Ragin' Cajuns Head Basketball Coach Robert Lee talks with ultoday.com about coaching, kids, Lafayette, and building a program the right way.

Tell us about yourself.

The most important things to me... one is my relationship with God, the other is my family, the third is this team and my University.

This University has helped me grow in so many ways. Even though I graduated from Nicholls, I consider this my school.

That's what makes me tick.

What's the hardest part of this job?

Probably the everyday demands for your time. What I mean by that, is that there's always something or someone that you have to deal with. There's a lot more to this than coaching basketball. There are speaking engagements, paperwork, phone calls. Before I got this job, I had no idea.

An assistant coach looks at it from his angle. But you don't realize how many things that the head coach has to do, have nothing to do with coaching basketball. That's the hardest part of this job.

What's the best part?

The best part is seeing the kids faces when they've had success. That's after they've won a game, or made a good grade when they thought they would fail. That's the best part, seeing their faces when they're happy.

What makes for a great basketball program?

The first thing that comes to my mind is one that, when the kids leave the program they can say to themselves, "It's one of the best experiences I've had in my life."

Another thing is to have a program that young kids aspire to be a part of, and one in which you have quality people, people who represent the community and the University in the very best way.

Winning too often ends up being the ultimate thing. Absolutely, in order to be a great program, you have to consistently win at a high level. Together with those other components, you have to win. But you have to have those other things in place.

You have to have good people who want to do the right thing. We strive to work with our players to treat others as they would like to be treated. So we strive to do the right things.

Then if we win some games, everything will be all right.

That is a recurrent theme in our interviews with coaches here at UL, they all talk about their goals for the kids after they leave.

I've been at UL going on 13 years. Some of the most difficult times are when we have a kid who did not graduate, maybe he's 40 hours from a degree, and he doesn't have a job, his opportunity for playing professional ball is gone, and he comes to me and says, "Coach, what am I going to do?"

We try not to have that problem with our kids any more. Because of that, I think we've been going through a transition period, where we weren't winning the games we wanted. But because of the support for what we're trying to do from Dr. Authément and David Walker, we've been able to build this program in the right way. Now we're in a position to start winning some games at a higher level.

How high?

My goals are the highest possible. It's the Final Four for me. Since the first day I started working as an assistant coach, and as a head coach even more, I tell every coach, every player we recruit, "If you don't believe it can happen, I don't want you here. If you're not aspiring to that, you don't belong here."

Lafayette is a great city, we have a great University, and every kid who comes here just falls in love with the place. It can happen here, and I desperately want to be the coach that makes that happen.

Talk about Lafayette.

Man, Lafayette is like... to me, it's home. Even though I'm from New Roads, this is home. It's everything I want for me and my family. It's safe, people are friendly and kind, it's a place that has everything. I don't think you can find a better city of this size, than Lafayette. Every coach who comes here loves this place. Sun Belt Conference and non-conference coaches can't believe that Lafayette is like it is when they get here.

Let me ask about a touchy subject. You're African-American, your kids are mostly African-American, but the crowds are largely white. Is that ever a problem?

I don't think the players that we have now really look at it like like that. It was truer for us coaches, as people a little bit older, we probably look at it more that way. These kids aren't lacking in confidence, no matter what the situation.

But we would really like to get more of the black community involved, get them coming to our games. It's an area where we're making progress, but we need to make more of a concerted effort to get the African American community involved in the program.

What would you do if you weren't coaching basketball?

Coaching football, I guess. When I got to college, I first wanted to be a broadcaster. Then after my first couple of years of college, my only thought was to be a basketball coach.

I got an email from a teammate from Nicholls, I guess I hadn't heard from him in 14 years. He said I always said I wanted to coach basketball, and now I'm doing it.

But I love football so much, football would be my next choice.

What do you love about basketball?

It started out as the game itself. But when I started coaching at Opelousas High, it became about the kids. I was like the dad, the mom, and I developed such a close relationship with all the players, that it became about them. One kid who hardly ever played said, "Coach, that was one of the best times in my life." That says a lot from a kid who rode the bench.

But then I got to college. I guess I didn't understand the business aspect... college can be tough. When your livelihood depends on wins and losses, it becomes tough when you don't put things in the right perspective. When I began to put God in my life, that's when I began to realize that it's not about winning. It's about the kids, about getting them to the right point. When we do that, everything else will take care of itself.

So now I don't worry so much about wins and losses. I think the way we've built this program, everything will come back to us ten-fold.

One of the worst feelings is to walk off the court at home when you've lost. I don't think people realize how hard our team tries to win, to make the fans happy, their families happy, their friends happy. Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves; particularly my team last year, because they were young. That's probably why we played a little bit better on the road.

That's the thing about basketball. When you run out on the court, and there are 6 or 7 thousand people in the arena, and they're in the game, and you can feel how much they want you to win, the kids will play even harder to make you happy.

When you run out and there are 1,500 fans, well... people say the crowd shouldn't matter, you should play the same game, but it affects the kids.

Look at a BCS school. When the football team comes out and there are 80 thousand people in the stands, it's hard to lose at home.

So attendance is important, it enhances the home team. But I understand for that to happen, you have to put a quality product out there that the community wants to support.

Our fans seem to know a lot about basketball.

People here in Lafayette know the game of basketball. They know when the team isn't playing well, they're very intelligent about the game. One thing that we really need to change here-- and I don't have the remedy-- when the team is down, that's when we need the crowd to get into it. In our experiences on the road, when the home team isn't playing well, the crowd tries to get them up.

That's something we want to get going here. There are many nights where the home team-- basketball, football, other sports-- is struggling and the crowd gets behind them. When that happens, is when the whistles seem to start going the other way.

Talk about your relationship with God.

I'm in a day-to-day walk with my faith. It's not always easy-- no, no. I'm not a saint. It's a day-to-day effort to try to improve my life, and then try to help our players improve their lives. If we walk in the way that God wants us to, then I think it improves things for all of us.

Now I do have a few vices though. I'm not going to lie to you.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

You might have to sum it up to fit it on there, but "He tried to do the right things, and he tried to make everybody happy."

That can sometimes be a fault. But that's me.

Photos courtesy of Paul Angelle