Legendary Texas high school basketball coach Robert Hughes dies at 96

The legendary Fort Worth resident was the winningest high school basketball coach of all time

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Basketball Hall of Fame legend and Texas' winningest high school basketball coach, Robert Hughes has died.

Hughes began his career in 1958 in the Fort Worth ISD at I. M Terrell High School. A statement from Superintendent Dr. Angélica M. Ramsey pays tribute a man who broke color barriers and created opportunities for African American students.

"His commitment to his athletes extended beyond the court, as he spent countless hours ensuring they had the support and resources needed to succeed. Under his leadership, I.M. Terrell won three state championships, and his success continued at Dunbar High School with two additional state titles and 30 consecutive playoff appearances.

Coach Robert Hughes is getting inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday. He shares the life lessons that he instilled in the countless players that crossed his court.

Coach Hughes' unparalleled achievements, including a career record of 1,333-264, earned him a place in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, National High School Hall of Fame, and Texas Sports Hall of Fame. His influence extended far beyond basketball, instilling values of respect, hard work, and discipline in generations of young men."

One of those young men was James Cash. Cash attended the segregated I.M. Terrell High School in the early 1960s and played basketball under the watchful eye and firm guidance of Coach Hughes. His skills on the court led to nearly 100 scholarship offers. He chose TCU and in 1965, Cash became the first Black player in the Southwest Conference.

Boston Celtics co-owner James Cash spoke with NBC 5 and reflected on his time being coached by Robert Hughes in Fort Worth.

Cash credits his mother and Coach Hughes for believing he had what it took physically, mentally, emotionally to break barriers. Under Hughes, Cash learned about the Boston Celtics and decades later, he joined the investment group that bought the team. Even now Cash remembers the lessons of his high school coach as if he'd just heard them yesterday.

"First of all, he had tried out with them, but you may know that the Celtics won 11 championships in 13 years. And a couple of things that were absolute top of the list that he would repeat to us was first of all preparation. He basically used to just grill into us that everybody wants to win, everyone wants to succeed, but not everyone wants to prepare. And he would basically really focus us on being willing to believe that others were working harder than we were to succeed. And if we wanted to succeed, we had to reverse that equation," Cash told NBC5. "He was just a master at getting us psyched into the commitment for preparation. And it turns out in most sports and in many things in life, having the ability to repeat and prepare and basically, practice if you will."

Hughes coached at I. M. Terrell from 1958-73 before moving on to Dunbar High School from 1973 - 2005. His teams won a total of five state championships, 35 district titles and accumulated 1,333 wins and made him the all-time winningest high school boys coach in the process (1,333 wins)

But Hughes would never tell you about his long list of accomplishments.

NBC 5 spoke with Hughes in 2017 prior to his Basketball Hall of Fame induction.

“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.

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame acknowledged the loss of the legendary high school basketball coach in posts on social media saying, "... he opened doors for Black athletes across Texas. His contributions to basketball will live on in the lives of the young men he coached and at the Naismith Hall of Fame."

Hughes is also being remembered for his contributions off the court, namely his years-long investment in the Stop Six community where his players lived.

“For him, I believe it just made sense to invest into the community. There’s no way we could live, play somewhere and not make that investment. He saw a need beyond the basketball court so he did what he needed to do to fill that need," said Director of the Stop Six Choice Neighborhood Initiative Lachelle Goodrich.

In 2025, the non-profit will open the first part of a mixed-income, multifamily development named Hughes House in honor Hughes.

Basketball Hall of Fame legend and Texas' winningest high school basketball coach, Robert Hughes has died. NBC 5's Brian Curtis reports on the Hughes' success on and off the court.
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