If you combined the number of years Robert Hale and J.D. Mayo have coached Texas high school basketball, you’d have over 90 years and 1,600 career wins.
Fitting enough that two of the all-time greats will be inducted together during the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in San Antonio on Saturday.
“Coach Hale is the reason why I’m in education,” said Troy Bell, who is an assistant director of athletics at Fort Worth ISD. “I owe him a great deal of gratitude and on behalf of my teammates, Coach Hale made us successful not only on the court, but in life. He taught us no matter what the outcome was, we came away as better men for it.”
Bell played for Hale when he was a head coach at Everman in the 80s and then spent five years as his assistant coach at Pampa, where the two helped guide the team to a state title in 1996, which marked a fifth overall for the program, but first in 47 years.
“I got into coaching because I wanted to be an influence on kids,” said Hale, who began his coaching tree in 1972 at Seymour. “It wasn’t always about landing the high-profile job, but to make an impact on my players. I miss being around and being involved. I loved coaching and all aspects of it. I got the kids to believe what we were doing and that was always important to me.
“It was a great feeling to get the call last summer that I was going to be inducted. I had done it before with the Texas High School Coaches Association in 2015. I’m a lucky man and it’s very humbling.”
Hale spent his most time at Pampa, which is an hour east of Amarillo. He coached the Harvesters for 13 years, but he was also well established in Dallas-Fort Worth with other coaching stints at Lewisville, Burleson, Everman, Weatherford, Azle, Crowley, Azle Christian and Weatherford Express Home School.
“I met coach Hale when I was 14. I loved basketball and we had a new coach in town. I was a freshman and made it my duty to open the door for him anytime I’d see him,” Bell said. “Two years later and I was on varsity and he helped me become a better player and better person. I only had my mom so coach Hale kind of fit that gap, that male figure that I needed. I graduated college and when I was 25 he asked me to come coach with him at Pampa. I jumped on the opportunity and we never looked back.
“He taught me to be a good coach. I’d always listen and watch him coach, and he was always very helpful on and off the court. Our third year at Pampa, we finally reached state. We had a great team, 33-3 and won 21 straight games. We won the state title in front of 15,000 in Austin over Dallas Madison.”
Hale coached Everman to a district title in 1986; helped Weatherford tie a school record in wins while his oldest son Colby led the Metroplex in assists and steals per game; beat Robert Hughes and Dunbar, and reached the regional tournament at Azle while youngest Clarke scored nearly 1,000 points; and spent six seasons at Crowley where the Eagles were four-time district champs.
He won nine district titles and went to the regional tourney seven times at Pampa, and also won a state title at Azle Christian. Weatherford Express went to the Home School Nationals in Missouri and won the bronze division, and finished 34-11 in 2017.
Mayo coached at Dallas Spruce, Nocona, Joshua and most notably Dallas Skyline for 33 years. Like Hale, Mayo won over 800 games in his career. His final season was in 2017 with Joshua.
“Very humbling and appreciative. All the glory goes to the big coach and obviously our players. When you have good players, that helps you have good teams,” said Mayo, who was inducted into the Dallas ISD Athletic Hall of Honor in April.
Mayo won 698 games during his 33-year career at Skyline and was named the National High School Basketball Coach of the Year in 2000 by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association. He also coached three all-star games.
Mayo, who is the winningest head coach in the Dallas school district, coached former UNLV and NBA superstar Larry Johnson and current NBA player C.J. Miles. His name reads off the Skyline gym, which was re-built in 2011.
“There was a lot of support and it was really a unique deal at Skyline,” he said.
Mayo spent five years at Nocona, which is 45 miles east of Wichita Falls, before finishing his last three years turning around the program at Joshua, where he won is 800th career game during the 2016-17 season.
“Although it was a different level of basketball, when I signed on with Joshua, every kid became important,” Mayo said. “My goal was to improve each individual. They hardly won any games before I got there, I think two in two years and no hardware from any tournaments.”
The Owls had 20 wins in the six years prior to Mayo’s arrival. In his first year, Mayo coached Joshua to nine wins, its most in eight years and took home their first tournament trophy in a decade.
“Coaching and education is a great profession,” he said. “I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to impact and be able to influence those kids. It’s real important to master the fundamentals of the game, but it’s even bigger when you can master the fundamentals in life.”
Hale is dedicating this honor to his late wife Robin, who passed away in March. The couple was married for 38 years and Robin was Robert’s book-keeper every single year.
“Robin was always a fixture of his teams,” Bell said. “She was at every single stop.”
“She was a terrific, beautiful and made the world go round,” Hale added. “As soon as we got married, I started to win more games.”