Former ESJ coach excited to take Tigers basketball in new direction
Newly hired Hahnville head boys basketball coach Yussef Jasmine is a man who knows what it takes to find success.During his playing days, Jasmine starred at Loyola University, putting together a career that resulted in his being named to the school’s athletic Hall of Fame — alongside fellow former Wolfpack alumnus Brian Lumar, Hahnville principal. And as head coach of East St. John for 10 seasons, he established a tradition of winning: Jasmine led the Wildcats to the first outright district championship in school history. He also led East St. John to the most single-season wins in school history (24), that milestone achieved in 2012.
Now, he’ll attempt to establish a former rival in Hahnville as one of the state’s top programs. The Tigers have seen five different head coaches pass through over the past six seasons and have failed to qualify for the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, something Jasmine hopes to quickly rectify.
“I’ve always felt that Hahnville, Destrehan, East St. John, the talent is there,” Jasmine said. “I know they’re hungry for success, not just the kids, but the parents and the community as a whole. I’m excited to have the opportunity to bring Hahnville to the top of the district.”
No doubt Jasmine’s six district championships in his 10 seasons stuck out to HHS decision-makers, including Lumar, as the Tigers and Wildcats have been joined at the hip for years in district competition. Lumar, who led Hahnville to a Class 5A state championship game appearance as head coach in 2009, has matched wits with Jasmine as coaches at the high school level. Both are alumni of Loyola and also both attended Shaw.
Jasmine is succeeding former HHS coach Rick Spring, who resigned after two years with the school. Jasmine said he learned Spring was stepping down after receiving a text from a fellow coach as he was teaching class at East St. John. Soon after, he had a conversation with his old friend Lumar, who asked Jasmine if he knew anyone who would be interested in the new opening.
“He told me he knew I was comfortable at East St. John, being there for 13 (total) years and having success,” Jasmine said. “And at first, I honestly dismissed the thought entirely. But it just stick with me. And the next time we talked, I told him I was interested in exploring the opportunity.”
That led to a visit to Hahnville’s campus, and even then, Jasmine still largely expected to be returning to East St. John for the coming school year. But the visit made a major impression upon him.
“I was honestly looking for reservations, because I had been so happy at East St. John,” Jasmine said. “So I thought, ‘Lord, if this is what you want from me, show me.’ And every question I had was answered, and I was treated like royalty.”
The pride the people of Hahnville had in their school made the biggest impression, he said.
“There are a lot of workers here who were Hahnville graduates,” he said. “The superintendent is a Hahnville graduate. There’s a lot of pride in the school and St. Charles Parish as a whole.”
Jasmine said it was tough to break the news to his former players at ESJ, who he had developed strong relationships with. Developing that kind of relationship with his new players is his first order of business, with the next being to start the process of developing a winning mentality.
“We can’t have a losing mentality,” he said. “And I don’t say that as a slap in the face, but it takes time to develop. At East St. John, if we’re in a tough game, our mentality is we’re gonna win. Here, it might be more, ‘oh, I don’t want to lose.’ So building that mentality will be key.”
He said having a strong staff of assistant coaches will make the transition easier. Erica Randolph makes the jump from East St. John along with Jasmine, while he has already developed a good rapport with Kendall Pierre and Skylar Houston.
“As a young coach, you think you’re Superman, but in actuality, it never happens like that,” Jasmine said. “You have to have a group. The staff I have, they understand that part of it and I’ve got trust in them to get the things we need to do done.”
Establishing his team as a strong, consistent defensive squad is another focal point. Hahnville’s up-tempo offense of the past two seasons under Spring will be scaled back in some ways — Jasmine says his team will look to run and take advantage of his players’ athleticism, but the team will pick its spots.
Jasmine went 98-51 at East St. John, and in the last six seasons, his teams lost just 10 district games. In a bit of poetic symmetry, Jasmine was promoted at ESJ in 2007 after the departure of then-head coach Charles Julien, for whom Jasmine served under as assistant coach; Julien recently agreed to return to ESJ as its new head coach, succeeding the man who was his own successor.
Jasmine is excited to introduce himself to the Hahnville/Destrehan rivalry—the two teams lock horns Jan. 3 to open district play. He’s also done his fair share of thinking about his eventual return to Reserve to face his former team, a night that will clearly carry some emotional weight with him.
“I just visualize that game, on the road, in another locker room, the visitor’s side,” Jasmine said. “For 13 years, it’s where I’ve been. I know all the people there. Coach Charles, obviously, I learned a lot as an assistant under him.”
“But I know I’ll be locked in. I have to be 100 percent zoned in,” Jasmine said. “I can’t be distracted, because when the game gets tight, my kids need that from me and I’ll expect the same from them.