This is the time of year when high school basketball is finishing up tournament play and turning to district action. It is a time of year I genuinely love.
I remember when my Dad played in what was known as the Industrial League for one of the Ford Motor Company teams.
It was in the early 1950s and I was around four or five years old when Pop would let me tag along to the games. I would get to sit on the bench or behind the bench and take in every second. Those teammates of my dad’s became my “uncles.” There was Hall Knight, J.D. Carter, Otis “Pud” Hart and John Pershing Huggins.
When I was about eight or nine years old, Dad would take me to the annual Dr. Pepper High School Basketball Tournament held at sites all over Dallas. I would go early in the morning and stay until the lights were turned out. I remember the great Samuell teams of J.W. Black and their star John Paul Fultz.
When my Dad had to work during the Dr. Pepper tourney, I would sometimes get to hitch a ride with a man who became instrumental in my life. The first time I met Coach Hughes was when we all attended Bruton Road Baptist Church together in Pleasant Grove. The men of the church would sometimes play on Saturday’s at the old S.S. Conner Gym which was the original home of the Pleasant Grove Bobcats.
Coach Hughes would become my eighth grade football coach and ninth grade basketball coach. In the 1960s in Dallas, ninth graders were in the last year of high school. We played tough schedules in the high school gyms like Forrester, Sprague and the ancient PC. Cobb Field House .
I learned a lot of basketball from Sherman Hughes. He was a teacher first and a motivator in a class of his own. I would go on to use what I learned from him when I became a teacher and a coach.
As we leave 2017 and head to 2018 I remember some of those things Coach Hughes taught me which still apply today. I will try to live by some of those in 2018.
As a Florence Gladiator, Coach Hughes taught me there was no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit. He taught us not to break rules, for rules were the foundation of the team.
He taught us the team must always come first, not the individual. We learned to communicate. You could not be successful on one of his team’s if you could not communicate with each other. We were taught not to be part of the problem, but to be a part of the solution in all things, large or small.
We missed 20 free throws in an early season game. We met as a team every morning after that to shoot 100 free throws each before we went to first period. Coach Hughes was there to open the door at 6:30 A.M. We didn’t miss many after that.
Coach Hughes taught us to respect the game of basketball, to respect others and to respect our teammates, playing for them and not for ourselves. He encouraged us to ask questions and to learn from our mistakes. He taught me to discipline myself so he would not have to.
He taught me to love my teammates and sacrifice for the greater cause. Most of all, he taught me to respect myself and to put others first.
I hope I was able to impart just some of those things when I was coaching before retiring in 2014. As we head to 2018, I will continue to value and live those principles I learned.
I want to dedicate these words to Coach Hughes, who lives just west of Grand Saline these days. I want to pay my respects to the Dallas City Champs of 1963, Conner Cubs, led by my heroes, Bobby Harrison and Joe Gary Smith, along with the 1965 Florence Gladiator city champs led by Steve Huey, Buddy Pierce, Bobby Thompson, Richard Moore and Mike Riley. And a big thanks to my 1966 Gladiators, I will always remember each of you fondly.