Doyline, LA

The Bistineau Village Legend: Remembering Doyline Coach James Roach

Under The Radar NWLA
Coach James RoachShawn White

In the villages and towns around Northwest Louisiana each community has a local hero or legend. The village of Doyline lost one on August 6, 2022. “Coach” James Roach left this world and a heartbroken community of Doyline. The legendary coach took the Doyline Panthers to a state championship in 1967 and four state runner-ups. In his last season in 1995, the Panthers were state runner-up for the second year in a row. Coach had accumulated 865 wins in his three-decade career.

Growing up in Doyline, it’s hard not to know most everyone in the town. Coach had a remarkable career as head coach of the Doyline Panthers for over three decades. The Doyline Panthers lit it up on crowded home games on Tuesday and Friday nights. It would be standing room only when the chief rival Sibley Raiders would come to town. In Doyline, basketball was king and Coach Roach was our general. Players like Tommy Jo Eagles, Jimmy Stewart, and Jerry Walker went through his tutelage on the hard court. Whether we were an all district or all state player or a bench warmer (me here again) throughout our career, we all got the chance to learn under him. He gave us a passion for basketball. We may not have played beyond high school, but we carried on the character of a Doyline Panther basketball player. He was an inspiration for me to help grow another generation of ballers through our local church league.

I grew up with Coach’s family and my family together with fond memories. My grandparents and the Roaches were close family friends. I recall fish fries at their house on Lake Bisteneau. I recall one fond memory in later years with my grandmother, Fern White, when she called me to take her on a Sunday drive. I picked her up and we headed to Doyline from Sibley. We were going to visit. We drove to the Roach’s house on the lake. I asked my grandmother if had she called as we drove down the driveway and she said “no” and that we were just going to pop in. I was somewhat embarrassed and told her we couldn't do that. Coach and his wife Patsy Roach came to the door and told us to come on in and fixed a pot of coffee. Their family was always that welcoming and he remembered all former players whether great or not. My grandmother spoke of that day to her final days.

Many families around Doyline got to experience a father and son or even a mother and a daughter both playing for the Doyline legend. My father and I both played for him. Dad played on the 1967 state championship team and I played from 1988 to 1990. I have heard the folklore about the 1967 team and the greatness of Tommy Jo Eagles and how they slew the mighty Florein Blackcats in overtime all my life. My tenure we made it to the Top 24 at LSU in 1989 and ran into the state championship streak of the Zwolle Hawks. Each basketball alumni can tell you about their time with the Panthers and always have their own stories with Coach Roach. The basketball alumni all hold those precious memories of Coach. He tried to pull the best out of everyone and although we could listen and prosper, for some he still would try no matter how stubborn some of us (Shawn White here raising his hand) were. The one rule we all knew was not to pop gum on the bus trips. He drove us hard physically on the court, but it paid off during the season when the Doyline Panthers stepped into the gym. We were known to bring the fight.
Jerry Walker, James Roach, Mike NormandMichael Normand

Is it fair to assign the name legend to a person? It is when it is well deserved. James Roach touched the lives of so many that he coached and was a friend to many in the village of Doyline. The LHSAA Hall of Famer changed the lives of so many. He loved the game of basketball. Although he had been retired for many years, he still showed up for some Panther basketball games now and then to cheer them on. He celebrated the breaking of the 53 year state championship drought with Doyline’s current basketball coach Michael Normand in 2020. Coach Roach, I hope you know how much you meant to the hearts of your players and the village of Doyline.

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This website is dedicated to giving a light to high schools sports in the Class 2A-A-B-C and also leagues who don't get a lot of press coverage. I want to tell their untold stories. Focus area is NW Louisiana and help these stars get discovered

Bossier City, LA

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