Folks won’t have to say, “Future Hall of Fame Coach” Frank Monica for much longer.
Monica was among a list of honorees who will be inducted into the Louisiana High School Sports Hall of Fame, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association announced at its annual meeting on Friday.
A member of the coaching profession for 49 years, the wily veteran coach deflected the news in typical Monica fashion.
“They announced it but they misspelled my name. They spelled it M-O-D-I-C-A. Can you imagine that? Everybody was asking, ‘who’s that?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, some hit man,’” joked Monica.
The coach then got serious for a moment.
“I’m honored that the committee thought enough of me to put me in. I’m still an active coach and it was very, very nice. I am being inducted with very, very attractive people going in there. I’m just honored and humbled by it. I don’t know if I’m worthy of it.”
Then he came up with another quip.
“Maybe they are lowering their standards,” Monica said of his impending induction.
Monica will be one of the few coaches to ever be enshrined into the Hall of Fame while still an active coach.
“It was never one of my goals about being inducted. I really didn’t have many goals when I got into coaching in terms of lifetime goals,” said Monica. “My thing on a daily basis was to try to prepare my players and put them in position where they could succeed. It was all about my players. It was all about effort. I wanted them to have a good feel, a good ride in their high school career.
“When I entered college, I never once thought about being involved in high school for that long a period of time. For a long time, I was not a head coach. I was in college (as an assistant), I was there for 12 years. I had been an assistant coach before I became a head coach at Lutcher High School.”
In 28 years as a high school coach, Monica has produced a record of 269-84 and three state championships. Monica won state titles in 1978 at Lutcher, 1983 at Riverside Academy and 2011 at St. Charles Catholic. He also had a stint as head coach at Jesuit.
Monica also spent two separate stints as an assistant coach on the collegiate level at Tulane totaling 12 years.
In 49 years of coaching, Monica has influenced numerous players and assistant coaches along the way. He also learned a thing or two from other coaching coming up through the ranks.
An All-State player in football and baseball at 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds, Monica played linebacker and guard in football and shortstop in baseball at Reserve High School.
An early influence was the late Joe Keller, his coach at Reserve, who is a Hall of Famer in his own right.
Monica said he was more about football and baseball in high school than academics.
“I was all about sports and athletics. I didn’t graduate Summa Cum Laude. I graduated ‘Thank you, Lordy,’ joked Monica.
Another influence was Ray Didier, Monica’s baseball coach at Nicholls.
“He was a technician and a class guy. He taught me professionalism and discipline and stuff like that,” Monica said of Didier.
A mentor early in Monica’s coaching career was Lutcher head coach Lou St. Amant. St. Amant led the Bulldogs to the school’s first-ever football championship in 1975 while Monica was an assistant at the school.
“He gave me a lot of freedom. He let me grow as a coach,” Monica said of St. Amant.
Other influences, Monica said, were the coaches he served under while at Tulane.
“I learned a lot from all my head coaches in college, Larry Smith, Vince Gibson, Greg Davis and Buddy Teevens. You can’t help but learn from these guys when you sit in the office for 16 hours a day talking football. You learn something through osmosis,” he said.
There were other influences closer to home, namely his brothers and sister.
“They were very supportive of me,” Monica said. “That was huge. My little league coach was my brother. They called him, ‘Sugar Boy,’ Tony. He was instrumental and kind of developed my baseball skills, so to speak.
“They say the village raises the kid. I think I’m a prime example of that. My aunts, grandmother, immediate family, showed support and coming to your games, that was a big part of my life.”
The 2019 Hall of Fame Banquet and Induction Ceremony will be held April 2 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Baton Rouge.