Titans coach Grammer reaches 500-win milestone
Nov. 21, 2010 at 5:21 a.m.
Updated Nov. 22, 2010 at 5:22 a.m.
Memorial was in the midst of one of its top seasons ever - and its last. And John Grammer wasn't about to make it about himself.
The Vipers coach had 499 wins entering Memorial's area-round game against San Antonio Churchill, the next being a major milestone in his coaching career. But bringing it up meant taking the emphasis of the game off the players, something he was loathe to do.
It didn't matter. The Vipers fell to Churchill, ending their season early despite finishing second in a tough District 27-5A that produced several top-ranked basketball teams that year.
His milestone would have to wait through the summer, but not long into 2010-11 season. In his first game coaching at Victoria East, on the road at Corpus Christi Incarnate Word, Grammer reached his 500th win in his long coaching career, one that has spanned 22 years and four schools, three of which are in Victoria.
And the credit for it, according to the Titans coach, belongs to the players he's coached.
"God has blessed me with good players, and I've been able to coach for a long time with some really good teams," he said.
Having a father whose name is near-legendary in Texas basketball circles helps, too. His father, Jack, coached at Austwell-Tivoli from 1955 to 1970, and from 1970 to 1984 at Rice Consolidated, and was elected to the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.
And just being related to him opened doors that may not have been opened to others, Grammer said.
"Because of him and his name, I've been able to get some really good jobs from a young age," he said. "I've really had the luxury of having a hall of fame coach in my dad that I could talk to."
But it's also about the other coaches he's played for and had the opportunity to watch, like Ronnie Arrow, who Grammer played for at San Jacinto College, and Billy Tubbs at the University of Oklahoma. There's also the college teams he's been able to watch practice, such as Longhorns teams coached by Rick Barnes and Texas A&M teams coached by Billy Gillispie.
Gillispie, who got his start as a head coach at Copperas Cove High School before making the jump to collegiate basketball, started at high schools in Texas about the same time as Grammer, and is someone the East coach lists as a friend.
But Grammer said he admires a different college program and points that program as an example of what he strive for year in and year out.
"I kind of look at Duke," he said. "That's one of the programs that I look to, and they have a lot of players that come back and help coach."
The tradition continues. Grammer's assistant at East, Peter Staackman, was one of the coach's players at Port Aransas, giving him an advantage of having been there and done that.
"He played as a player, so he knows what it's like to be a player for me," Grammer said. "And he's coached and he knows what it's like to be in this system."
Grammer is part of a long line of successful Victoria basketball coaches. One of his predecessors, the late Jack Cook, was elected to the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame this year, and coach Mike Smith had a lot of success in several seasons as coach at Victoria High. Current East women's basketball coach, Yulonda Wimbish-North, is also a member of the Hall of Fame as well.
And Grammer, with this milestone, may not be far off.
STARTLINGLY SMALL CROWD
Of the announced attendance of 4,509 people at Comalander Stadium on Saturday, maybe 500 of them were Victoria West fans.
The Victoria West side of the stadium was sparsely populated with parents, fans and the occasional student, but it was nothing compared to the turnouts during the season.
Or the turnout for Victoria East across town at the Alamodome.
I don't know if people were expecting a blowout, or if San Antonio was a cost-prohibitive trip to support the team.
And the reasons are irrelevant here. The fans who stayed home and listened to Ash Wade on the radio got the game, and a tongue lashing from the radio broadcaster, who brought it up many times.
The rest of the stadium was filled with a wild and raucous collection of people pulling for the Warriors' opponent, Weslaco East. They made their presence known to the stadium and the surrounding areas.
The trip for the Weslaco East fans was more than double that of the Victoria West fans.
The game was supposed to be at a neutral site with the Wildcats as the "home" team.
But, based on the attendance, it was a home game for Weslaco East in every sense of the term.
John Hornberg covers Victoria East and West for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at AdvoSports.com.