Having won each of the first four Division I state girls basketball championships as the coach of John Curtis, there wasn’t much else Barbara Farris could do there.
Hence, she is taking the next step in her career.
Farris, 43, announced Wednesday (May 20) she is leaving the River Ridge school after 10 seasons to become an assistant at Stetson University to longtime coach Lynn Bria.
Patriots girls athletic director and former girls basketball coach Kristy Hebert will take over the program on an interim basis.
“It’s about opportunities. There was opening at Stetson, and I was fortunate enough to be able to reach out and interview, and I met with the team – all via Zoom since we obviously can’t leave or go anywhere – and they were warm and inviting,” Farris said. “(Bria) is so knowledgeable; they have a history of winning there, and they want to get back to the postseason and competing well in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
“This gives me an opportunity to continue to grow and learn and build in that already-flourishing program at Stetson. … But saying goodbye to those girls and the Curtis family was the hardest part of all this.”
While she said it was extremely tough to tell inform the team and school of her decision, it’s clear this is the next logical step for Farris.
The former two-time state champion at St. Martin’s as a player, she was part of a Tulane team that went to the NCAA Tournament all four years she was there from 1994 to 1998 and was an All-Conference center twice. She then played 10 years in the WNBA and won a league championship with the Detroit Shock in 2003.
When her playing career ended, Farris spent one season as head coach at Bonnabel before building a dynasty at John Curtis. There, she compiled a record of 278-54 with five state championships, including the 2012 Class 2A title before the split.
The past four seasons, in particular, the Patriots were so good, they had trouble scheduling non-district games. This winter, they played nine in-season opponents from outside of the New Orleans area with all but two of those on the road.
Farris shies away from much of the credit, instead talking team and showering praise upon her prize pupil, Jerkaila Jordan, who was named the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year in March and was a two-time All-New Orleans Metro Player of the Year for The Times-Picayune.
“Please put this in a bold print: There is nothing magical about this coaching thing I do, but I have been fortunate to have some very talented student athletes who have passed through the halls of John Curtis,” said Farris, who also spent six seasons as an assistant coach in the WNBA with the New York Liberty. “They made me look like I was doing something magical, but I really wasn’t. They were super talented.
“Jerkaila obviously is one of the most talented players I have ever coached. You hate to brag about someone having a light, and she works hard at practice, but when that game starts, that light just comes on. It was nothing I di; I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
Meanwhile, in Farris’ place, the Patriots administration turned to the most familiar face they possibly could. Hebert, 45, takes her old job back, as in the late 1990s through the late 2000s she simultaneously was girls basketball coach and five-time state championship softball coach.
Hebert, who coached girls basketball at Curtis and Riverside for 17 years, will also will remain in her position as the Patriots’ girls athletic director and is “happy to serve” in whatever capacity she is asked.
“Barbara has been unbelievable, and there is no one who can replace what she brought to this program and instilled in these girls and how she taught them life lessons,” said Hebert, who like Farris, has won multiple All-Metro Coach of the Year awards. “… This isn’t anything new to me. I have always loved watching the game, even when I wasn’t coaching.”
For several years, she and WGNO sports director Ed Daniels have helped run the Allstate Sugar Bowl Basketball Tournament, held at the Alario Center in Westwego each January. And she has remained as close to the game as she could.
“When (Curtis administrators) talked to me, I thought it was the right thing to do,” she said. “It is a great program, and while stepping in for Barbara won’t be an easy task for me – or anyone – but I am excited about it.
“I am ready to get back out there. They have won four (championships), and I am ready to try and make it five.”