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Q&A with Coach Louis Bonner

Louis Bonner graduated from Harding University in 2000 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Kinesiology and a minor in Recreation. He moved to Bossier City, Louisiana, as the assistant basketball coach at Bossier Parish Community College and soon became the head coach at the young age of 26.

Coach Bonner serves as CAC’s Assistant Athletic Director for Operations, the Junior High boy’s basketball head coach and the assistant coach for the varsity boy’s basketball team. 

We sat down with him to discuss his coaching philosophy, God’s faithfulness and his goals for the CAC basketball program. Enjoy!

To start off, tell us a little bit about you and your family!
My wife Rebecca and I have been married for 17 years and we have a 16-year-old daughter named Brooklyn. I’m from the little small town of Scott, Arkansas, but I went to school in Sherwood at Sylvan Hills, so it was close to Little Rock. I went to West Ark Community College – now it’s called UA Fort Smith – for two years and played basketball. When I first started college I wanted to do criminal justice, but I switched to Kinesiology when I got to Harding. I played basketball at Harding for the next two years and graduated in 2000 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Kinesiology and a minor in Recreation. 

When I was in high school it was always a dream to play college basketball, but then it actually happened. It was a good experience because I got to meet so many different people. Some of them I already knew – the guys that were from Arkansas – I had played against them in high school. 

What did you do after graduating from college? 
In 2001 I was the assistant basketball coach at Bossier Parish Community College in Bossier City, Louisiana. That summer, in 2002, I became the head coach at the age of 26.  Now, you’re talking about an experience. That was an experience. I didn’t really feel like I was ready. I told the president of the school that I wasn’t ready, but he said, “The job is yours.” I wanted my friend Coach Woods, who is an assistant at Harding, to get the job so I could be his assistant, but the president said, “No. You can hire whoever you want, but you’re going to be the head coach.” Finally I just accepted it. 

I had no experience – not even a whole year of being the assistant coach. Six months, maybe. Of course, most of the kids were just a little bit younger than me so it was kind of tough to tell them what to do. It was a learning experience, but it was also neat because I was doing something I had always prayed about doing. It happened at an early age…I wasn’t really expecting to be coaching college ball that young. But I was the head coach in 2002 and in 2006 I was named Louisiana Junior College Coach of the Year. 

That’s incredible. How did you handle being a 26-year-old in a job you didn’t feel prepared for? What happened between 2002 and 2006 to lead to that kind of success?
Having good players. I mean, we did a good job of recruiting and I prayed a lot. I would have headache after headache after headache…because when you’re that young and you don’t really know – it’s all just stress. I kept asking myself, “How am I going to get through this?” So I prayed about it. And I’ll tell you that the Lord answered my prayers at an early age.

And…I may break down and start crying right here. (Hi, reader. Communications Team here. Coach Bonner did start crying, and it was a wonderful moment of vulnerability and a beautiful display of an obvious, sincere faith. We wanted to make sure you experienced it too.) I wanted to coach college ball really bad. I prayed and prayed and prayed, and thought it probably wouldn’t happen. But it was answered at the age of 26. I always went to church when I was a kid, but when you ask for something it normally doesn’t happen that quick. This happened really quick and I knew it was odd for it to happen that fast. I called my parents and told them, “I finally got what I was praying for.” And my mom said, “Well, I’ve been praying for you too.” 

The last four years I was there I was the Athletic Director and the head basketball coach. We left Louisiana in 2009 to move back home to Arkansas. 

That transitions really nicely into our next question. From what we can tell, and from what you just expressed, faith is a really important aspect of your life. In what ways do you take your passion for God and bring it to coaching? 
I really know that you just have to believe in what you do. These guys have to believe they can get better as students, as athletes and as good people in general. How to raise a family, how to talk to people. I want to get them ready for success. 

You’re the head coach for the junior high boy’s basketball team and the assistant coach for the varsity team. What have you found is true for a coach no matter the age of the athletes? 
Every kid is different, and as a coach you have to figure out what motivates them and what doesn’t. You can fuss at some kids and get on to them and they’ll run through a brick wall for you. Other kids you have to grab them by the shoulder and hug them and say, “Come on, we can do this.” You have to know who you’re dealing with, no matter the age. When you’ve got 15 kids, you’ve got 15 personalities.

What is one thing you’ve learned in all your years as a coach? 
I’ve learned that you can never know enough about coaching. You can learn something every day – whether it’s from another coach or just someone in general. Always keep learning.

We’re so glad to have you at CAC! What factors played a part in your decision to work here? 
I wanted to be in a good situation, where the people were close-knit. I decided to pray for something that was a good fit for me. And since I’ve been here, it’s been the best fit. It’s just another blessing. 

The relationship between you and Coach Hall is fun to watch. How long have you known him? What is it like working side-by-side during the day and on the court?
Oh, I’ve known him for a long time. When he was playing college ball at Harding I would go back and watch. We’re like brothers. We talk crazy to each other and say crazy things, but at the end of the day we don’t mean it. Love that guy.

We were playing PA this season and Matt was yelling, trying to tell the boys to run a set but they just wouldn’t do it. Finally, we ran the set and we scored. Matt and I were sitting on the bench talking and he told me was going to call a timeout. I told him not to….of course he called it. He said to the guys, “We’ve been trying to run this play for two minutes and we finally scored.” After the timeout was over we sat on the bench together and I leaned over and told him, “Hey. You know I love you, but if you ever call a timeout like that again we’re gonna fight.”

It’s really great to see the connection between the junior high and varsity basketball teams. How do you approach coaching both?
We want the junior high guys to do the same thing as the high school guys. We want them to grow up doing the same things so they already know what to expect once they get to high school. During this season I’ve had to feel the guys out to see how they would respond to me. When you’re trying to feel your way through it’s a little tough to come on full force. But now that we’ve made it through this year…next year we’re going to get after it. 

What’s your hope for the CAC basketball program?
Well, Matt knows I dream big. So my hope is to get a state championship. I know people say, “Well, let’s just talk about the conference.” I don’t just talk about conference. When I talk about it, I talk about it big. A state championship is one of my goals.