Nine-hundred six wins, a lifetime of hoops memories and a name that has been forged into the halls among the greatest ever to stand courtside in the state of Louisiana.
That’s what Salmen coach Jay Carlin takes with him following the news of his pending retirement, which he announced Tuesday (May 21).
“I don’t know if there’s ever a right time or a ready time, but I am moving on to the next chapter,” he said.
“My daddy had me shooting when I was 5 years old, and the game has been a part of me ever since,” Carlin said. “As far back in life I can remember I have been involved in basketball as a player or a coach.”
Very shortly after the 2018-19 season ended – with a 47-45 loss at Plaquemine in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs – he began to seriously discuss the possibility of retirement. And for real this time, after seriously pondering the future on several occasions the past few years.
Then, “about a month ago,” he told his wife, Ramona, and later his three children, Jesse IV, Joshua and Jennifer (Babin), and eight grandchildren, it was time.
Carlin wraps up his career with a 906-336 record (a .729 winning percentage). With Salmen, he won the 4A state championship in 2009, was state runner-up following a miracle shot by Keytaon Thompson of Landry-Walker in 2015 and earned appearances in the semifinals in 1987, 2011 and with Chris Duhon in 1998 and 2000.
After starting his career as an assistant at his alma mater, Chalmette, Carlin was the head coach at South Lafourche from 1980-84 before taking over at Salmen as a 32-year old the following season, spending 35 years at the east St. Tammany Parish school.
His children graduated from Salmen, his son-in-law, Brian Babin is the head baseball coach there, and his youngest son, Joshua, has to be considered as one of the favorites to replace the courtside icon.
“Salmen has been family to us,” he said. “I kept saying, ‘one more year, one more year.’ At my age, you start thinking about other things you want to do. The days began to get a little longer, and when the season was over I really began to start thinking about (retiring).
“I am healthy enough to do all the things I want to do with my wife. I will still plan around the game and go to the ballpark and spend a lot of time with my grandkids. Who knows? A year from now, I might want to get back into coaching in some kind of way, but we’ll see. I’m not a handyman, and I don’t like sitting at home.”
It is beyond an understatement to say Carlin will be missed – not only at Salmen, but on the north shore and the state. Even when the Spartans aren’t in the state tournament, one can find the basketball icon in the stands or in the area where coaches, officials and sports writers congregate to eat in between games.
Jay Carlin always is around to share his memories and knowledge of the game, and one can bet there’s usually a crowd around him.
“I just remember the passion he had early on. I remember we would practice and then talk for an hour in the gym, and I come here tonight, and it’s the same passion 35 years later. That just blows me away,” current St. Tammany Parish public schools superintendent Trey Folse, who coached under Carlin early in his career, said in January. “The relationship he has with these kids is the same one he had with the kids from 34 or 35 years ago. There are skills I use every day that I learned by working with Jay Carlin. “He knows how to work with people and find their talents, and he is a master at that. He models everything we expect for a teacher, an educator, a coach, every day.”
It’s hard to know exactly where Carlin stands statistically among the best ever to coach in the New Orleans area, but he unquestionably is near the top. The winningest active coach in the state is Peabody’s Charles Smith with 1,038, and the state’s all-time leader is Joel Hawkins, who coached at Southern Lab and Lake Providence from 1965 to 2007, with 1,071.
“I have enjoyed every minute of the ride, and what I will miss most is seeing a kid developing from his ninth-grade year through being a 12th grader,” Carlin said. “(Ramona) said, ‘I’m glad to have you home full time,’ and I said, ‘We’ll see if you feel that way three or four months from now.
“I certainly have been blessed, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.”