Hammond, LA (WLOX) - Jay Artigues looks at the coaches surrounding him in the Southeastern Louisiana head coaches meeting in early February. The Lions' athletic director issues a pointed statement.
"We've had guys that were really good on the field and terrible in the classroom, they're not here any more," Artigues said. "We've had guys that were great in the classroom, terrible in competition, they're not here anymore. I've had a coach ask me, well do you want me to coach or do you want me to spend time and make sure they graduate? I want you to do both! If you can't do all three, then you can't do your job."
The fact that Artigues leads his department like a head coach leads his players should come as no surprise, considering his background.
"It's really different," Artigues told WLOX. "It wasn't something that I planned, it wasn't something that I sought after, it was something that was presented to me."
Artigues spent 21 years as a baseball coach, including eight as Southeastern's head man. All the while, the Bay St. Louis native never strayed from his roots: From his high school alma mater of St. Stanislaus, to his playing and coaching days in Poplarville.
"That was four of the best years of my life," Artigues said. "That was one of the funnest jobs I've ever had was at Pearl River."
Through it all, his Coast ties remained influential, even through the biggest promotion of his career, accepting the athletic director position in 2013.
"Do I miss (coaching)?" Artigues asked. "God, I miss it like crazy. I'd rather be in a dugout than sitting behind that desk. But, I really do enjoy it."
Upon taking over the SLU athletic department, Artigues set out to build a winning culture, and knew exactly who he needed on his team to do so.
"There was a lot of things that had to change here," Artigues said. "Number one, the mentality, number two, just the expectations here."
He promoted his Pearl River protege, who became the most successful head baseball coach in Southeastern history.
"I guess when you look at it like a dad, as a dad you can see it when you see your kids succeed," Artigues said with a smile. "But I'm not that old, it's not like he's my son - but watching Matt have the success he's had is awesome."
He hired a longtime St. Stanislaus head basketball coach that now has the Lions on the verge of their first conference championship in 13 years.
"Jay Ladner was one of the guys that I knew I wanted to target if this job came open," Artigues said. "He has all the qualities, you knew he was going to be successful, and he's a Rock-A-Chaw, so he can't help but be successful."
And - with the help of some friends from back home - Artigues has transformed the Lions into a winning athletic department. While he didn't necessarily set out to fill his department with Coast legends, it's paying dividends on and off the court.
"You got your personal family but you got your athletic family as well," Riser said. "That type of atmosphere that you're in on a daily basis, that type of environment, it encourages that culture to win championships."
"It makes it enjoyable to come to work," Ladner said. "You feel like you're a part of something bigger than yourself or your program."
"It's not a coincidence we did that," Artigues said. "Getting guys with the character that Jay has and what Matt has is why we're being successful, no question about it."
And, it's giving high school students on the Coast at least one more option when considering where to go for their collegiate careers.
"I think it was an un-tapped area when I was coming through high school to be honest with you," said Riser, a Picayune alum. "I didn't know a lot about Southeastern in all honesty. I knew it was a four-year school but had no idea about Hammond, had no idea about the campus and this is only an hour away from where I'm growing up from."
"Coach Artigues has changed the attitude and mindset of our athletic department," Ladner said. "All of our programs are doing extremely well, and then to have the Coast connection is really great. You're seeing Southeastern Louisiana, I think, make a strong imprint over on the Mississippi Gulf Coast."
"When I got this job, I wanted to make that a point to where we wanted to give the kids on the Coast a reason to want to be here," Artigues said. "We recruit the Mississippi Gulf Coast hard for many reasons. There's a lot of talent down there, tough, hard-nosed kids that are usually raised from great families, and that's the kind of people we want here at Southeastern."
In addition to being the Southeastern athletic director, Artigues is also a member of both the Pearl River Athletics Hall of Fame and the St. Stanislaus Great Wall of Rocks.