Fort Worth

Public memorial service to be held Friday for legendary Fort Worth high school basketball coach

Hughes spent decades leading the boys team at Fort Worth’s Dunbar High School, becoming the all-time winningest coach in the history of high school boys basketball

NBC Universal, Inc.

On Friday, the Fort Worth community will have a chance to say goodbye to a basketball icon.

Legendary high school basketball coach Robert Hughes will be honored in a special celebration of life that will be open to the public.

He passed away earlier this month at the age of 96.

The public remembrance ceremony will take place at 6 p.m. at the Wilkerson-Greines Activities Center in Fort Worth.

It will be held on his namesake Robert Hughes Court, the very spot where he secured many victories in his incredible career.

Hughes spent decades leading the boys team at Fort Worth’s Dunbar High School, becoming the all-time winningest coach in the history of high school boys basketball.

He won five state championships – two of them at Dunbar, where he logged 32 years as the head boys basketball coach making 30 consecutive playoff runs before retiring in 2005. In total, he retired with 1,333 career wins under his belt.

His achievements landed him a spot in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, National High School Hall of Fame, and Texas Sports Hall of Fame, which recognized Huges someone who "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.”

One of those young men was James Cash, co-owner of the Boston Celtics, who also grew up in Fort Worth.

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, who started his career at that school. Cash’s 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.

Hughes also led the school to three championships before the campus closed.

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."

In 2017, Hughes told NBC 5 about the keys to his coaching success.

“Well, like the old Joe Lewis said, ‘If you have to tell ‘em who you is - you ain’t,’” Hughes said. “I just, I had that gift of being able to communicate with kids.”

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