NEW ORLEANS — Leonard Drake, who spent the early part of his basketball coaching career at Xavier University of Louisiana, died last week (Sept. 29, 2010) in Evansville, Ind. He was 56 years old.
Drake, a Chicago native and a graduate of Brandywine High School (Niles, Mich.) and Central Michigan University, was a men’s assistant at Xavier from 1979-85 and the head coach of XU’s women in 1984-85. The Gold Nuggets were 13-16 that season, including victories against Nicholls State and Southeastern Louisiana.
“Coach Drake was the John Wooden of my collegiate basketball experience,” said XU women’s associate head coach Darrilyn Broussard, who played in all 29 games for Drake in 1984-85 as Darrilyn Prevost. “He wasn’t that in-your-face type of coach but was more of a philosophical coach who taught his players the game of life and basketball — not only through the words he said but by the words he lived by. Coach was truly a gentle man and a great friend.”
As an assistant for six seasons under men’s coach Denny Alexander, the Gold Rush compiled a 129-39 record and appeared in the NAIA National Championship in 1981 and 1982. Xavier’s 1981-82 team was 29-2 and won 29 consecutive games, and the 1983-84 team was 27-5.
Drake also served Xavier as athletic ticket manager, a physical education instructor and a women’s assistant coach.
“They don’t come any better than Leonard Drake,” said Tyronne Waivers, who played point guard for XU from 1979-83. “He was honest, loyal, genuine and dedicated. He was the epitome of consistency. He was a dedicated father. If I become half the person he was, I’d be proud of myself.
“As an assistant coach he was excellent at interceding between Coach Alexander and the players. He would show the players the forest when all we could see were the trees.”
Drake spent 32 seasons as a collegiate coach. He was the men’s head coach at Central Michigan from 1993-97 and the women’s head coach at Lamar University from 2002-07. The past three seasons he was a men’s assistant at Eastern Michigan University. He also was a men’s assistant at Central Michigan, Ball State University and Lamar.
Drake during the summer became the athletics director at Evansville’s Central High School after coaching in more than 900 collegiate games.
In 2007 Drake was inducted into the Central Michigan Athletics Hall of Fame as a student-athlete. Drake is No. 8 in CMU men’s basketball history with 1,338 points scored, and he made two free throws with no time remaining in CMU’s 77-75 victory over Georgetown in the first round of the 1975 NCAA Tournament. Drake received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from CMU.
Survivors include his wife, Rhonda; a son, Jared; a daughter, Enjoli; and five brothers. Drake’s funeral and burial were Tuesday in South Bend, Ind.