Former LU coach Leonard Drake passes away

GO CARDINALS Leonard Drake, 1954-2010
Leonard Drake, 1954-2010

Sept. 30, 2010

BEAUMONT, Texas - Leonard Drake, who served as associate head men's basketball coach and head women's basketball coach at Lamar University, died suddenly in Evansville, Ind., on Wednesday. He was 56 years old.

Drake was the associate head basketball coach for the Lamar men's team from 1997 until 2002, when he was named the head women's basketball coach at LU. In five seasons with the Lady Cardinals, he posted a 34-98 record. The Lady Cardinals were 13-17 in his final season (2006-2007).

"Leonard Drake was an outstanding coach and an outstanding person," said Larry Tidwell, Lamar's women's basketball coach and athletics director, who took over the reins of the Lady Cardinals following Drake's departure. "In following Leonard at Lamar, one could see he had the program headed in the right direction."

After Lamar, Drake spent three seasons as the assistant women's basketball coach at Eastern Michigan University. He had recently left Eastern Michigan to become the athletics director at Evansville Central High School in Evansville, Ind.

He was also the head men's coach at Central Michigan University (1993-97), an associate head men's basketball coach at Ball State University (1985-93), a head women's basketball coach at Xavier University of Louisiana (1984-85), an assistant men's basketball coach at Xavier (1979-85) and an assistant men's basketball coach at Central Michigan (1978-79).

While at Ball State, the Cardinals won 20 or more games six times. Ball State also won three MAC titles, appeared in four NCAA Tournaments and three National Invitation Tournaments, while notching three Top-25 rankings. Ball State's 1989-90 team lost 69-67 to eventual National Champion and No. 1-ranked UNLV in the 'Sweet 16' of the 1990 NCAA tournament.

Prior to his time in Muncie, Ind., Drake spent six years at Xavier University of Louisiana. As an assistant men's basketball coach he helped the Gold Rush post a 129-49 overall record, earn two trips to the NAIA National Tournament and win 20 games in four of six seasons.

Drake was a standout basketball player at Central Michigan where he completed his bachelor's degree in 1978 and his master's degree in 1983. He earned team MVP honors in 1976 and was team captain and named CMU "Athlete of the Year" in 1977.

Named to the CMU Athletics Hall of Fame Class in 2007, Drake ranked third in career scoring at the completion of his career and still ranks seventh with 1,338 points. He shot .878 (101-for-115) from the line in 1976, a mark that ranked third nationally that year. Drake also tallied 126 career steals which ranks eighth in school history and made two free throws with no time on the clock in CMU's 77-75 NCAA Tournament first-round victory over Georgetown in 1975.

A native of Chicago, Ill., Drake grew up in Niles, Mich. and graduated from Niles Brandywine High School in 1973. He was a first-team Class B All-State basketball player as a senior in 1973.

Drake is survived by his wife, Rhonda, a son, Jared (22) and a daughter, Enjoli (16).

"At Lamar, all of our thoughts and prayers are with Leonard's loved ones and friends," Tidwell said.

Funeral arrangements are still pending.




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