In 1962 I was a seventh grader and had just played in the consolation game of the Matador Junior High tournament. My grandmother picked me up from the game and took me to a local café for a burger, fries, and a coke. A real treat for me in those days! As I was eating an elderly gentleman named Johnny Hamilton sat down at my table. He was a noted lawyer in the county who was in his twilight years for that line of work. Johnny had the reputation of being very intelligent but often that intelligence was fogged up by his association with two of his best friends; Jim Beam and Jack Daniels…………………
Anyway this gentleman for whom I had a lot of respect because my father respected him so much, began to ask me about my future. I told him how much that I loved sports and began to empty my brain with statistics about different athletes, teams, organization etc. most of which I had learned from reading the Lubbock Avalanche Journal sports section from cover to cover about three times a day. He was really impressed and asked me if I had ever thought about becoming a coach. And sure enough, I had never had that cross my mind. But from that day forward I started to prepare to become a coach. I knew that any ambition that I had in regard to making a living in the sports world would need to be through coaching. My speed, well let’s not insult the dictionary by calling any forward movement by me as speed, and my lean frame ( yes once upon a time I was skinny), sent a message to my feeble mind that I would never make a living playing any sport. So a coach was born………………………
So following my college education at West Texas State University I set out in a profession with the motto: “if you are a coach you have been fired or will be before you are finished”. Wow, what a profession! But folks that is pretty much the way that it is unless the coach chooses not to ever wear the title: head coach……………………
In 1989 when Tom Landry was dismissed as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, I remember thinking that if Tom Landry could be fired, that no coaching job in the world was safe. But it happened and one of the great legends if not the greatest in NFL history was finished. Coach Landry did some remarkable things with the Dallas Cowboys and is probably more responsible for the tag “America’s Team” than anyone else ever associated with that organization………………..
During the mid 1970’s I started to hear rumblings around Austin that Darrell Royal needed to be replaced as the head football coach at UT. In my mind I dismissed that because for me that notion was just out of the question, because you just didn’t replace “the greatest”. But after the 1976 season Coach Royal stepped down and rumor is that he felt the pressure from the higher ups to make that decision. I had never felt so disappointed and disgusted since I found out the truth about Santa Claus. What he did there for the Longhorn nation will never be duplicated………………….
So this morning, as I am stirring around after crawling out of a warm bed I hear on the radio that there is some pressure being put on Mack Brown to give up the reins on the UT campus. I was in disbelief. Sure the Longhorn fortunes have fallen on hard times the last couple of years but did anyone really expect Coach Brown to sustain the winning tempo that he had built in the land of burnt orange and white, forever? Short memory and” what have you done for lately” seems to be the attitude of so many in this age of infinite access to any information that that soothes the curious mind. I hope that Mack Brown at least gets to see this group of freshmen complete their eligibility because they have enormous potential and yes the man has a national championship on his resume, so we know that he can produce……………………..
And what about Mike Sherman from Texas A&M and his termination? Come on Aggies this man has a Super Bowl Championship notched on his belt. I believe he knows how to win. Plus his treatment in ending his career at Aggieland was that which should be left to….well left to no one! And for that matter just four years earlier Dennis Franchione had been handed his walking papers from the same establishment. Both of these men had proven records, maybe not for the maroon and white but they had done very well at other coaching stops……………..
As the high school season heads into the championship week I am sure that there are plenty of rumors swirling about many football coaching jobs around the state. And you know, that is okay. That is part of what makes this profession so endearing to so many prospective head coaches. There is always an opportunity ready to present itself to that competitive spirit inside so many who call themselves “Coach”……………………..
Should coaches ever be fired/dismissed/terminated/let go/ whatever you may want to call it? The answer is yes. I won’t go into the Paterno/Sandusky discussion again, but yes there is a time when that just can’t be helped. You see, these folks are hired to be constructive leaders of men or boys who play the game. Anytime that they lose focus of the fact that the kid or the player comes first, then it is time for them to go. Some of these coaches never have that from the first day on the job. How they ever got the job is what baffles us all: but it happens. Now, we can only hope that any changes being made around the state this year will all be positive. It is also my hope that those proven coaches, those who have made a positive impact on kids will be allowed determine when their time is up and hopefully they will make a yearly self-assessment that tell them when the time has come. And once again I won’t go into anything about Joe Paterno there either……….
I finished my football coaching career as the head coach of the Comanche Indians after the completion of the 1997 season. I didn’t realize as I was walking off the field in Clifton Texas that I was finished. We had just lost a 14-12 thriller that cost us the district championship. It put us in a three way tie for second place with Hillsboro and Glen Rose and Hillsboro via the district rules for determining playoff representatives went on to bi-district. That year Joe Oliver the head coach at Hillsboro, Ronny Whitehead, the head coach at Glen Rose, and I lost our jobs as head football coaches. Was it justified? It doesn’t matter. That is the way the coaching world turns and anyone choosing that path has to understand that. I always felt that the rewards far outweighed the negatives. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat……………………RC