Most shrink from big challenges, but Cooper, Smith see opportunities

Combined, their teams were 1-19 a year ago. But that didn’t stop Bossier’s Gary Smith and Booker T. Washington’s Gary Cooper from taking on challenges that most coaches would run from.

Smith and Cooper look at it through a different lens than everyone else. All they see is 0-0. A clean slate. A fresh start.

You don’t just turn around a combined 1-19 by walking on the field and blowing the whistle. It takes some varying degrees of talent, luck and coaching.

But none of that matters without the most important ingredient of all — work.

If you don’t think that Smith and Cooper are excited about what lies ahead, you obviously haven’t been around them very much.

It’s not as if Bossier and BTW looked around and couldn’t find anybody else. Cooper and Smith embraced the chance to be a head coach.

Both were assistants at other schools – Cooper was at Huntington and Smith was defensive coordinator at Haughton – so they weren’t exactly next in line on the coaching ladder.

There are no shortcuts for these two programs (Bossier was 0-10 last year and BTW was 1-9 (the only win was against Bossier), so it all starts with the same thing.

“Hard work is what’s going to happen,” Cooper said. “The kids have been working their butts off and I couldn’t be more pleased with the work they’ve put in.”

“We got some kids who are going to work hard to get better,” Smith said. “But it’s going to be a process.”

Something else to understand: Taking over an 0-10 team was nothing to Smith, who was also a head coach at North DeSoto in 2005-06.  “I took over a team that had gone 1-29,” he said.

After seven years at Haughton as defensive coordinator, it wasn’t just the chance to be a head coach that brought Smith to his new job. It was a chance to be Bossier’s head coach.

“I’m a Bossier graduate,” said Smith, Class of 1990. “I just feel like I can go in there and make a difference and make it better.”

No one is making hotel reservations yet for the state finals, but the Bearkats did put up 33 points in the Jamboree last week against Plain Dealing. They’ll be at home against North Caddo Friday night in the season opener.

BTW is looking to solve two problems from last year – turnovers and more turnovers – but will have to start that mission with a rough road trip to Monroe to play Wossman.

“We’ve been on ball security all spring,” Cooper said. “We watched film on those turnovers and how they were caused. There are things we can do to fix those.”

Consistent quarterback play was also a problem for the Lions, but Cooper intends to hand the keys to sophomore Damion O’Neal. “He grew up a lot during the spring in understanding what we are trying to do offensively,” Cooper said. “He’s going to be our guy.”

Having four senior offensive linemen is certainly going to help.

But perhaps the first thing any coach in these situations has to overcome isn’t just X’s and O’s and cutting down on turnovers.

It’s the mentality of waiting for things to go wrong and being focused on negative things instead of positive ones.

“Write it down,” said Huntington coach Stephen Dennis. “He (Cooper) is going to transform that program.”

Something has to change. And Gary Cooper and Gary Smith are hoping they are just the guys to do it.

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