FEATURE: Fagan brings winning culture to Cypress Springs
HOUSTON – Oji Fagan could not find the words.
He paused, exhaled and then took a moment. It was a lot to take in all at once, he had just found out he would be a head coach for the first time in his career.
It's been a long time coming and Cypress Springs is it.
"I'm just so thankful for [Ray] Zepeda and [Principal] Dr. Henry for believing in me and the vision that I have for Cypress Springs," Fagan said in a phone interview with VYPE. "It's a place where there's definitely some seeds there that we saw when we got to Fort Bend Marshall.
"We just have to get the work in and establishing the process that's going to lead to us earning the right to be successful."
For the past 10 years, Fort Bend Marshall has been home as a part of coach James Williams' staff.
"He ran our offense and I had complete trust in him and the offensive staff," Williams told VYPE. "This opportunity is long overdue. I'm so excited for him."
Over the past 10 years, Fagan has had his hand on the offense, which year-in and year-out have been amongst the most explosive in Houston, serving as an Assistant Head Coach and Co-Offensive Coordinator for four years and the past six as the offensive coordinator.
Being around Williams for the past decade has taught Fagan a lot about how to run a program.
"James Williams is one of the most detailed, structured, and organized individuals in this business," Fagan said. "That has been one of the foundations of our success. Also, he has a strong belief in his staff building relationships with the athletes beyond the game. That's also important.
"There are so many things that I can say James Williams taught me that's going to help build this culture right at Cypress Springs. I can't name them all."
When Fagan arrived at Fort Bend Marshall prior to the 2011 season, the program had never won more than 10 games. The Buffs had also won just two district titles.
In 2012, they won district and went 13-1, in 2016 the Buffs went 11-3, then 10-3 the next year. In 2018 and 2019, the Buffs reached the Class 5A Division II State Championship game.
This past year, they reached the Regional Semifinals and averaged 54.5 points per game in a 12-1 season, which marked the fifth-straight year of 10-plus wins.
"It's probably been one of the most fulfilling and life-changing experiences that anyone can go through because we helped so many young people and we achieved so much," Fagan said of coaching at Fort Bend Marshall. "Even though we didn't reach our ultimate goal, we laid a foundation here that's pretty hard and tough to follow."
As far as his favorite memory, Fagan said it had to be the Mo City Miracle against Huntsville in the fourth round in 2018.
In the 47-43 win, Fort Bend Marshall was facing and fourth and 12 with 33 seconds left. Now Arkansas quarterback Malik Hornsby took the snap, handed it off to Korey King, who then tossed it to now-Texas A&M running back Devon Achane.
Achane then took it and heaved it downfield for Dalevon Campbell, who came down with it broke through two tackles and scored the 47-yard go-ahead touchdown.
Fort Bend Marshall would go to state that year.
"That was probably one of the most enjoyable moments of my coaching career," Fagan, who was coaching from the press box, said. "It was crazy, we lost our minds."
As Fagan turns the page to his new job at Cypress Springs, he is going to approach it just how they faced Fort Bend Marshall when they arrived.
Focus on themselves and getting better every day. And if the Buffs are the blueprint he's going off of, the wins will come with it.
"We focused on doing the right things consistently day after day," Fagan said. "Sooner or later when you do the right things and give complete effort in everything that you do and stack days on top of days of self-improvement, you're going to find yourself getting better.
"We're just going to go in there, roll our sleeves up and we're going to get after it."
Cypress Springs went 1-9 overall last year and has won just two games over the past three seasons. The Panthers also haven't had a winning season since 2003 when they won eight games and their lone district title in program history.
For Fagan, getting back to that point is all about the culture.
"It's a culture that once you buy into it, which it's not easy, and put forth that effort and commit to the work that has to be done, you can earn the right to be successful," he said. "We're going to put the work in that we have to."