St. Thomas More turns reigns of girls’ basketball program to former LSU guard Jeanne Kenney

by William Weathers // GeauxPreps Contributor

Jeanne Kenney was enjoying her second coaching stint at her alma mater, St. Michael the Archangel, so much the former LSU point guard didn’t have any plans to leave home.

Then she received a text message from a former coach concerning an opening at St. Thomas More in Lafayette where 12-year veteran Stephen Strojny announced in February plans to retire from coaching at the end of the 2023-24 season.

Kenney was back at St. Michael, the place where she had twice been previously named District 6-4A Coach of the Year, and with a younger team this time around, hadn’t reached the same level of success on the floor. She was still in her element of impacting and shaping young minds so they could become productive citizens one day.

“I wasn’t looking to leave,” Kenney said. “I had returned to St. Michael’s from college. It was a great platform to impact young lives and build my confidence as a head coach and teacher. God blessed me with the ability to play basketball.”

St. Thomas More features one of the state’s best all-around athletic programs with more than 100 team state championships which they hope to add to with the recent addition of Kenney, who was recently hired to replace Strojny.

“I feel like it’s a blessing to be able to have the opportunity. I’m extremely grateful,” Kenney said. “I think St. Thomas More’s a destination job. Not just athletically where they’ve won many state championships this year. Academically, athletically, spiritually, tradition and investment, it checks all of the boxes.

“Walking on campus, meeting 25 people in 30 minutes and just the joy they come with to be part of the St. Thomas More community, who wouldn’t want to be part of it,” Kenney said. “Leadership matters. (STM principal) Marty’s (Cannon) done a great job of hiring people that share in the values of the school and hold the same expectation they school would. God put me in a position to take this job and create a life for myself and my career in high school.”

Strojny, an STM alum, led the Cougars to a 272-80 record with two state runners-up finishes and four state semifinal appearances in his 12 seasons. He directed the program to winning seasons in 11 of his 12 years, including 16-11 this past year with an appearance in the Division I select state quarterfinals against Huntington.

“From the time I talked to Stephen, he’s been extremely helpful and generous,” Kenney said. “He said I was going to love it there. He cares about the program. He cares about the school, and as an alum, he just wants it to be successful.”

Kenney said she will conclude the 2023-24 school year at St. Michael and then transition to STM which begins summer league play in June.

Based on her first team meeting, with a team that was junior oriented last season, Kenney can’t wait to get started.

“They’re going to be a fun crew, a veteran crew,” Kenney said. “They started five juniors and they’ll be seniors next year. They had a lot of questions. I don’t think you can deny in girls’ sports the difference a male and female coach brings. I’m excited about that. They seem to want to win and get better and want to work. They have all the fundamentals. It’s exciting to build on that.”

Kenney was part of the rise of St. Michael’s basketball under coach Tami Reynolds, helping the Warriors to a pair of Class 4A state championships in 2008 and ’09. She scored more than 1,000 points, was the nation’s No. 31 rated player by ESPN and a WBCA honorable mention All American before choosing to stay home and sign with LSU.

She started in 85 of 129 games in college and finished her career sixth with 137 3-pointers and 10th in assists with 372.

Kenney, regarded as a fierce competitor who battled through a litany of injuries, averaged 11.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists and was a career 84.4 free throw shooter. She was part of three NCAA Tournament teams, including back-to-back Sweet 16 teams her final two seasons.

Kenney, who graduated from LSU with a degree in kinesiology, served as a graduate assistant at UCLA and obtained her master’s in coach and athletic administration, and exercise sports science from nearby Concordia University in Irvine.

Kenney returned to St. Michael’s to begin her high school coaching career as an assistant to Reynolds, the person she succeeded as head coach three years later when Reynolds left to become head coach at Zachary High. Kenney then went back to the college game, serving as an assistant at Utah State and Appalachian State, until gravitating back to St. Michael for the past two seasons.

“We played St. Thomas More when I was a freshman and lost to them and we didn’t lose many games,” Kenney said. “The school has prestige. They don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk, too. I feel extremely grateful and very excited to start the new journey.”