KAZ’S KORNER- Sports Commentary
Joe Kazmar

There have only been two head football coaching changes in the history of West Orange-Stark High School. And Monday night when the West Orange-Cove ISD school board met and approved the most recent change, defensive coordinator Cornel Thompson became the third head football coach in WO-S history.

Thompson replaces Dan Hooks, who had been at the helm of the Mustangs since 1981 before retiring last month, after leading the football program to a 277-71-2 record that included two state championships and two state runners-up– all in Class 4A.

During almost all of that time Thompson was right there at Hooks’ side calling the signals for one of the stingiest defenses in the state of Texas which became known as the “Chain-Gang Defense.”

And when Hooks announced his plans to retire at the end of June, 2011, the campaigning for Thompson to replace Hooks began immediately from the Mustang Family throughout Orange County.

It was almost as if it were a race for a political position as signs supporting “Coach T for AD” began to pop up on street corners and lawns all over town. E-mails began pouring in to the members of the selection committee and there even was something posted on “You Tube” promoting Thompson as the next WO-S head football coach and athletic director.

It didn’t take new Superintendent James Colbert long to find out who a majority of the Mustang Family wanted as their new head coach and he and the selection committee took heed. And as a classroom instructor, Thompson’s fellow teachers at West Orange-Stark selected him as their 2010-11 “Teacher of the Year.”

“Coach Thompson is a tremendous selection,” Colbert commented after the committee revealed its decision last week. “He’s a man of tremendous integrity who fits all the criteria that we had set in finding the next head coach and athletic director. Coach Thompson is a true representative of West Orange-Stark and the community that surrounds us.”

Thompson was elated to be selected by the committee. “This is a dream job for an old West Orange boy,” the new Mustang head coach chortled. “I have a chance to lead one of the best programs the State of Texas has ever seen. I’ve still got that old fire in my belly and should have a good five to ten years left to devote to this program.

“I’ve seen the program turn boys into men and then we were able to coach their sons, too,” Thompson continued. “There is just something special about our kids here at West Orange-Stark. The tradition here is like no other and hopefully we can carry it on.”

Hooks also was happy with the decision of the selection committee to name Thompson as his replacement. “Cornel is an excellent choice,” Hooks commented last week. “He’s the best darn defensive coach I’ve ever been around. Cornel is a tremendous leader on and off the field and I think the kids are going to be excited.”

Thompson is a 1966 graduate of West Orange High School and attended McNeese State on a baseball scholarship. His first coaching job was as an assistant at Kirbyville High from 1971-73. He returned home as an assistant coach at Lutcher Stark High in 1973 and joined West Orange-Stark as an assistant coach when the two schools merged in 1977.

He became the Mustangs’ defensive coordinator when Hooks was named head coach in 1981 and remained in that position until 2001 when he had an opportunity to become the head football coach at Palestine High.

After one year he moved on to Huntsville High as the defensive coordinator and returned to the Mustangs in that same position from 2004 until the present.

Although we both played baseball at McNeese, I really didn’t get to know Cornel until after we both finished our careers as Cowboys.

We played together on a summer semi-pro team sponsored by Hubbard Electric and on a hot Sunday afternoon at West End Park I was toiling on the mound and Cornel was my catcher.
Suddenly a car pulled up and someone got out hollering that Cornel was about to become a Daddy, so he peeled off the catcher’s gear and got to the hospital just in time to see his oldest son Marcus come into this world.

That was a long time ago, but since then Coach T has always helped to make my job of writing material about the Mustang football program easier by explaining to me the offensive strengths of an upcoming opponent and how he plans to slow them down.

KWICKIES…Let’s hope the same thing can happen for the Houston Texans that occurred for both the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers. The Saints were 7-9 and 8-8 when Sean Payton turned over the defense to Gregg Williams. The Saints used their first three draft picks on defensive players, posted a 13-3 record and beat Indianapolis in the Super Bowl. The Packers were coming off a 6-10 season when Mike McCarthy turned his defense over the Dom Capers and used their two No. 1 picks on defensive players. They finished 11-5 in 2009 and 10-6 last year and defeated Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl. The Texans are coming off a 6-10 season, have turned over the defense to Wade Phillips and are planning on using their high draft choices this weekend on defensive players. Will history repeat itself???

The NBA playoff picture in games through Sunday have the Boston Celtics sweeping the New York Knicks in four straight games, Miami, Atlanta and Chicago holding 3-1 advantages, Oklahoma City leading Denver 3-0, both Dallas-Portland and the LA Lakers-New Orleans tied at 2-2, and Memphis leading San Antonio 2-1.

And while on the subject of the NBA playoffs, Atlanta’s first player off the bench Jamal Crawford is the first player since Kevin McHale in 1981 to average 25 or more points in that capacity.

The Lamar baseball team was swept for the second weekend in a row, losing to UT-San Antonio 5-2 on Thursday, 9-8 Friday and 13-12 on Saturday. Cardinal’s head coach Jim Gilligan has failed six straight times to post his 1,200th coaching victory. Hopefully that win will come either Wednesday against the Houston Cougars or in this weekend’s three-game series against Northwestern State.

The girls’ high school softball state playoffs are under way this week as the Little Cypress-Mauriceville Lady Bears will meet Baytown Lee while district champions Bridge City and Deweyville have first-round byes. The boys’ regular baseball season ends this weekend with the state playoffs set for next week.

JUST BETWEEN US…The Houston Astros won their first series of the season last week against the New York Mets and finished the six-game road trip to New York and Milwaukee with a 3-3 record. The fact the Astros are still in the NL Central cellar and have an 8-14 record going into Tuesday’s home stand against the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee is nothing to write home about. Getting off to a 2-8 start didn’t help matters much. But the Astros are one of the better hitting teams in the majors so far this year. In fact Houston LEADS the major leagues with the best batting average for its pitching staff (.357) and the catching department of Humberto Quintero (.313) and J. R. Towles (.385) through the first 22 games. No other major league pitching staff has a batting average as high as .200.

See the upcoming issues of the County Record and Penny Record for more Hometown sports Highlights and much more.