COACH “CATFISH” SMITH AND HIS BOYS
The Secret That Drove Him to Win
By Glen Onley
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Milburn “Catfish” Smith rose from the humblest of beginnings in rural East Texas to lead the Carey Cardinals and the Mount Vernon Tigers to numerous football and basketball championships, including Texas State Schoolboy titles. In doing so, he defied the sports gurus of his day, many of whom subsequently credited him with three of the greatest coaching feats of his century. How did he do it? Here for the first time, the secret behind this most unusual and colorful man’s success is revealed, unknown until now even by many of his former players, “His Boys.”
No slow climb to the top was acceptable for this firebrand coach. In his first year he took his Carey Cardinals, a school with less than one hundred enrollment and no basketball court, to a fourth place finish in the Texas Schoolboy state basketball tournament, including a twenty-six-game winning streak. The twenty-three-year-old coach followed that with a 50-2 season and the state championship, back when the smallest schools competed against the largest for the coveted title.
World War II soon interrupted his career, as it did that of many of his contemporaries, but the experience was to change Catfish deeply, and in ways even his closest friends did not understand.
Called to Mount Vernon, Texas in September 1943 to temporarily fill a coaching vacancy, Catfish exceeded all expectations. Seven years later, with two hundred fourteen victories and over twenty titles, including district, bi-district, regional, and state crowns, he was one of the most recognized high school coaches in the state of Texas.
However, the great coach had an Achilles heel, and it was to haunt him as no athletic opponent could.
GLEN ONLEY, author of "Beyond Contentment," "Discovery Tree," and "Sunset," all published by Sunstone Press, attended Mount Vernon schools immediately following the Catfish Smith era when the spirited coach’s accomplishments were already legendary. At Mount Pleasant High School, Mr. Onley learned the game from one of Catfish’s star players, Coach Herb Zimmerman. Now residing in Greenville, Texas, the author is writing a second volume that will cover Catfish Smith’s coaching years at the college level.
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