When she began coaching 42 years ago, Sue Cannon had no way of foreseeing that she would drop her anchor in North Texas, or much less still be coaching basketball in the high school ranks.
But life has a way of taking people to new places and, after arriving in Texas in 1975, Cannon has cemented her place as one of the best ever in the state, highlighted by her induction last week into the Texas Girls Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Cannon attributes much of her success to the many things she learned from legendary college basketball coach Dean Smith, who led the North Carolina men’s program for 36 years, making 11 Final Four appearances and winning two national titles.
Cannon grew up in North Carolina and was a self-proclaimed “UNC-Dean Smith fanatic.” After her undergraduate studies at Florida, she applied and received a graduate assistantship at UNC, where the mentorship began.
“[Smith] kind of took me under his wing. I went to every one of his practices and took a thousand notes,” she recalls, pointing out that she still has those notes.
“I learned from the best. I consider him one of the best two coaches to ever coach basketball.”
With Smith’s blessing, she was given the reins of the UNC women’s team in 1973. She was also coaching at a local high school at the time, all while trying to finish her master’s program.
A year later, Smith next moved to Texas with plans to earn her doctorate and return to college coaching. She took a position at Bishop Byrne High School in Port Arthur, and her roots in Texas coaching were planted.
“I was just so excited in North Carolina, even though I was coaching high school and UNC and just being around Coach Smith,” Cannon said. “But that first year working with those kids at Bishop Byrne, it really got in my blood, because in high school you take a group of whoever you get and you mold them into a team.
“In college, it’s gotten to who you recruit and what is your recruiting budget. That whole thing kind of turns me off.”
Byrne was a small school, and as such, the same group of students played volleyball, softball and basketball. Cannon coached them all.
“We actually won the state championship in volleyball,” she said. “But I never told anybody because I never wanted to coach volleyball.”
In 1976, Cannon moved to West Orange Stark, where she built a successful basketball program over a decade, advancing to the playoffs each year.
It was also in that span when she got heavily involved in the Texas Girls Coaches Association, which showed its appreciation last week by making her one of only 37 inductees into the Hall of Fame of the 61-year-old organization.
More than 20 former players, as well as friends and family, were in attendance.
“It was awesome. I was very humbled and it was a tremendous honor,” Cannon said.
Cannon has been the head basketball coach at Euless Trinity since 1986, also serving as the athletic coordinator for the last 16 years.
Last season she eclipsed 1,000 career victories as a basketball coach.
“I absolutely love my job. I love what I do and wouldn’t trade it for the world,” she said. “I work with such great people. I don’t remember ever a day waking and thinking, ‘I don’t want to go to work.’ I know when that day comes, it will be time for me to leave.”
But for now, retirement isn’t even on the horizon.
“I have no plans for retirement,” she said. “So thank goodness they like me and they tell me I can stay as long as I want to.”