The day of the LSU-Kentucky gymnastics meet back in February — what seems like a million years ago now, way before the world flipped upside down — I tweeted: “I think the person I’ll miss the most after graduation is D-D Breaux.”
A month later in March, when the NCAA canceled its remaining winter and springs sports and championships due to coronavirus concerns, I tweeted: ‘I’m super upset I’ll officially never get to cover D-D Breaux and #LSU gymnastics winning a national championship.”
I thought I would be the one leaving LSU come May, not both of us.
D-D Breaux announced her retirement after 43 years of coaching the Tigers Tuesday morning in a Twitter video, thus ending the career of one of the greatest Tigers to ever grace the campus.
“I have always told myself that I would know when it is time to make this most difficult decision,” Breaux said in the video. “The gymnastics program was not built easily or without moments that jeopardized its very existence but each challenge was met with determination and enthusiasm.
“The program is in the most secure and positive position it has been in since its inception. Transition is difficult, but it is made much easier when you are confident that it is being left much better than it was found. I am confident that as great as it is now, it is destined for greater heights. LSU Gymnastics is one of the best and most powerful programs in the country with, most importantly, the most incredible fan support.”
I’ve said it before, and I will continue to say it, this is and always will be Breaux’s program. She built everything from the ground up. She’s been coaching gymnastics — and doing it well — for double my own lifetime. She created a program of excellence for years, and at times it was all by herself.
Breaux was hired to coach the club gymnastics team in 1977 — just after Title IX was passed, before there were scholarships, before the team even had their own locker room or training facility.
From that, Breaux turned the PMAC — the arena named after one of the greatest basketball players in history — into a cathedral of gymnastics every Friday in the spring, filling it with 13,000-plus fans on a regular basis. It rivals the atmospheres of both Tiger Stadium and Alex Box themselves.
Breaux epitomizes Louisiana. Nobody has loved this state and this university as much as she has for her 43 years on campus. March 2019 might’ve been the happiest I’ve ever seen Breaux. A third straight SEC Championship meet, this one at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. It was like she reached the top of the proverbial mountain, right in her home state.
What she’s done both on and off the floor has done amazing things for the sport of gymnastics in the state of Louisiana. I could take a million years — not even exaggerating to be honest — to talk about all the great things about D-D Breaux. Instead, I’ll give you the best of them.
This video to start:
- When athletic director Paul Dietzel threatened to cut the program in the ‘80s due to “budgeting,” she just refused to leave her office or show up for meetings. She fought for weeks. Guess who stayed at LSU longer?
- She went from handing out free tickets outside of Winn-Dixie in Baton Rouge to having them be a PMAC sponsor for the team.
- Even in 2020, when students fill the student section no matter what meet, Breaux will still stand at the Chick-Fil-A in the Student Union and hand out free chicken sandwiches to encourage students to come to meets
- Her meet-day fashion choices are straight fire
- In that same fashion vein, she once made fun of me for wearing ripped jeans to a meet
- Her quotes: “Nothing beats a try like a failure”; “”Nothing great is ever achieved without self-confidence and enthusiasm”; “when you find yourself in a hole, quit digging”; etc.
Breaux has been a treasure to have on campus. I’ve never met a person who didn’t agree.
LSU women’s basketball coach Nikki Fargas once called Breaux “the Pat Summitt of gymnastics.” I’m not sure if there’s any higher praise coming from the former-Tennessee guard herself.
And though she finished without any national championships, it seems like the journey was worth it for Breaux.
“You don’t come into work every day thinking ‘Oh it’s okay if I’m just average,’” Breaux said to me for a story in 2018. “There were a lot of battles and a lot of anger and emotions. I think it was worth every battle.”
The Dean of SEC Coaches herself. I’d say she deserves retirement.