Rarely does a man leave his heart and soul in a community creating an effect that will be enjoyed for years after he’s left his earthly bonds.
But such seems to be the case with Vivian’s Dexter “Big D” Long, who died Wednesday after a short battle with COVID-19. The accolades for the founder of Vivian’s Biddy Ball program, which has brought unparalleled basketball success to the northern Caddo Parish community, started rolling in not long after he passed on.
“He was my mentor until the day he took his last breath, said Demario Thomas, who was taken under the Big D wing and taught about sports and life. “He was a fighter and I just knew that he would beat COVID-19. But God had other plans.”
North Caddo’s Dexter “Big D” Long with granddaughter. Long was the first assistant hired by former North Caddo boys basketball coach Ron Meikle when he took over the program, and the duo directed the then Rebels to a pair LHSAA championship games propelled by current Boston Celtic Robert Williams.
“Dexter Long is one of the best people I have ever been around in my life – ever,” said Meikle, now a scout for the New Orleans Pelicans. “He did a great job instilling pride and work ethic with our kids and he’s the reason we had so much success in basketball. He always came into the gym with a big smile on his face.”
Former North Caddo girls basketball coaches Rickey Evans and Angela Channell said Long’s passion for the youth of the Vivian area was unmatched.
Rickey Evans “He pretty much dedicated his whole life to bringing different programs and activities to keep them involved in positive things like sports,” Evans said. “He had a great influence on Robert Williams. He was actually the person responsible for talking his family into allowing him to stay in his hometown and attend North Caddo High School. His legacy will forever live on through the lives he’s impacted.”
Added Channell: “Mr. Long always looked after our kids even after graduation and would come to all of our games. He always wanted the best for our youth and wouldn’t stop helping promote or encourage our kids to fulfill their potential.”
North Caddo Middle School coach and summer program coordinator Fred Wilson knew Long for more than 40 years, recalling him as a standout athlete at North Caddo, then at ETBU.
“One of his greatest accomplishments was starting Biddy Ball. This program has created a dynasty of accomplishments for North Caddo middle and high schools,” Wilson said. “He was the assistant coach at the middle school when they won the first city championship in basketball. After he suffered a stroke, he didn’t stop helping young people through athletics, which builds confidence. That confidence has propelled many young people to achievements in their adult lives.”
Former North Caddo player and coach Dexter Long during his playing days. He compiled 1,145 points as a Rebel. Thomas was texting with Long last week while Long lay in his hospital bed battling the virus. Long talked about how proud he was of his grandsons, Kelvin and Kevion Black and Omarion Miller, who play football for the Titans, and granddaughter Karissa.
“Big D had a lot of respect for coach Johnny Kavanagh and coach Michael Rea of North Caddo High,” Thomas said. “They always say it takes a village to raise a child. Coach Long was a big part of the village in the North Caddo Area. Many people lost a family member or friend Wednesday morning. But I lost my mentor.”
– Melissa Martin, Louisiana