Bulldogs bring Hester home as head coach

OLD PALS: Talvin Hester and daughter Rhyan with Tech XXI after Tuesday’s introduction of Hester, the former Louisiana Tech assistant returning to Ruston as Bulldog basketball’s head coach.

By T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT, Journal Sports

RUSTON — Home is where the heart is.

And for new Louisiana Tech men’s basketball coach Talvin Hester, his heart is with the Dunkin’ Dogs, and has been for a while.

Hester was introduced Tuesday as the 19th head coach in Tech men’s hoops history by President Les Guice and Vice President for Athletics Eric Wood and was welcomed by an enthusiastic crowd in the Dr. Guthrie Jarrell Room in the Davison Athletics Complex.

Hester served as an assistant coach at Tech from 2018-21 under the man he is replacing, Eric Konkol, who moved to run the Tulsa hoops program last Tuesday.

Hester took what amounted to a sabbatical last season. He landed a spot on the Texas Tech staff under first-year head coach Mark Adams, and the Red Raiders rolled a 27-10 finish with a Sweet 16 appearance as a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Before his previous three years with the Bulldogs, Hester worked as an assistant coach at Houston for three seasons, following stints at Oral Roberts, Houston, Texas State, Stephen F. Austin and Prairie View A&M while compiling more than 20 years of collegiate coaching experience.

It’s not just basketball binding Hester to north Louisiana. His father was raised in Grand Cane in DeSoto Parish, and on the other side of the family tree are equally deep roots.

For Hester, returning to Ruston, his mother-in-law’s hometown, and Tech, her alma mater, was additional incentive to pursue the job. That, and his bond with most of the current Tech roster formed during his three years on Konkol’s staff, generated an emotional reaction as he talked to supporters and media members.

“It’s a surreal moment,” Hester said. “When you accomplish something that you have been working toward your whole life and you see the people that supported you along the way (in attendance at his introduction), I’m thankful for them. My tears weren’t for me. It was for all of them.

“Now I have to make them proud. I have a job to do. All the lights and cameras will go away, and we have to win basketball games. That is what is next.”

It also made for a joyful day for his family, including mother-in-law Virginia Simmons Jackson as well as his wife Jamieka and their daughter, Rhyan.

“This is wonderful for us,” Jackson said. “My husband and I lived in Austin (Texas) for 24 years but moved to Longview when we retired. We’ve been making that long drive to Lubbock (Texas) to see our family. That was an eight-hour drive; this is going to be two. 

“I’m so proud to have my son-in-law coach at my alma mater, close to where I live and in my hometown. This is wonderful for me.”

Wood said in the week since Konkol’s exit, it became apparent Hester was the right man for the job.

“He just fits here,” Wood said. “He has worked under some great guys. He knows Xs and Os. He’s not just a recruiter, he’s full of integrity and ethics. I felt he would be the right fit for Louisiana Tech right now. He crushed the interview and he separated himself from being an assistant to showing us he could be a head coach.”

Longtime season-ticket holder Gary Stokely said he was happy about the hire because he knows the current Bulldogs are happy about it.

“The players love him,” Stokely said. “The players approached Dr. Wood and told him they wanted Coach Hester. Rarely do ADs pay attention to what their student-athletes say or want; they’re going to do what’s best for the program. But this kind of all aligned itself like it was meant to be.”

Photo by T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT