Happy 70th Birthday Coach Dan R. Hooks
If you ever participate in a sports trivia contest and the question is “who is the oldest active high school football coach in the state of Texas?” and you answer Dan Hooks of West Orange-Stark, you may win whatever prize is being given away for the correct answer.
Dan R. Hooks, who turned 70 on Monday, admitted that he didn’t really know of any active head football coach in Southeast Texas beyond the age of 70, although he said longtime Newton coach Curtis Barbay falls just a few years short of Hooks’ age.
Friday night Hooks will begin his 28th season at the helm of the Mustangs as West Orange-Stark kicks off the 2008 season against Class 4A powerhouse Nederland at the Bulldogs’ stadium.
He will be out to maintain his record of having the highest winning percentage of any active coach in the state of Texas in all classifications with his 251-64-2 record at the helm of the Mustangs.
Hooks also will try to add to his record of playing in three straight state finals from 1986-1988, winning back-to-back Class 4A State Championships in 1986 and 1987 and then advancing to the Class 4A state finals in 1988 and 2000 and the Class 3A state semifinals in 2005.
Other honors Hooks has attained include being inducted into the Southeast Texas Coaches’ Association Hall of Honor in March of 2006 and having the West Orange-Stark Football Stadium renamed the Dan R. Hooks Stadium in his honor in August of 2006.
He currently is the only active coach to be inducted into the Hall of Honor or to have a stadium named in his honor.
Hooks is as excited about starting a new season Friday night at Nederland as he was way back in the mid-1950’s when he starred as a high school football player for Barbers Hill.
“We’re not as far along as I would have hoped,” Hooks admitted, “because we have some real deep water to get through before district starts. We scrimmaged a couple of real good teams in Dayton and Vidor and made some mistakes. But that’s what these preseason games are all about.
“Our first five games will dictate how we’ll do this season,” Hooks continued. “We have a real test Friday night at Nederland. They were a playoff team last year and probably will be there again after this season.
“Then it’s our cross-town rival Little Cypress-Mauriceville,” he said talking about the Mustangs’ second opponent. “They played us very tough last year and should be much better this season.
“Jasper and Kirbyville are teams that were in our district last year and should go to the playoffs this season,” Hooks pointed out.
“And I don’t know a thing about Royal, our final nondistrict opponent.”
The Mustangs’ head man said it really was too early to evaluate the opponents of District 21-3A but he was quick to point out that Silsbee on paper has a very good football team. “The Silsbee-Mustang game has developed into quite a rivalry now that Jasper has gone to another district,” Hooks pointed out.
Most high school football coaches who have reached the age of 70 have retired a long time ago. “I’m a whole lot closer to that (retirement) than I was a couple of years ago,” Hooks replied.
“There are quite a few things my wife Cynthia and I want to do while we’re still young enough and healthy enough. So I’ve thought pretty seriously about doing it one of these days.”
One of the main reasons he looks forward to coaching each year is the Mustang football program. “Every year our program looks strong from the varsity level right on down to the seventh grade team. I get excited when I see the future talent that will be coming to our varsity eventually,” Hooks bubbled.
“Our coaching staff is very good and dedicated to keeping the program strong at every level,” Hooks said proudly. “It’s great to have a coach like Cornel (Thompson) who’s been around here so long. And I’m real happy that Toby (Foreman) has returned. He does a great job with our quarterbacks and I’ve known him since he was a baby because of his dad Mark, who recently retired.”
While reflecting on his long career at West Orange-Stark Hooks was asked if any one player he coached stood out. Quickly he replied, “Kevin Smith. He was a great high school and college player, was smart in the classroom and played nine seasons in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys. Kevin was everything a coach would want in an athlete.”
Hooks went on to mention some assistant coaches who went on to be successful head coaches. “Our offensive coordinator Barry Norton took the head coaching job at Texarkana and won a state championship,” he said proudly. “And Thomas Brooks has had several head coaching jobs and will coach against us when we play Jasper next month.”
Dan Ray Hooks loved football while he was growing up in Barbers Hill, a small community about 30 miles east of Houston, and he excelled in that sport during his high school years.
He was good enough to be recruited by Del Mar Junior College in Corpus Christi where he began his college football career. He finished his college football eligibility and received his degree a bit closer to home, at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, and soon began his brilliant high school coaching career as an assistant coach at Channelview High.
Hooks remained at Channelview for 9 _ years and then divided the next 7 _ years between two stints at Lamar University as a graduate assistant and then a full assistant and one year as an assistant coach at French High in Beaumont.
While at Lamar Hooks worked for defensive coordinator Steve McCarty and shared an office with him. They became good friends and worked well together. Some of the players Hooks coached at Lamar included Larry Neumann, now Nederland’s head coach, Matt Burnett, the head coach at PNG, and George Eskue, Vidor’s defensive coordinator.
McCarty was offered the newly-created West Orange-Stark head football coaching job when the two schools—West Orange High and Lutcher Stark High—merged in 1977.
McCarty accepted the job and asked Hooks to come to Orange with him as the defensive coordinator. But Hooks turned him down and said he wanted to stay at Lamar. But the persistent McCarty didn’t give up and on about the fourth try, Hooks agreed that it might be a good football career move and became the Mustangs’ first defensive coordinator.
After four successful seasons (5-4 in 1977, 7-3 in 1978, 8-2-1 and a district championship in 1979 and 9-1 in 1980) McCarty had a chance to coach near his home town of Alto and left West Orange-Stark and recommended that Hooks take over his position.
Hooks was named head coach of the West Orange-Stark Mustangs in 1981 and is still in that same position and as enthusiastic as ever 251 wins later.