Fort Worth high school basketball coach Robert Hughes is a living legend.
“I’ve had fun, fun, fun. And I still have fun,” Hughes said, while sitting in the living room of his home after learning about his Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction.
Hughes coached at I. M. Terrell and Fort Worth Dunbar. He won a total of five state championships, 35 district titles and accumulated 1,333 wins.
But Hughes would never tell you about his long list of accomplishments.
“Well, like the old Joe Lewis said, ‘If you have to tell ‘em who you is - you ain’t,’” Hughes said.
Hughes has won more high school basketball games than anyone, at any level, while also molding the lives of the countless players who crossed his court.
“I just, I had that gift of being able to communicate with kids,” Hughes said.
He attributes his coaching success to hard work.
“We just refused to let anyone outwork us. I mean that was just how it was. 'Hey, you’re not gonna out work us. You might do whatever you’re gonna do -- guarantee you, you won’t outwork us.'”
If players weren’t willing to give their all on his court and in the gym, “You’re gonna get the Ray Charles: ‘Hit the road Jack—don’t come back.’ And that’s just how it is.”
As a coach, he was tough and he held high expectations.
“Somedays you would think I was a 30-year man in the Marines,” Hughes said with a chuckle.
But he said the players knew everything he did was for their benefit and he was watching them closely.
“How you act, how you dress, where you go, and especially what you’re doing out there on that floor,” Hughes said.
He imparted lessons on how to strive for success in every moment.
“When you get up in the morning, what do you do? What do you say to yourself? Well, you should have said to yourself, ‘What can I do today to be the best?’ And then do it,” Hughes said.
There were also lessons on simply staying out of trouble.
“Like I always tell them, ‘Stay out of the fast lane, that’s for the smokers and drinkers,’” Hughes said. “Whatever else you do out there that you know is wrong — stay out of the fast lane, it can’t help you.”
His coaching breadth reached beyond boys basketball, starting the first year for girls basketball in Fort Worth.
“No one would coach the girls. Our whole faculty, including the ladies, nobody would coach the girls,” Hughes said. “Principal called me and told me I needed to coach them. ‘Yes, well OK.’ He said, ‘Well do ya?’ I said, ‘Hey, this is basketball, I don’t need any help with basketball.’ We finished the season 23-0. No one touched us.”
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that he also found success coaching girls volleyball.
“Ain’t nobody says a word about that. Volleyball coaches needed to say, ‘Oh, he don’t know anything about anything but basketball.’ When they woke up, we were 11-0 and leading the district,” Hughes said.
He is retired from coaching, but when he leaves home he can’t go far before he sees one of his former players who wants to catch up -- which he says is a delight.
“And they were just great people to coach, and teach and be with. So I’m never in a hurry. They wanna talk for five minutes, fine. If they want to talk for 25 minutes—I don’t care. I’m not going to work anywhere,” Hughes said with a laugh.