Welcome to TXHSFB Inside the Numbers – where Dave Campbell’s Texas Football takes the data that makes up Texas football in high school and tries to figure out what it means by looking back and looking forward. Today: Who is the best coach in Texas high school football today?
One of the things that makes Texas high school football the best in the world is the depth of coaching. In every corner of the state, you can find some of America’s best football coaching at every level, and that quality is on full display every Friday night this fall.
But who is the best of the best, the best coach in Texas high school football today? This is a difficult, if not impossible, question to answer, as there are so many factors to consider.
Let’s first recognize that not all Texas high school football programs are created equal – communities and resources vary widely, and some coaches face immense challenges that other coaches couldn’t even imagine. It’s possible that the best footballing spirit in the state has never won a playoff game, let alone won a state championship, due to circumstances beyond his control. So in many ways when we say ‘best coach’ we are actually talking about ‘most successful coach’ – it takes a lot of coaching skills and the right circumstances to succeed.
(Also note: data for six-man coaches is much more difficult to obtain than in 11-man play. I have done my best to include as many six-man records in this study as possible, but that is certainly incomplete, so if something is missing, Let me know.)
So how do you measure success? This is the tricky question.
Let’s take a look at the most raw form of success first: winning games. Who did it best?
|NAME||SCHOOLS (Current Bold School)||VICTORIES|
|PHIL DANAHER||Corpus Christi CallallenHamshire-Fannett, Dilley||480|
|RANDY ALLEN||Highland ParkAbilene Cooper, Brownwood, Ballinger||414|
|REGINALD SAMPLES||DuncanvilleDallas Skyline, Dallas Lincoln||298|
|LARRY HILL||Smithson ValleyJourdanton||276|
|VANCE JONES||BalmorheaGarden City, Aspermont, Sanderson, Marathon||276|
|ROSS ROGERS||bryanKilleen Harker Heights, A&M Consolidated, Giddings, Waller, Hempstead||256|
|JASON HERRING||RefugeSound, Wall||254|
|HAL WASSON||CorsicaSouthlake Carroll, Keller Fossil Ridge, Liberty Hill, Mexia, Kerens, Pittsburgh, San Saba, Italy||250|
There are two guys circling the pitch here – Corpus Christi Callallen coach Phil Danaher, once dubbed ‘The King’ by Dave Campbell’s texas soccer, and Highland Park coach Randy Allen, whose exceptional fedora and teams made him a legend. Denney Faith at Albany is the only other active member of the 300-win club and the only active all-round coach with one school. But Reginald Samples at Duncanville is set to become the 14th member of the elite 300-win fraternity in 2021 (and the first black coach to achieve such a thing).
So that’s it, right? Phil Danaher is the best coach right now, isn’t he?
What if we took another measure of coaching excellence, which is winning percentage? Let’s limit it to coaches with at least 100 games coached in their career…
|NAME||CURRENT SCHOOL||DISK||TO EARN%|
|JERRY BURKHART||Richland Springs||(234-24-0)||90.6%|
|HANK CARTER||Lake Travis||(135-18-0)||88.2%|
|STEVE WEAVER OF LINE||Euless Trinity||(259-43-2)||85.5%|
|TOM WESTERBERG||barbers hill||(186-34-0)||84.5%|
Only two active coaches with at least 100 games coached have winning percentages above .900 – Gary Joseph at Katy and Jerry Burkhart at Richland Springs. Consider this about Joseph: He not only has the best winning percentage among active managers (minimum 100 games)…he has the best winning percentage of all time among all coaches in Texas high school football history. And Burkhart’s run at Richland Springs, turning the Coyotes into the state’s record-breaking six-man program, is pretty remarkable in itself. Chris Koetting somehow remains one of the most underrated coaches in the state, while Hank Carter has done nothing but carry on the spectacular tradition of Lake Travis.
Some other notes here: Former Allen coach Terry Gambill (.886) ranked fourth before his retirement last month…if you reduce the minimum number of games coached to 50, the list reads: : Gary Joseph, Chris Koetting, Mart’s Kevin Hoffman (.885), Hank Carter and Cedar Park’s Carl Abseck (.877)… if you remove the minimum number of games from the equation entirely, the list reads as follows : Daniel Boedeker of Shiner (26-1, .963), Ryan of Grandview Ebner (26-2, .929), Gary Joseph, Jerry Burkhart and Riley Dodge of Southlake Carroll (38-4, .905)… the all-time leader in winning percentage with a minimum of 50 games coached: former Aledo coach Steve Wood, who went 75-4 (.949).
But let’s try a different measure. And the departmental championships? Here are the active leaders.
|NAME||CURRENT SCHOOL||DISTRICT TITLES|
|Randy Allen||Highland Park||28|
|Phil Danher||Corpus Christi Callallen||27|
|Marc Kirchoff||city of falls||15|
|Larry Hill||Smithson Valley||14|
|John King||Long-term vision||14|
Lots of the usual suspects here, but I thought it was impressive to see Richard Barrett from Kennedale and John King from Longview here, each of them having put together impressive resumes.
But what about the jackpot? And the departmental championships?
|NAME||TITLES WON AT…||STATE TITLES|
|jerry burkhart||Richland Springs||9|
|Todd Dodge||Austin Westlake, Southlake Carroll||6|
|Randy Allen||Highland Park||4|
|Jason Herring||Shelter, Sonora||4|
|VanceJones||Balmorhea, Garden City, Marathon||4|
When it comes to hoisting gear at the end of the season, think small — Burkhart’s nine titles at Richland Springs stand alone among active coaches and are tied with Gordon Wood for the most of all time. But Scott Surratt is nipping at his heels in Carthage, and the titles of Tim Buchanan and Todd Dodge last year also put them in the hunt for all-time supremacy.
So what’s the answer? Who is the best coach in Texas football in high school today? I guess it’s a matter of value. If you want the guy with the most titles in any classification, Jerry Burkhart in Richland Springs is probably your guy. If you want consistency year after year, it’s hard to beat Gary Joseph at Katy. If you’re looking for all-time legends with persistence, Phil Danaher at Corpus Christi Callallen or Randy Allen at Highland Park might be the pick. If you’re looking for an 11-man manager with the most titles, it’s probably Scott Surratt at Carthage. And personally, I think there’s at least one decent argument for just about everyone mentioned above…and a handful of coaches who are not noted.
But the truth is, this is a debate that will never be answered, and probably shouldn’t be. Focusing too much on who the better guy is takes away the reality of the exceptional depth of quality coaching in Texas high school football.
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