“Impulsive” has never been a good description for Sue Cannon.
“Organized, detailed and measured” better define the Euless Trinity girls basketball coach. Yet it was an impulsive decision by Cannon to retire from a profession that has practically defined who she is for 46 years.
Recently questioned by friends about how long she wanted to keep coaching, Cannon really didn’t consider it. She was ready for 2017-2018. But that conversation triggered a restless Tuesday night’s sleep. The thought of walking away preyed on her mind.
Sue Cannon helped an unidentified homeless player find a job. That player eventually sent Cannon a picture with a note of thanks for saving her life. Cannon treasures that note a lot more than she would a state championship trophy.
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Cannon, 69, woke up that Wednesday and decided it was time. After 1,117 wins, numerous district championships and playoff wins, and an induction into Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2009, Cannon went to the HEB district administration offices, signed the retirement paperwork, and that was that.
“I needed to go do this,” Cannon said. “I had to be rash. If I thought longer and got to the office and went to basketball practice, I just knew I wouldn’t do it. A huge weight has been lifted off my chest. I feel like in my heart I did the right thing.”
Cannon could have coached longer, instructed longer and served as the athletics coordinator longer. Everything about her, professionally and the way she lives her life, has been precise.
Walk into Cannon’s office and you immediately understand. Every item has its place and is evenly positioned. Watch her teams, and they played the same way. Watch how Trinity athletics worked on a daily basis in her 19-year run as athletics coordinator, and that was a reflection of her philosophy.
I made my job my life. But it was the quality of life afterward. I needed to retire to be able to do the things I wanted to do.
- Sue Cannon
When then-principal B.J. Murray hired Cannon away from West Orange-Stark in the summer of 1986, he told her that she had three seasons to turn around the program. It was 0-30 in 1985-1986. Cannon said if she couldn’t do it in two, she would resign. After 31 seasons, Trinity only had two losing campaigns. The Trojans made the postseason 15 of the previous 18 seasons and were 27-6 in 2016-2017. Now, the program is set up for her successor.
The funny thing is that Cannon likely would have never thought of Trinity had she not come to Texas. She coached the women’s basketball team at the University of North Carolina for a season (1973-1974). Then she went to Houston to work at a private school and later West Orange-Stark while she was working on her doctorate degree at the University of Houston. The thinking was that she would return to UNC with the hopes of coaching that program.
However, coaching in Texas appealed to her. She stayed.
“I got involved in high school coaching and loved it,” Cannon said. “I didn’t love the recruiting. I loved molding a team from what you had coming to you. I was determined to work hard and make this successful.”
This sudden, yet wise, decision is to simply see what else is out there in life. There’s the opportunity to play some golf and travel around the United States or the world. Most importantly, she can sleep in a little more and wake up without referring to a daily agenda.
For someone like Cannon, that kind of transition can be daunting. There should be reflection and appreciation from a career that has spanned five decades. While she never took a West Orange-Stark or Trinity team to the state tournament, there are no regrets.
“I love my job and coaching kids,” Cannon said. “I made my job my life. But it was the quality of life afterward. I needed to retire to be able to do the things I wanted to do.”
Wins and championships keep jobs. Developing relationships well beyond a player’s playing days reveal the substance of a career. Cannon is the godmother for six of her players’ children.
She reminisced on the unidentified homeless player whom she helped find a job. That player eventually moved to Hollywood to chase her dream of acting and sent a picture with a note of thanks to Cannon for saving her life. There’s more value in that than holding a state championship trophy.
Cannon’s last day will be June 30. She will still hold her camp the third week in June. On July 1, life after basketball begins. Trinity will not feel the absence until classes resume in August. The Dallas-Fort Worth girls basketball coaching scene won’t feel it until Trinity plays that first game in November without her on the sideline.
But she won’t disappear from the game. Cannon plans to follow the team. Perhaps she will go to all of the games. Perhaps she will only go to some.
That’s the excitement of this upcoming chapter. Cannon can do whatever she wants. When you’ve given your time, talent and effort to something for close to half of a century, you’ve earned a little impulsiveness.