Remembering Mr. Memorial - Don Coleman (1933-2020)
HOUSTON - When Paige Hershey started as the head girls basketball coach at Spring Woods High School, Don Coleman "loomed larger than life".
"I was awed in his presence and felt sure he didn't know who I was," Hershey said. "I don't recall if I was even confident enough to hold a conversation with him at that time. And yet, his exemplary example was profound to me and was something I tried to emulate in my own coaching."
That was the affect that Don Coleman had on many young coaches as they came up through the ranks during his 30-year run of leading Memorial Mustangs' hoops from 1962-1992.
Many coaches this week are reminiscing their best Don Coleman stories as they remember the legendary coach, following his passing on February 9. Don Coleman was 87 years old.
"For me, he was an awesome individual," Memorial head coach Newman Lay said in a video released on the team's Twitter account. "When I first got the job here, he would leave notes on my desk. Just saying, 'Keep your head up. Keep working'. It took us a while for us to get our first win. But when I walked in my office, there was a note that said 'Congrats, great job'."
In his illustrious coaching career, Coleman amassed 893 wins and had 20 or more wins in 26-consecutive seasons. From 1964-1971, the Mustangs rattled off 81-straight district wins. Coleman led the Mustangs to the 1966 State Championship and was a state finalist in 1967, 1969 and 1984.
Earlier this fall, Don Coleman was honored again by Spring Branch ISD as they unveiled a bronze statue of the legendary coach on the concourse of the Don Coleman Community Coliseum, which was renamed that years ago.
"Coach Don Coleman certainly left his mark on Memorial High School and Spring Branch ISD Athletics and we feel infinitely fortunate to have had the chance to celebrate his legacy with his family members, former players, fellow coaches and many friends at Don Coleman Community Coliseum recently as we dedicated the bronze now standing on the concourse," Hershey said. "While Coach Coleman's record of wins still stands among the best in high school boys' basketball at the national level, what endures even more are the lessons he taught to his student-athletes, to those with whom he coached and to others beyond Memorial High School, through his example."
The man that was known to many as "District Don" was born in Port Arthur, Texas. Coleman grew up there, attended Port Arthur Thomas Jefferson High and received a tennis and basketball scholarship to Lamar Tech, known today as Lamar University.
Coleman went on to lead the Lamar Tennis team to many records, capturing an unprecedented three consecutive Lone Star Conference Singles Championships, ultimately winning the NAIA National Doubles title and receiving the distinguished John Gray Award for the Best Student Athlete at Lamar.
Following his collegiate career, Coleman started in coaching at Aldine High School in 1957, where he led the Mustangs until 1962, when he couldn't pass up an offer to head over to the new Memorial High School.
He would coach there until 1992, when he retired. That year, Coleman was honored with the UIL Denius Award for Excellence and in 1995, was honored by the Texas High School Basketball Coaches Association as an inductee to the TABC Hall of Fame. Four years later, in 1999, the Outstanding Coach of the Year award for the State of Texas was renamed "The Don Coleman Coach of the Year Award" to honor the State's best coach.
"He's always been a Memorial guy, he will forever be a Memorial guy," Lay said. "He just loved the game of basketball. He loved this high school. He loved what the game did for him and for kids."
Another way Spring Branch ISD honored Don Coleman was with the creation of the Don Coleman Scholarship Award, which is meant to recognize the top student-athlete in boys and girls basketball in Spring Branch ISD.
"It became the top award in our program that our players aspired to earn, and it was a highlight of my career that five of our own student-athletes received this recognition," Hershey said. "Don Coleman's coaching legacy left an indelible mark on me and made me want to be a better coach and leader. That same message rang true at the bronze dedication we hosted, as players and peers spoke of his influence on them as he pushed them to be their very best.
"We're all lucky when we get to have someone of Coach Don Coleman's caliber within our sphere of influence. I was lucky to have had his example as a model and a standard and I know countless others in our community and beyond feel the same way."
Don Coleman's life will be celebrated this Thursday at Chapelwood Methodist Church in Houston, Texas.
Date: Thursday, February 20th, 2020
Time: 11:00 am
Chapelwood Methodist Church
11140 Greenbay Drive
Houston, TX 77024
In lieu of flowers, the family requests those wishing to make contributions to further honor Coach Coleman's memory and passion, to please direct your tax-deductible gift to the Don Coleman Scholarship Fund at the Spring Branch Education Foundation or the charity of their choice. The donation link, as well as further information, photos and videos of Coach can be found at CoachColeman.org.