DCTF tackles an impossible question: who is the best coach in Texas high school football history?
Why is Texas high school football the finest in the nation? Sure, the players are darn good. And yes, the fans are the wildest and most passionate anywhere. And of course, the communities’ commitment to the sport – through facilities and otherwise – is second-to-none.
But if you ask me – and your clicking on this article was implicit asking, so thanks for asking! – what sets Texas high school football apart is the coaching. The coaches in Texas are, quite simply, the finest in high school football anywhere, and I’d accept any challenge to that statement.
So when you mention the names like G.A. Moore and Gordon Wood and Phil Danaher, you’re not just talking about the giants of Texas high school football coaching; you’re talking about the very best of the best.
Of course, folks are never satisfied with the idea of knowing which group of people are the best. We need to know who the best is, who is No. 1, who is at the top of the list.
The problem you run into when tackling that question is easy to identify and hard to reconcile. The problem: how do you measure the best coach in Texas high school football history?
There are, in my view, three possible measurements of coaching superiority, and each are with their flaws. Observe:
Total wins: Overemphasizes longevity; coaches can win a lot of games simply by coaching a lot of seasons
Winning percentage: Underemphasizes longevity; go unbeaten in one season, and you’re the best coach in history
Wins per season: Overemphasizes consistency; going 6-5 every year is just as good as going 12-1, then going 0-10; also: biased toward current coaches (play more playoff games)
See what I mean? But there’s value in all three of those measurements, so let’s take a look at where the best of the best stack up in those measurements.
We’re going to set a minimum here: 185 career wins. That means that we’re only looking at the 120 winningest coaches in Texas high school football history.
Here are the top 10 in all-time wins.
|G.A. MOORE, JR.||Celina||44||426||92||9|
|PHIL DANAHER||CC Calallen||40||400||98||4|
|JIM STREETY||San Antonio Madison||40||343||131||3|
|RANDY ALLEN||Highland Park||33||327||80||6|
|TOM NOLEN||Houston Lamar||35||323||90||7|
|BOB SHELTON||Hays Consolidated||47||313||188||7|
Students of Texas high school football aren’t surprised by any of these names. G.A. Moore Jr. is the all-time leader after legendary runs at Celina and Pilot Point. Phil Danaher – the winningest active coach – passed Gordon Wood this season and became just the second member of the 400-win club.
You run through a variety of active coaches, too, with Jim Streety at San Antonio Madison, Dennis Alexander – who spent most of his career at Harleton but is currently at Troup – Highland Park’s Randy Allen and Tom Nolen. Then coaching luminaries like the late great Curtis Barbay, Charlie Johnston and Bob Shelton round out the Top 10.
This is a murderer’s row of coaches; some of the best to ever walk the sideline.
But what does the top 10 look like when you’re looking only at winning percentage? (Remember: minimum 185 wins.)
|STEVE LINEWEAVER||Euless Trinity||247-41-2||0.855|
|D.W. RUTLEDGE||Converse Judson||197-42-5||0.853|
|G.A. MOORE, JR.||Celina||426-92-9||0.817|
|HAROLD C. (CHESTY) WALKER||Phillips||197-41-13||0.811|
|BOB LEDBETTER||Southlake Carroll||197-46-3||0.807|
|PHIL DANAHER||CC Calallen||400-98-4||0.801|
|RANDY ALLEN||Highland Park||327-80-6||0.799|
Quite a bit different, huh? At the top of the list: Euless Trinity’s Steve Lineweaver, who has dominated with the Trojans over his 21-year tenure. D.W. Rutledge – one of San Antonio’s best-ever coaches – and Bastrop legend Ron Schroeder round out the top three. You may not have heard of Chesty Walker, but he was perhaps the state’s best coach in the 1950s. And then there’s Tim Buchanan, who has been absolutely sensational at Aledo.
There are some of the big names there – like Moore and Danaher and Wood – but most of the coaches in this instance have shorter but better coaching careers.
So let’s look at our last measurement: wins per season. Who’s averaging the most Ws per year?
|STEVE LINEWEAVER||Euless Trinity||21||247||11.76|
|D.W. RUTLEDGE||Converse Judson||17||197||11.59|
|JOEY FLORENCE||Denton Ryan||20||205||10.25|
|PHIL DANAHER||CC Calallen||40||400||10.00|
|RANDY ALLEN||Highland Park||33||327||9.91|
|BOB LEDBETTER||Southlake Carroll||20||197||9.85|
Before we dive into it, just look at that: to crack this list, you basically have to average 10 wins per season. How ludicrous is that?
Anyways, the names at the top are very similar to the winning percentage list – Lineweaver, Rutledge, Schroeder and Buchanan. There are a few newcomers here, like George Harris, who had a fantastic run at Gregory-Portland, and Denton Ryan’s Joey Florence, who’s helped to bring the Raiders to statewide prominence over the last two decades.
So there you go: our three measurements of coaching excellence. That’s it, right? They’re all great coaches and we can all just go home, right?
OK, fine. We’ll take it a step further. Who ranks the best when taking all three factors into account?
Here it is: the top 10 coaches in Texas high school football history when taking into account total wins, winning percentage and wins-per-season.
|Name||School||Years||Record||Ws Rank||Win% Rank||Ws/Yr Rank||Rank Avg.|
|PHIL DANAHER||CC Calallen||40||400-98-4||2||8||7||5.67|
|G.A. MOORE, JR.||Celina||44||426-92-9||1||4||12||5.67|
|RANDY ALLEN||Highland Park||33||327-80-6||6||10||8||8.00|
|STEVE LINEWEAVER||Euless Trinity||21||247-41-2||25||1||1||9.00|
|TOM NOLEN||Houston Lamar||35||323-90-7||7||16||14||12.33|
|DAN RAY HOOKS||West Orange-Stark||31||282-76-2||14||14||16||14.67|
Danaher and Moore tied at the top, followed by two terrific active coaching greats in Allen and Lineweaver. Then, the great Gordon Wood, Houston-area mainstay Tom Nolen, Alto legend Lucky Gamble, the pride of the Golden Triangle Dan Ray Hooks and old-school Panhandle great Charlie Johnston, with Tim Buchanan – who has four titles in five years – rounding out the top 10.
I’m surprisingly OK with this list – it’s a good mix of some of the all-time greats and future Hall of Famers. But I’d love to hear what you think; sound off on our Facebook page.
We can debate this list for days, and that's the beauty of it: there's no right answer. There are simply too many great coaches to come up with one firm answer.
Greg Tepper is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.
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