FORT WORTH — Robert Hughes Sr. is a legend in high school basketball. No one has won more games.
We caught up with Hughes at Dunbar High School, where he coached the flying Wildcats for 33 seasons. It just happened to be the day of a big anniversary for Hughes, because 12 years ago — on February 11, 2003 — Hughes became the all-time winningest coach with win number 1,275, passing Morgan Wootten from DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland.
“It drove me batty,” Hughes admitted. He wanted his players to concentrate on playing basketball.
Two years later, in 2005, Hughes would retire as the all-time winningest high school coach with 1,333 wins.
“The last time I walked down to my local coffee shop and told the guys I’m a legend, they said, ‘Coach, you either give me a dollar or we’re going to call the police,'” Hughes said back in 1978. “So the legend — and a dollar — will get you a cup of coffee.”
Because he broke Wootten’s record, the DeMatha coach may have never forgiven him for that. “I don’t think so,” Hughes admitted.
My earliest days of covering Hughes began in 1977, when his team played for the state championship against South Oak Cliff. They lost that year, but the following year his Wildcats were flying high again.
Improvement in 1978 could only mean one thing: A state championship.
“What I have is a bunch of kids who love to play basketball, and frankly, I don’t think they even worry about where they’re ranked,” Hughes said in the spring of 1978.
At age 86, Hughes still marvels at the huge nine-foot trophy he picked up at the Coca Cola Tournament in 1982. “I’m a guy who is blessed,” Hughes said.
These days, it’s his son, Robert Hughes Jr., who’s coaching the Wildcats.
“And old coach once told me… his name was Jackie Carr… he said, ‘Son, calm down. If you’re 25 percent as good as your dad, you’re going to be a great coach,” the junior Hughes said. “So that’s when I was at ease and at peace.”
“I’m a believer in the Joe Lewis thing,” his dad added. “If you have to tell them who you is, you ain’t.”