Clark returns home to coach boys basketball at Southern Lab

“Home is where is the heart is” reads like overused cliché.

But it’s the sentiment that is bringing former Southern Lab standout Devan Clark home to coach boys basketball at his alma mater after eight successful seasons at Northside-Lafayette.

“What can I say,” Clark said. “It’s a chance for me to come full circle, to come back to the place where I grew up and started coaching. I feel a responsibility to bring the alumni back and see how far we can take things.”

Clark was introduced as the Class 1A Kittens’ new coach during a news conference held Friday afternoon in the school’s lobby. The announcement came four days after the 35-year-old Clark was identified as one of three finalists for the job.

Former Zachary High and current Ruston High coach Bakari Beckwith and Zachary High assistant Jonathan McClinton were the other finalists.

SLHS Principal Ronnie Harrison said a search committee interviewed 22 candidates to replace Lonnie Machen, who was not retained as the Kittens coach after 16-16 season and an early playoff exit. Machen coached SLHS to a runner-up finish in 2011 and the 1A semifinals in 2012. SLHS has 15 state titles in boys basketball, more than any other LHSAA school.

“Simply, Devan Clark is Southern Lab,” Harrison said. “Devan is an excellent example of what Southern Lab has meant to many people. He too like many Southern Lab graduates is a true success in his profession. He was a part of five state championships as a player and three more as an assistant coach here.

“He then moved on and used many of the skills he learned at our school to build a solid program at Northside. Devan has a great history at the Lab, and I know he is ready and excited about building on it. I expect him to bring us back to the dominating program that Joel Hawkins led. He is very well respected among his peers and the Southern Lab community.”

Clark played on five state title teams for legendary coach Joel Hawkins and served as Hawkins’ assistant, winning three more 1A titles, after completing his collegiate career as a point guard at Southern.

In eight seasons at Class 4A Northside, Clark compiled a 225-52 record, including four trips to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s Top 28 tourney. Northside was the runner-up to Lafayette rival St. Thomas More in 2013 and advanced to the semifinals in 2007, 2011 and 2014.

Clark concedes that the basketball landscape has changed in Baton Rouge since his days as a Southern Lab player and assistant. In addition to Christian Life, the team that unseated the Kittens in 2006, Madison Prep has emerged as a 1A power and another District 6-1A rival.

“There will be challenges, and not all of them will involve the players,” Clark said. “There’s a talented young group of players coming back. The key will be bringing the alumni back together.”

Clark said he was thankful for his time at Northside and expects the Vikings to continue their run of success.

“It’s tough to leave,” Clark said. “This was something I couldn’t pass up.”