With his team competing at a championship level both on the floor and in the classroom, Bob Marlin enters his 11th season as head coach of the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns men’s basketball team in 2020-21.
Marlin, the 13th coach in the school’s storied history on the hardwood, has been the architect of a resurgence of the Ragin’ Cajuns as he led the team to five postseason appearances in a seven-year span, a school-record 27 wins in 2017-18 and a pair of Sun Belt Conference championships.
Entering the 2020-21 season, Marlin's 109 victories in Sun Belt Conference play are the most of the league's active coaches and is fourth overall behind Kermit Davis (Middle Tennessee), Ronnie Arrow (South Alabama) and the legendary Gene Bartow (UAB). Marlin's 413 victories at the Division I level are the sixth-most by a coach who has spent his entire career at the mid-major level and part of a group that includes Mark Few (Gonzaga), Bob McKillop (Davidson), Gregg Marshall (Wichita State) and Randy Bennett (Saint Mary's).
The 2017-18 season was a record-breaking year for the Ragin’ Cajuns as Louisiana won a school-record 27 games and earned its first outright Sun Belt Conference regular-season title since the 1999-2000 season. With a veteran team that included first-team All-Sun Belt Conference players Frank Bartley and Bryce Washington, the Ragin’ Cajuns won 20 of 22 games from December through February while dominating the league statistics, finishing as the league leader in 10 categories, including scoring offense (83.2), field goal percentage (.464), free throw percentage (.761) and assists (17.4).
The historic season for the Ragin’ Cajuns began just three months before the official tipoff as the team took its second foreign trip in school history with a week-long visit to Cuba. The seven-day trip to the island nation provided the team an opportunity to play three games against the veteran Cuban National Team while also developing a strong team bond.
The results would pay off as Louisiana opened the first month of the season with five wins in its first seven games, highlighted by a near wire-to-wire win over Big 10 opponent Iowa in first game of the inaugural Cayman Islands Classic. The Ragin’ Cajuns would finish third overall in the eight-team tournament, capping the trip with a win over 2017 NIT participant Richmond.
Newcomer JaKeenan Gant, one of three transfers on the 2017-18 team, made an immediate impact for Louisiana as he was named the Sun Belt Conference Newcomer and Defensive Player of the Year. The transfer from Missouri gave the Ragin’ Cajuns a dominant rim protector as he led the league in blocked shots while finishing among the SBC leaders in scoring and rebounds.
Washington, one of three captains on the team along with Bartley and Johnathan Stove, finished his career as one of four players in both Ragin’ Cajuns and Sun Belt Conference history to score 1,000 career points and grab 1,000 career rebounds.
Bartley, who played his final two seasons for the Ragin’ Cajuns after spending two seasons at BYU, followed a solid 2016-17 season by leading the team in scoring (17.8 ppg.) while becoming the 47th player in school history to reach the 1,000-point mark. Bartley joined Washington and Stove in the Ragin’ Cajuns 1,000-point club, becoming the second trio during Marlin’s tenure to achieve the feat in the same season.
With the loss of Bartley, Stove and Washington after the 2017-18 season, and the loss of swingman Malik Marquetti to injury prior to Louisiana's 2018-19 Sun Belt opener, Marlin guided a youthful Ragin' Cajuns squad to a 19-13 record and 10-8 mark in league play. With Gant and fellow senior Marcus Stroman picking up the slack, Louisiana finished second in the league in scoring. Gant, who was named the league's Defensive Player of the Year for a second consecutive season, led the Sun Belt Conference in both rebounds and blocked shots while finishing second overall in field goal percentage and third in scoring.
Stroman, who picked up his scoring prowess with five 20-point games during the season, led the Sun Belt Conference in assists and became the first Ragin' Cajuns floor general to ever produce two seasons with 200 or more assists.
Paced by Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year Jay Wright, along with Washington, Louisiana finished the 2016-17 season with a 21-12 record while ranking among the national leaders in scoring offense (19th, 81.9), rebound margin (26th, +5.6) and offensive rebounds per game (14th, 13.39).
Wright, who became the 44th player in school history to reach the 1,000-point mark in scoring, finished among the national leaders in total steals (24th, 65) and steals per game (32nd, 1.97). Washington asserted himself as one of the nation's top dual threats, finishing as the only player in the Sun Belt Conference to average a double-double (13.5 points, 11.2 rebounds) while ranking in the top-10 nationally in offensive rebounds per game (5th, 4.00), double-doubles (6th, 22), rebounds per game (7th, 11.2) and total rebounds (8th, 369).
Joined by Bartley, the 2017 Sun Belt Conference Newcomer of the Year, the Ragin' Cajuns posted winning streaks of eight and seven games during the season and recorded with its most road victories (8) since the 1999-2000 season.
The 2016-17 campaign would see an upgrade to the Cajundome as $21 million in renovations were completed just after Thanksgiving with the Ragin' Cajuns winning nine games on its new "Swamp" floor depicting campus landmark Cypress Lake.
Led by Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year Shawn Long, the Ragin’ Cajuns finished the 2015-16 season with a 19-15 record under Marlin and advanced to the quarterfinals of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament for the second consecutive year. Long finished an illustrious career as the UL and Sun Belt Conference all-time leader in rebounds (1,447) and finished second in SBC history in both points (2,342) blocked shots (273).
Long, who would average a double-double during his UL career, finished 12th in NCAA history in career double-doubles (75) and became the seventh player in NCAA history to score at 2,300 points while grabbing 1,400 rebounds.
Four-year letterwinner Steven Wronkoski finished his career as the Ragin’ Cajuns all-time leader in games played (136) while Kasey Shepherd became the 43rd player in school history to reach the 1,000-point mark.
Marlin and the Ragin’ Cajuns opened the season by winning their first 11 games in the friendly confines of the Cajundome – the best start since moving into the facility in 1985 –and added a nine-game win streak in Sun Belt Conference play. While Long led the league in scoring, rebounds and blocked shots, Washington paced the SBC in field goal percentage (.590) and Shepherd made 83 of 94 free throws (.883) to lead the conference.
With a 22-14 record in 2014-15, Marlin helped lead the Ragin’ Cajuns to the quarterfinals of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. Led by Long, a first-team all-Sun Belt Conference selection, Lou Henson All-American and 2015 member of the U.S. Pan American men’s basketball team, Marlin’s squad averaged 77.5 points per game to rank 16th among all NCAA Division I programs.
Marlin spent the first three seasons building the foundation of the program and setting the tone for future development before the Ragin’ Cajuns broke through the barrier, claiming its first official NCAA Tournament appearance since 2000 after sweeping their way to three wins at the 2014 Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship in a dramatic 38-hour span.
The Ragin’ Cajuns finished with 23 wins during the 2013-14 season, their most since the 1983-84 campaign and tied for the second most in program history. The season included the stellar play of point guard Elfrid Payton, who would be named the Lefty Driesell Defensive Player of the Year and would eventually become the 10th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft as an underclassman.
Payton, who was drafted by the Philadelphia 76er’s before being traded to the Orlando Magic on draft day, became the 20th Ragin’ Cajun to be selected in the NBA Draft and the first taken in the first round since Kevin Brooks in 1991.
Long joined Payton on the all-Sun Belt Conference first team, while Bryant Mbamalu and Xavian Rimmer each earned individual honors in being named to the SBC Tournament all-tournament team, with Mbamalu earning tournament MVP honors after averaging 18.3 points and helping the Cajuns to wins over UT Arlington, second-seeded Western Kentucky and top-seeded Georgia State.
The 2013-14 season included a number of other program watermarks, including winning the EA Sports Maui on the Mainland Tournament and the most wins in the Cajundome (13) in the last 23 years. The team also made and attempted more foul shots than any season in the last 42 years of the program. The Cajuns’ 246 three-point buckets were the most in 17 years. The Ragin' Cajuns 81.0 scoring average led the Sun Belt Conference and was 14th nationally among all Division I programs.
Marlin, whose Division I teams have consistently finished in the top three of the conference standings in 16 of 27 years along with a top four finish in 20 of 27 seasons, begins the year with a 413-274 record in 22 seasons as a Division I head coach, including a 188-143 mark at Louisiana. When you add in his 123 wins in five seasons at Pensacola Junior College, Marlin owns a 27-year head coaching record of 536-309 (.634).
In his first two seasons in Lafayette, Marlin guided the Cajuns to 21 Sun Belt Conference victories, the second-highest total in the league during that period. Louisiana went 16-16 in 2011-12, the most wins in for the Cajuns since 2002-03, advancing to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. It marked the first post-season appearance for the Cajuns since 2003 and the first played on campus since 1985.
With a history of success in the final leg of the season dating back to his coaching days at Sam Houston State, Marlin took a young squad in 2012-13 that had just four returning lettermen and one starter and molded them into a program that would soon taste the success of a championship.
Overcoming a season that saw the Ragin’ Cajuns drop nine games by five points or less, Marlin’s squad rebounded in February, posting a 6-5 mark that included a 19-point win over North Texas in the opening round of the Sun Belt Conference Championships – the Ragin’ Cajuns first win in the league tournament in a span of seven games dating back to 2004-05. The other four trips to the SBC Tournament saw Marlin's teams receive a first-round bye.
The result of Marlin’s coaching would then lead to a banner summer for the Cajuns.
Payton emerged during the season as one of the top players in the Sun Belt by earning first team all-league honors. Then, during the spring and summer, Payton elevated his game further, proving himself capable of playing with the nation’s best players after helping Team USA to a gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Championship.
Long earned Sun Belt Freshman of the Year honors after becoming the third Cajun to average a double-double for an entire season.
Just before the start of classes in August, Marlin took the Ragin’ Cajuns overseas, going 4-0 during an 11-day tour of Spain. It was the first time that the team had made a foreign tour, with the trip further cementing the bond amongst the team members.
The 2013-14 season was a memorable one for the Ragin’ Cajuns, that included a pair of wins in the EA Sports Maui on the Mainland Tournament, along with non-conference wins over McNeese State, Northwestern State, Houston and Louisiana Tech, handing the Bulldogs their only loss in Ruston during the season. For his efforts, Marlin was named Coach of the Year by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association with Payton being named the state’s top player.
And after an early struggle in January that saw the Cajuns open Sun Belt Conference action with a 3-5 record, the team turned its fortunes around with Marlin at the helm during the final month and a half of play.
A dominating win at home over ULM to open the month of February, coupled with thrilling road victories at UT Arlington and Texas State, propelled the Ragin’ Cajuns to a six-game win streak and 11 wins over their final 14 games. A seven-point deficit with just under two minutes to play in the regular-season finale at Arkansas State wasn’t too big for the Ragin’ Cajuns to overcome as Payton scored the final eight points of the game and helped Louisiana secure its first 20-win season in over a decade and the No. 3 seed in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.
After a victory over UTA in the opening round at New Orleans’ Lakefront Arena, the Ragin’ Cajuns would use a late rally to knock off WKU – the two-time defending champion – in the semifinals before rallying from a nine-point deficit against Georgia State with just over three minutes remaining to force overtime and eventually pull out an 82-81 overtime thriller.
Marlin took over the Ragin’ Cajuns program on March 29, 2010, inheriting a program that had a rich tradition of basketball success and had fallen on hard times. Marlin’s process was accelerated in his first season by rattling off 11 straight wins, the nation’s longest active streak at the time.
For Marlin, the win streak matched the 11-game stretch that he opened Southland Conference play with in his final season at Sam Houston in 2009-10.
His first Cajun team hung a banner for the Western Division championship and the Cajun Nation was soon electrified.
“Our first season was one of the most exciting season’s I have been a part of,” Marlin said. “The way our community got behind our team and helped create a tremendous atmosphere at the Cajundome was phenomenal. It was just a glimpse of what this program can do in the future.”
Fans have shown their support of the Ragin' Cajuns during Marlin's tenure in Lafayette, helping Louisiana lead the Sun Belt Conference in attendance seven times in 10 years (2010-11, 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20). During the 2013-14 year, Louisiana ranked second in the Sun Belt Conference in average attendance.
A passionate Ragin’ Cajun fan base immediately responded to the success on the court as Louisiana led the Sun Belt in attendance during the 2010-11 season averaging nearly 4,000 per game during the season, with a league-high average of over 4,700 fans per game attending during SBC play. A crowd of 8,066 for the 2010-11 home finale against league rival Denver was the third-largest in the Cajundome in almost a decade.
The Cajuns followed up the magical 2010-11 season with Marlin’s process in full swing. The 2011-12 squad showed tremendous improvement and finished the regular season with the first winning campaign in five years. Louisiana hosted a postseason game in the Cajundome for the first time ever, facing Rice in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
Marlin’s players have also performed well in the classroom since he took over the reins of the program in 2010. After inheriting a program that produced a cumulative GPA of 2.1 during the previous academic year, Marlin and his staff immediately worked with the team in improving in that area.
The success in the classroom was almost instantaneous as the Cajuns posted a 2.487 GPA in the Fall 2010 semester and 2.641 GPA in the spring of 2011 – the first of eight straight semesters that the team would a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or above.
The Ragin’ Cajuns would post a program record 3.432 team GPA during the Spring 2020 semester, shattering the old mark (2.904) set in the spring of 2013. Since Louisiana began tracking student-athlete academic accomplishments in 1982, the top four semester GPAs and eight of the top 10 have come under Marlin’s watch.
During Marlin’s tenure at UL, 36 players have been named to either the Sun Belt Conference Academic Honor Roll or the Sun Belt Commissioner’s List.
The success so far at Louisiana is no surprise as Marlin, and his players, have won at every level - both on the court and in the classroom - that he has coached. During Marlin's 22-year tenure as a Division I head coach, 75 of 86 seniors (87.2 percent) have gone on to earn their respective degree, including 25 of 30 who have earned their degree since Marlin's arrival in Lafayette. Of the 11 players who did not earn a degree, nine went on to pursue a professional basketball career with one currently is in school to finish his degree.
As a head coach, Marlin has coached two NBA draft choices, a NJCAA National Player of the Year, one NJCAA Student-Athlete of the Year, eight All-Americans, three conference players of the year, four league newcomers of the year, two freshmen of the year, three league student-athletes of the year, 51 all-conference selections, four academic All-Americans, and 71 academic all-conference student-athletes.
During Marlin's 27-year tenure as a head coach, that includes three trips to the NCAA Tournament, his teams have employed a fast-paced style of basketball that has averaged 78.3 points per game during that span. His teams have averaged over 70 points per game 25 of the 27 years and have recorded eight scoring titles at the Division I level, including six straight SBC scoring titles.
At Sam Houston State (225-131; 12 seasons)
• Southland Conference Coach of the Decade (2000-10)
• 2010 Skip Prosser Man of the Year (sponsored by CollegeInsider.com)
• 2010 NABC District 23 Coach of the Year
• Southland Coach of the Year (2000, 2003, 2010)
• NCAA Tournament Qualifier (2003, 2010)
• Southland Conference Championships (2000, 2003, 2010)
• Southland Conference Tournament Championships (2003, 2010)
Marlin came to Louisiana after being the winningest coach in Sam Houston State history, compiling a 225-131 record from 1998-2010 that including winning records in 10 seasons of the 12 seasons.
The winningest coach in the Southland Conference during his tenure, he won 20 or more games six times and winning three regular season and two league tournament titles. He was named the Southland Conference Coach of the Year three times (2000, 2003 & 2010) and was the Southland Coach of the Decade (2000-10).
Before leaving Huntsville for Lafayette in 2010, Marlin ranked second behind one of his mentors – former ULM coach Mike Vining – among all Southland Conference coaches with 225 victories. Currently second in SLC history in average wins per season (20.4), Marlin’s .632 winning percentage with the Bearkats is the ninth-best in the league’s illustrious history, while he is one of just four coaches to win 200 or more games in the league.
Home court advantage is something Marlin took to a new level at SHSU. The Bearkats were an astonishing 134-29 (.822) in Marlin’s tenure, including a 45-game non-conference home win streak over 10 seasons that ranked second nationally behind only Duke.
Marlin’s process has been proven to build programs to new heights. SHSU had never won more than 10 games at the Division I level before Marlin’s arrival. In just his second year in 1999-2000, Marlin guided the Bearkats to a 22-7 record and their first ever Southland Conference Championship.
From 2000 until his departure in 2010, SHSU ranked second among the 20 Division I schools in Texas with 215 victories and .651 winning percentage under Marlin.
The Bearkats’ 12-1 non-conference record in 2007-08 was the school’s best non-conference record at the NCAA Division I level in history and equaled the most regular season non-conference wins for a Southland Conference team since 1991. During the team’s 10-0 start, SHSU received votes in the Associated Press national top 25 for the first time.
From the 2004-05 season until his departure in 2010, Marlin’s teams won a minimum of 18 games each year, recorded four 20-win seasons and never finished lower than third place in the Southland Conference standings.
Marlin saved his best season for last in Huntsville, setting a school record for victories with a 25-8 mark, including a 13-1 record at home and winning the Southland Conference title with a 14-2 record. The Bearkats defeated Nicholls State, Southeastern Louisiana and archrival Stephen F. Austin to claim the Southland tournament title, advancing to face Baylor in the opening round of the NCAA Championship. For his efforts, he was named the 2010 District 23 NABC Coach of the Year and the Skip Prosser Man of the Year.
Marlins’ team succeeded in the classroom as well. Seven players earned Academic All-Southland honors a total of 17 times over his final five seasons, including three consecutive SLC Men’s Basketball Student-Athletes of the Year (Ryan Bright in 2007 and 2008 and Barkley Falkner in 2009).
At Pensacola Junior College (123-35; 5 seasons)
• 1993 NJCAA National Championship
• 1993 NJCAA National Coach of the Year
• 1993 NABC, Basketball Times, Basketball Weekly Coach of the Year
• 1993 Region 8 Coach of the Year
• 2019 Inductee into PSC Athletics Hall of Fame
• Won 88 percent of home games (73-10) during five-year tenure
• Coached Anthony Goldwire, an eventual second-round pick by the Phoenix Suns in the 1994 NBA Draft
• Coached 1993 NJCAA Player of the Year Paul O'Liney
• Coached 1994 NJCAA Student-Athlete of the Year Eddie Samuel
With nine years of experience on his resume, Marlin left Marshall to claim his first head coaching position, taking over at Pensacola Junior College (now Pensacola State College) in 1990. The results were immediate in the Florida Panhandle as he guided the Pirates to a 123-35 record in five seasons. He was named the 1993 National Junior College Coach of the Year after directing PJC to a 31-5 record and the NJCAA National Championship.
His teams at PJC were ranked in the top-20 of the JUCO national polls at some point in each season, while winning 88 percent (73-10) of their home games during that span.
Marlin was inducted into the Florida Junior College Hall of Fame in March, 2007, and was inducted into the inaugural PSC Hall of Fame in 2019.
Prior To Being A Head Coach
Marlin began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at ULM from 1981-83 under Louisiana Hall of Fame coach Mike Vining. He served as an assistant coach on the junior varsity team and was a graduate assistant for the 1981-82 ULM squad that won the Trans America Athletic Conference championship and earned an NCAA post-season tournament berth. During ULM's transition to the Southland Conference in the 1982-83 season, Marlin coached the junior varsity team while coordinating scouting.
Marlin left Monroe in 1983 to start a six-year tenure as assistant coach for Gene Iba and Tommy Jones at Houston Baptist. During his time in Houston, the Huskies earned an NCAA Division I tournament berth in 1984 and finished among the top three teams in the Trans America Athletic Conference four times. During the 1983-84 season, the Huskies led the nation in field goal percentage, shooting 55.2 percent from the floor - a mark ranks as the 10th-best all-time in NCAA history.
Marlin moved to Marshall for the 1989-90 season, working for head coach Dana Altman and helping the Thundering Herd to a second-place finish in the Southern Conference.
After finishing at PJC, Marlin returned to the NCAA Division I level, serving as assistant coach at Alabama under David Hobbs from 1995-98. Also on Hobbs’ staff on the Capstone was current Ragin’ Cajuns Director of Basketball Operations Mike Murphy.
In his stay in Tuscaloosa, Marlin would help lead the Crimson Tide to the 1996 National Invitation Tournament, where Alabama would advance to the semifinals at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
A native of Tupelo, Miss., Marlin received his bachelor’s degree in physical education from Mississippi State in 1981 and later earned a master’s degree in health and physical education with a minor in guidance and counseling from Northeast Louisiana (now ULM) in 1983.
During the 2014-15 season, Marlin served as president of the Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches (LABC).
Marlin is married to the former Jennifer Murray and he has two children, son Matt, a 2015-16 member of the UL men's basketball team, and stepdaughter Saylor.