The voice of USF Athletics routinely puts down his radio headset and picks up the pen to share his perspective on the history of USF Athletics.
Louk has been broadcasting games for 30 years and is the resident historian in the Athletics Department hallways.
Voice of the USF Bulls
TAMPA - In the summer of 1986, the Bulls needed a new basketball coach.
Lee Rose had departed after the 1985-86 season, ending his six-year run at USF, and now it was late summer. Time was getting short. A hire had to be made, but it had to be the right hire.
Athletic Director Paul Griffin found his man in the state of Louisiana. Bobby Paschal had taken the Rajin’ Cajuns of Southwest Louisiana to two NCAA Tournament appearances, and he had done so in part by finding players in USF’s backyard.
“He had recruited very effectively in Georgia and Florida”, says Griffin. “That indicated he was able to recruit in areas that were very important to South Florida.”
So Bobby Paschal and his staff moved from Lafayette, La., to Tampa, and began a 10-year run with USF Basketball.
“It was a big move for all of us,” says Dennis Donaldson, who spent 1986 to 1996 at USF on Paschal’s staff. “We had established ourselves in Lafayette. But it was a good opportunity, a chance to join a good institution and build a program.”
With the 1986-87 season around the corner, Paschal and his staff set out to change the culture of the USF program. Results were not immediate. His first three teams went a combined 21-63, but Griffin’s support never wavered.
“I was very much aware of the rebuilding challenge that was in place and the time it was going to take to get that ship righted”, recalls Griffin. “We afforded Bobby and his staff the time necessary to do so and we were rewarded for our patience.”
“He was really climbing uphill for the first few years,” recalls Tommy Tonelli, a former USF player and assistant coach on Paschal’s staff. “He had a lot to fix; he had to completely change the culture. He was laying a foundation in those years for doing things the right way. Nothing meant more to him than establishing that.”
“Our goal was to build a program, not just a team,” says Paschal. “Success on the floor always comes last. But we knew the right things were being done. We felt confident we were going to see that success and we were fortunate to have an athletic director who believed in what we were doing.”
Things turned around in dramatic fashion, as the Bulls won three straight games in Birmingham, Ala., in March of 1990 to win the Sun Belt Tournament Championship and capture the program’s first NCAA bid, a stunning turnaround for a team that hadn’t won 10 games the previous year.
For Paschal, who had been to the tournament before, the joy was in seeing his players experience it for the first time. “When you get in the NCAA Tournament,” says Paschal, “no matter what you think or dream it will be like, it’s a thousand times better.”
After an NIT season the following year, the Bulls returned to the NCAA Tournament, capturing their first at-large bid, an 11 seed, sending them to Boise, Idaho to play Georgetown. To this day, the 11 seed is the highest a USF Basketball team has ever achieved.
“To get that at-large bid might have been even more significant than getting in as a conference champion,” recalls Paschal. “It showed a lot of respect for the program.”
Paschal would coach four more seasons at USF, including 1994-95, when he took his team to the Elite 8 of the NIT. Following his retirement as a coach in 1996, he stayed with the department for eight more years in an administrative role. His four trips to the postseason (two NCAA, two NIT) remain the most for any USF men’s basketball coach.
“It was pretty simple,” says Tonelli, now the head coach at Wharton High School. “He laid out his expectations. He made it clear and specific. He was very upfront and very honest even before a ball bounced, to let the players know what he expected both on and off the court.”
During his tenure, he coached two USF Hall of Famers, and made a significant impression on both.
“Bobby Paschal taught me the most basic things that you can apply to anything in life, not just basketball. Pay attention to details. Work hard,” says Radenko Dobras, who played for Paschal from 1989-92. “With his enthusiasm and his approach, he made you work hard.”
“He taught me that hard work pays off,” says Chucky Atkins, a Bull from 1993 to 1996. “He pushed me every day to be a better player. He was more than a basketball coach to a lot of young men. He was a father figure to all of us. You never had to guess what was on his mind. I love him to this day.”
Paschal has been in a unique position to watch two of his former players join the Hall. Now, 2013 is his year.
“It’s humbling. That’s the word that comes to my mind,” says Paschal. “It’s a tremendous honor that I would only accept by sharing it with the staff, players and everyone inside and outside the athletic department that played a role in helping us accomplish the things that we did.”
Bobby Paschal will join Chris Heintz, Dayana Octavien and Marquel Blackwell as new members of the USF Hall of Fame on Sept. 27. For tickets, call (813) 974-6729.
Follow Jim Louk on twitter @usfjimlouk
To tour the USF Audio Archives, go to www.mybullsclub.com
The voice of the Bulls, Jim Louk, offers his perspective of USF Athletics, both past and present.
For 30 years, Jim Louk has been the voice of USF Athletics.
Louk came to USF in 1983 as the radio play-by-play announcer for the USF men's basketball team and served as the lead voice until the conclusion of the 1996-97 season. He then made the transition to football in USF's inaugural 1997 campaign, and still serves as the team's play-by-play announcer today. Louk will come into the 2013 football season having broadcast every Bulls football game in history - a span of 189 games.
He has handled USF TV play by play broadcasts on SportsChannel, Fox Sports Florida, and Brighthouse Sports Network. His career includes over 1,500 play by play broadcasts of USF events, including football, men's and women's basketball, baseball, softball, men's and women's soccer and volleyball.
This series of articles for GoUSFBulls.com began in 2010.
A native of Rochester, N.Y., Louk is a 1979 graduate of the University of Bridgeport where he earned a bachelor's degree in journalism. Louk and his wife Barbara reside in Lutz. Their son Ross is a senior in college.