May 15, 1928 -
Getting to the state basketball championships is hard, doing it thirty consecutive times is near impossible. Along the way, his teams won five state championships and finished second on three other occasions. By the time he retired, Coach Robert Hughes had built the Dunbar High School “Flying Wildcats” into one of the most legendary basketball programs in Texas and in the United States.
Throughout his coaching career, the 6’-5” Hughes expected his players to have discipline, commitment, and play with fundamentals. He instructed his boys to play basic “plain vanilla” basketball with “no strawberries on top.” His icy stare, barking of commands, and grueling practices prepared his players for success in basketball . . . and more importantly for success in life.
After a tour in the U.S. Army during the Korean Conflict, Hughes played college basketball at Texas Southern University, gaining acclaim as a prolific scorer. Although drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1955, he did not make the team. Instead, he played a year for Marques Haynes’ barnstorming team Harlem Magicians. Yet while playing in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Hughes ruptured his Achilles tendon, ending his competitive playing career.
Graduating from Tulsa University and with his playing career over, in 1958 Hughes took the coaching job at Fort Worth’s segregated high school I.M. Terrell. During his sixteen-years there (1958-1973), Hughes’ teams compiled a 373-84 record and won three Prairie View Interscholastic League (PVIL) state championships (1963, 1965 & 1967); the PVIL was the governing body for Texas’ African American high schools.
With integration of public schools during 1973, Hughes became coach of the Fort Worth Dunbar High School, where he remained until he retired in 2005. During his tenure at Dunbar, the “Flying Wildcats” won two state championships (1993 & 2003), and on three occasions finished second in the state. His teams made thirty consecutive trips to the state championship, and only had one losing season.
When Hughes retired in 2005, after 47 seasons, he had a 1,333-264 career record, ranking as winningest high school basketball coach in the nation (recently Granbury High School girls basketball coach Leta Andrews surpassed Hughes’ record for total wins). In 2002 the FWISD renamed the basketball court of the Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center after Coach Robert Hughes.