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Relentless: A historic documentary about a Fort Worth coach

MIKE McGEE | 3/27/2015, 8:04 p.m. | Updated on 4/2/2015, 6:40 p.m.
High school boys basketball coach Robert Hughes, 86, achieved career milestones that might make any coach envious.
Portrait On Right: Top left: Legendary basketball coach Robert Hughes. Smaller Photo On Left: Coach Robert Hughes led his team to win five state championships. The Dallas Examiner screenshots

Erick Strickland, an entrepreneur who played with the Dallas Mavericks from 1996 to 2000, has a connection to Hughes through their mutual community service. The businessman also said they are linked through the Boston Celtics; Hughes was drafted by the Celtics in 1955 while Strickland played guard for the team during the 2001-2002 season. Strickland said that he can see the dedication Hughes has to the young men of Fort Worth to this day.

“You hear of who is doing what and what impact individuals are making in the community, and Robert Hughes is one of those guys,” he remarked

“I think he’s done a wonderful job,” said Strickland upon Hughes’ decades-long labors as a coach and mentor. “The impact that he had in their lives, to help them become better men, better fathers – and to have the success that they had on the court transition over into their lives after basketball, that’s not always easy, especially in a community that is riddled with violence and gang activity and different things like that.”

The community Strickland spoke of is the Stop Six neighborhood of Fort Worth, the area where Hughes coached and one that has often made news in the past due to the imprint that violence and other crime has had in that section of the city.

Even now, crime in Stop Six is a pressing issue. District 5, in which Stop Six is located, had the second-highest reported rate for council districts in both the Crimes against Persons and Crimes against Property categories, according to the 2014 Third Quarter Crime Report released by the Fort Worth Police Department.

Singleton maintained that Hughes influenced generations of young men in the neighborhood to rise above it all.

“He taught me how to grow up,” Singleton repeated the testimonies he heard again and again during seven hours of filmed interviews with past players. “He taught me maturity. He gave me life lessons.”

One example that Singleton imparted of Hughes’ dedication involved Rubin Russell.

Russell was drafted by the Seattle Supersonics in 1967 – as reported by DatabaseBasketball.com – and played in the American Basketball Association. Singleton affirmed that during Russell’s high school years, he lived in what is now Keller but had no way of getting to class or practice. McConnell was also familiar with the tale.

“His parents didn’t have a vehicle and he lived some distance away and there was not a bussing system in place to take him from the Hurst-Euless-Bedford area where he resided to his high school in Fort Worth,” McConnell said.

Hughes took Russell to school for four years. He also arranged math tutoring for the young athlete, when the coach didn’t do the tutoring himself. There was also shooting practice with the coach after the team practice.

“That’s much, much bigger than a basketball story. That’s just a human story. That’s just a person that genuinely cares about people, their well-being, whether they’re playing sports for him or not,” McConnell offered.

The two filmmakers say the documentary is nearing completion. Singleton confirmed that the movie will contain dramatic reenactment scenes along with the interviews and archival footage. McConnell declared that there was still a scene to shoot with Walter Dansby, the first Black superintendent of the Fort Worth School District, and was in the process of soliciting further funding.

“What we’re looking for now and we’re working on … is sponsorship opportunities. What we call movie product placement,” McConnell stated.

He explained that a local or national company could have an appropriate product or service featured in the film in exchange for a fee that would help complete the project. Singleton indicated he felt the finished documentary would encapsulate a recognition long overdue to Hughes.

“I want this film to be done while he’s still with us and he can enjoy it,” Singleton said.