Robert Hughes shaped the lives of young men from Fort Worth through basketball for 47 years. For that contribution, and for the all-time best 1,333 wins his I.M. Terrell and Fort Worth Dunbar teams piled up along the way, he was inducted earlier this month into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
It’s no great secret how he pushed his teams to 35 district championships and five state titles, either.
“Don’t get outworked. Period,” Hughes said Thursday at a city of Fort Worth pep rally celebrating the recent basketball accomplishments of Hughes, Texas Christian University and Texas Wesleyan University. “These guys that played for me — they were guys that wouldn’t just spend 10 minutes at it and then say, ‘I’m going to the house.’ We worked. That’s what we did.
“If you couldn’t hack that, we’d have our music section going, ‘Hit the road, Jack, and don’t come back.’ ”
Those young men have for years, now, been influencing lives on their own branches of the Hughes leadership tree.
It was fitting that all three Fort Worth basketball institutions were being honored at the same time, as Hughes’ coaching has touched all three at one point or another. Hughes received both his master’s of education and an honorary doctorate from Texas Wesleyan, and his high school players from Terrell and Dunbar went on to make history in the TCU basketball program as well.
In 1967, I.M. Terrell graduate James Cash broke color barriers as the first black athlete to play under scholarship both in the Southwest Conference and at TCU. Cash was an All-Southwest Conference selection in the 1967-68 season and was inducted into the conference’s hall of fame in 2014.
Cash went on to receive a master’s degree and a doctorate in management information systems from Purdue. He is a faculty member at Harvard Business School.
“He’s a pathfinder of the utmost importance,” TCU basketball coach Jamie Dixon said. “What he did for the Southwest Conference and for TCU was a direct translation of what Coach Hughes did for him.”
Cash talked about Hughes’ ability to inspire “the will to prepare” in his players, during a 2014 interview with the Star-Telegram.
“Everyone has the will to win. Everyone has the will to succeed,” Cash said in 2014. “Not everyone has the will to prepare. It’s all about preparation.”
In 1980, Dunbar graduate Darrell Browder started what would be an athletically historic career at TCU. When Browder was done, his 1,886 career points were more than anyone had scored in the program’s history, and he was an All-Southwest Conference selection for the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons.
Browder was inducted into the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame in 2015.
“Especially with the challenges that he faced in coaching back in the day — to win that many games — trust me — I know it’s not easy,” Dixon said. “Then, to have produced these players that would go on to be TCU greats, the connection between Coach Hughes and TCU is a long and storied one.”
Even with his long and storied history of achievement in Fort Worth, Hughes shies from talking about himself.
He said he “didn’t really get one way or the other, to tell you the truth,” about being inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame.
“A lot of people don’t know it, but the most silent guy in this city is me,” Hughes said. “I’m somewhat of a loner. In a family of seven boys and one girl, the only non-talker is me.”
He spent 47 years talking sense into those he coached, so he’s earned that right.
Matthew Martinez: 817-390-7667; @MCTinez817