Assigned Reading: The life, mysterious death of a former Division I head coach

3 Comments

At one point in his career Jason Rabedeaux was viewed by many as a rising star in the coaching profession. Spending one season at North Adams State before joining Kelvin Sampson at Washington State in 1989, Rabedeaux worked 11 seasons under Sampson at Washington State and Oklahoma before getting his shot to run a program at UTEP in 1999.

That was one of the many aspects of Rabedeax’s life, which came to an end last September, that Wright Thompson of ESPN.com touched on in his profile of the late coach.

In 1999, a young man, just 35, he’d been hired as the head coach at UTEP, replacing the legendary Don Haskins. By 2001, he was named Western Athletic Conference coach of the year. “He had the world by the balls,” says his former assistant and best friend, Bobby Champagne, now head coach at North Alabama. “He had a house up on the hill and two country club memberships. A wife and two kids and another on the way.”

Then he started losing. He began drinking heavily, to manage the stress, and started to take advantage of his celebrity. Champagne knew something was wrong when Rabedeaux missed a flight to visit a recruit; he got drunk at a bar near the airport instead.

There was a four-year stint at Marquette as an assistant a couple years later, but personal demons led to that opportunity being lost as well. Ultimately Rabedeaux wound up coaching in Saigon, which is where his life came to a tragic end. Thompson’s story about Rabedeaux’s life and struggles can be read here.