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Smith Column: Connection to Shipley worth look

July 9, 2011

Sports Editor

Usually, a story about a successful college basketball coach in Louisiana wouldn't have much local impact.
That's not the case when considering the life of coach Beryl Shipley.
Before revealing exactly why Shipley matters in Starkville, it's appropriate to show why he became such a well-respected coach.
When someone called our office a couple of months ago to give a tip about Shipley, it wasn't known at the time that Shipley had passed away. He died in April after a battle with cancer so this serves as a tribute to the man and may be a little overdue.
Shipley had a 16-year tenure as the men's basketball coach at what is now known as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He is the winningest coach in ULL history and finished with a record of 293-126.
In 15 of his 16 seasons, the Ragin Cajuns had a winning record with the only exception being in 1962-63 when they ended the year at 12-13.
Starting in 1963, Shipley helped ULL to five Gulf South Conference championships in six seasons, including a win at the 1964-65 NAIA District 27 Tournament championship.
Shipley put the Cajuns on the map nationally after moving up to the NCAA level in 1970-71 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament that same season.
The next two seasons, Shipley led ULL to a pair of Southland Conference championships and was ranked as high as eighth in the nation.
Some of the other accomplishments for Shipley were a four-time Gulf South Conference Coach of the Year, a two-time NAIA District 27 Coach of the Year (1964-65, 1965-66), two-time Southland Coach of the Year (1971-72, 1972-73) and the 1972-73 Louisiana Collegiate Coach of the Year.
Even though Shipley's program at Lafayette experienced its share of NCAA trouble, he was tagged as the first coach to integrate a major sports team at a large public university in the Deep South.
Shipley was born in Kingsport, Tenn., then showed up in Mississippi after receiving a basketball scholarship to Hinds Community College in Raymond. He married Dolores Gerrard of Yazoo City.
After transferring and graduating from Delta State in 1951, Shipley began his coaching career at Morgan City High School in Morgan City (Miss.). He coached basketball, football and baseball there.
Here is the "did you know?" moment as far as Shipley's tie to this area.
In 1952, Shipley moved with his wife and a new daughter to Starkville where he became the head basketball coach at Starkville High School.
Shipley had quite a successful run during his time of leading the Yellowjackets. He had a record of 111-26 in his five years at SHS.
During his time in Starkville, Shipley earned a Masters Degree in Education Administration from Mississippi State and brought a second daughter into the world.
In 1957, Shipley received a call from John Robert Bell, the athletic director of then SLI that became ULL, when the school was in need of a basketball coach.
Bell took notice of Shipley's accomplishments with the Jackets and didn't hesitate in offering him the head basketball coach position at SLI.
Shipley moved his family to Lafayette that same year and the rest, as they say, is history.

Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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