After a championship season, honors continue to roll in for University of New Orleans basketball coach Mark Slessinger. After leading the Privateers to the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament for the first time in nearly two decades, Slessinger will be honored with the Eddie Robinson Award by the Allstate Sugar Bowl Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame at hall of fame induction ceremonies in August.
UNO Privateer forward Erik Thomas will be recognized as Amateur Athlete of the Month for March, 2017 for his performance during the month leading New Orleans to the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
Selected by the sports awards committee of the Allstate Sugar Bowl Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame, the Robinson Award is presented annually to an athlete, coach, team or athletic administrator in Louisiana who demonstrates the qualities most associated with Grambling's legendary football coach, Eddie Robinson: outstanding achievement in athletics, academics, sportsmanship and citizenship by maximizing the use of limited resources.
"To be mentioned in the same fraction of breath with Eddie Robinson is a great honor not just to myself but to our staff, student-athletes and my family. It means the world to us," said Slessinger.
Picked ninth in the preseason Southland Conference Poll, Slessinger led the Privateers to a 20-12 overall record and a 13-5 conference mark in winning the SLC regular season crown. New Orleans won the conference tournament title with a thrilling 68-65 victory over Texas A & M-Corpus Christi and an automatic bid to "March Madness", the school's first bid since 1996.
Slessinger was voted coach of the year by the Southland Conference, Louisiana Sports Writers Association and the Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches.
Slessinger, who spent 11 years as an assistant at Northwestern State, continues to tell anyone who will listen that he has the best job in college basketball in the greatest city in the world. The Indiana native's positive attitude and non-stop work ethic paid off during the 2016-17 season as the Privateers were the only Louisiana college to compete in the NCAA Tournament also known as "March Madness."
UNO Basketball is very active with Special Olympics. The Privateers host a number of clinics throughout the year for special olympians in Louisiana. The coach also recognizes some of these athletes at each home game as "Sless' Stars."
Slessinger and his players traveled to Holden, Louisiana after the state was hit by flooding in August of 2016. Knowing the area needed able bodies to help families recover from the disaster, "Coach Sless" led his team as they helped clean seven properties in the Hammond and Baton Rouge areas.
When New Orleans East was struck by a tornado in February of 2017, the Privateers were on the job again helping with the cleanup.
"It's important to teach "service learning" to young people. They have to understand that if you want someone to be involved with what you are doing you need to be involved with what they are doing. I'm sure it's the type of lessons Coach Robinson taught."
Thomas, who closed his senior season on the Lakefront as the Southland Conference Player of the Year, averaged 15 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal over five contests during March. One of those victories was a 68-65 overtime win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi for the Southland Conference Tournament crown and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Slessinger and Thomas will be honored Saturday, Aug. 5, at induction ceremonies of the Allstate Sugar Bowl Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame. The event will be held at the Mercedes Benz Superdome.