powerhouses.
I didn’t know Don well, even back on Elysian Fields. I had one class with him, a one-semester religion class. I pretty much kept my head down in religion, but that’s a story for another time. I knew a lot about Don even though we weren’t really friends because I was a sports statistician. In the days before even electronic calculators, you had to be able to do two-digit division in your head to knock out shooting percentages. When Johnny Vitrano (JV coach and assistant Varsity coach) was breathing down your neck to get the halftime percentages back to Head Coach Tommy Kolb, you had to think fast!
But having coach bug us was part of the fun. The best perquisite of the statistician’s job was you got to sit at mid-court, at the scorer’s table. Front-row center to see these guys play. While Robey was gone, my junior year was much more exciting. There were a number of games in my sophomore year where I didn’t get to do the book for varsity. There were juniors and seniors who got the mid-court seats. By junior year, though, I was one of the lead statisticians. Keeping the score book or the shot chart for Don, LeRoy, Reggie, Snake, Mike, Bean (Vantress) was a blast. Yelling our lungs out for them up front, even on the other team’s home side–don’t tell Brother Neal, SC, but he should have charged us a fee for doing the games.
Rest in Power, Don. You were one of the good guys.
Cor Jesu Class of 1969 Ring Mass, August, 1968 (Brother Martin High School photo)
Ring Mass and Ring Dance are still a big deal.
The BMHS Facebook page did a “look back” on senior rings today, since the Brother Martin High Class of 2019 receive their rings at a Mass this evening. That ring is a Big Deal in a town where “Where did you go to high school?” is a regularly-asked question. This shouldn’t be all that surprising for folks, when you remember, a lot of men didn’t go to college before WWII. Many St. Aloysius men wrapped up their formal education when they received their diplomas. That senior ring was a public proclamation that the wearer made it. Whether that was Aloysius, Easton, Jesuits, Nicholls, etc, you made it. You finished high school and were ready for what the world had to offer.
After World War II, the G.I. Bill gave so many white men the opportunity to go college and get on with their lives. Many went to school full-time. Others went to work, taking advantage of their veterans’ benefits a bit later in life. The State of Louisiana identified a need for a “commuter” college in New Orleans in the 1950s, and Louisiana State University at New Orleans (LSUNO), now the University of New Orleans (UNO) was born. Generations of men and women got senior rings from their universities and colleges, and wear them proudly.
Collection of St. Aloysius, Cor Jesu, and Brother Martin rings from over the years. (Brother Martin High School photo)
The Cor Jesu High School class of 1969 was particularly proud of their rings. They were the last CJ class ever. When they graduated, the school closed. the doors re-opened in August of 1969 as Brother Martin High School. I can only imagine the emotions that swirled around St. Frances Cabrini Church on that evening in 1968 when the Class of ’69 received their senior rings. I never went to Cor Jesu, either as a prospective student or student. I toured Brother Martin as a seventh grader in the fall of 1970, and began my eighth grade year in the fall of 1971. From those first renovations to convert Cor Jesu to Brother Martin, to the recent renovations to the library and the Mall, the school keeps current.
Cor Jesu was gone, but much of its heritage remained. The crimson and gold of the Kingsmen became the colors of the Crusaders of Brother Martin. The “old building” was a daily reminder of the original school. The neighborhood didn’t change when the school did.
St. Frances Cabrini Church holds a lot of memories for me. I got my senior ring there, in the fall of 1975, and our graduation mass was there the following spring. When I taught at Redeemer High School (which was located next to Cabrini), we regularly used the church for school masses. I got married there in 1982. I always found it to be a welcoming church. The Risen Christ in the sanctuary was inviting, particularly to kids and teens. It broke my heart when the church was demolished in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
I nicked one of the photos (above) from the school’s website, to change up the cover page for the BOSH book’s Facebook presence. Thanks, folks!
So, here’s to the the Men Who Never Say Die, class of 2019! Well done on your rings, gentlemen!