ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) — Throughout the years, Central Louisiana has been home to legendary high school coaches.
Coming to mind are Alexandria Senior High's J.L. "Butch" Stoker in football, Peabody's Charles Smith in boys' basketball, ASH's Wally Fall in swimming and Menard's Wally Smith in cross country and track and field.
Among those are Stella Bass Sasser, who gave 26 years to Buckeye with an extraordinary career that culminated with a record of 494-189, two state titles, two Coach of the Year honors, inductions to the LHSAA and LHSCA halls of fame and being named as the coach of the Town Talk's All-Rapides Parish Girls Basketball Team for the half-century in 2000.
On Dec. 22, 2017, Sasser was given the ultimate honor by the school, as Buckeye named its gymnasium after her.
"It's overwhelming to see all of my friends," Sasser said. "The gym was packed and all the memories came flowing back. I'm certainly not a speaker, but it was wonderful."
Most of her former players, fellow coaching opponents and even LHSAA president Eddie Bonine were in attendance.
"I'm proud to be here this evening to see the way the community's come together to honor Coach, tells you a lot in itself," Bonine said. "Having listened to all the accolades, the dedication and the community in the background, what a sensational career she had here."
Her love for the game began when her mom bought her and her siblings a basketball goal as a child.
"We wore a mudhole out under it," Sasser laughed. "I had two sisters that played before me and I followed them into the game. They encouraged me to play.
"I watched Carrice Russell Baker win state championships at Winnsboro and watched Ms. (Edna) Tarbutton at Baskin win state championships. We would watch Baskin and Winnsboro in the finals of the (Franklin) parish tournament and it would be a dogfight. That inspired me to play and work as hard as I could."
That she did.
After her playing career was done at Wisner High School, Sasser joined the coaching ranks much like Baker and Tarbutton — both enshrinees of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
Sasser led the Lady Panthers to back-to-back Class 1A titles in 1972 and 1973 and a pair Class 2A title games in 1978 and 1993.
However, the first state title ranks the highest among the many memories she had in Deville.
"We were so elated," Sasser said. "We had some great games through the playoffs and we pressed because we had a lot of speed and quickness. We may not press in the first half, but we'd throw it on them in the second half and the other teams would be rattled. They were great girls that worked hard and wanted to win."
Sasser's impact is also making a positive effect on this year's Lady Panther squad.
"That woman is great for the entire community and Central Louisiana area," Garrett Hoffpauir said. "She has done a lot for girls basketball — not just at this school, but the state. She's a great ambassador. It's great seeing her when she shows up to games and when she's around our girls, because you know there's nothing but positivity coming out of her presence."
Hoffpauir is in his first year at Buckeye and the team has had double-digit wins for the first time in four years — the last time they also made the playoffs.
As they continue to make their playoff push, Sasser had a few words of encouragement.
"(I would tell them) to keep working and work on their fundamentals," she said. "You have to use the coaching energy before you get to the floor. I think this young man is going to do that. This is his first year coaching and I think that he wants to win. He has inspired them."
Information from: Alexandria Daily Town Talk,