Words by Richard Allen | Photography by White Orchid Photography
Leta Andrews has won more basketball games than any coach on the entire planet. But she’d trade every one of her 1,416 victories over 52 seasons for one more minute with David, her beloved husband. He passed away last March after 62 years together.
“David drove the bus on every one of those trips. We had a lot of good times,” the legendary coach said, unable to hold back a tear. “Nothing’s any sweeter than coming home on a yellow bus with a victory.”
She gave David so much of which to be proud. So many wins over her career at Tolar, Gustine, Comanche, Granbury (twice) and Corpus Christi Calallen, including a state championship at Calallen.
But if anyone ever thought victories were all there is to the depth of Leta, David would quickly correct them. More than anything else, Leta takes pride in shaping the lives of a plethora of young ladies who called her coach.
“Of course I miss the competition side, I have always loved to compete, but more than that I had a burning desire to teach my young ladies the correct way to do things,” she said. “And that wasn’t just on the basketball court, but in life. A lot of the things we learn in sports, if we do them correctly, they carry over into life.”
As Leta, now 81, grew up on her family farm just outside Granbury, she and her siblings hit the floor each day knowing they had chores before school. They were required to keep their studies up, and they knew if they wanted to play sports – which they all did very well – that and getting their daily work done were not negotiable.
The same held true for each of Leta’s players. Long before the state enforced a no-pass, no-play policy, it was Leta’s policy.
“Leta is a class act, a great teacher and loved what she did,” Granbury Athletic Director Dwight Butler said. “She got the very best out of every young lady that played for her, which got them ready for a productive citizen in life. She knows the game of basketball and life and lives it.
“Ironically, Leta did not originally want to be a coach, even though she was among the state’s best players in high school, leading the Granbury Lady Pirates to back-to-back state runner-up finishes in 1953 and 1954.
“I wanted to be a teacher. I did my internship in first grade. I went home and told David, ‘I can’t do this,'” she said with a laugh. “I went back and got my secondary degree and taught high school (English and kinesiology).”
In fact, Leta said the greatest accomplishment of her career isn’t having the most victories, or winning state. It’s not being inducted into numerous Halls of Fame. It was being rewarded for her work in the classroom.
“In 1992, when I was elected Walt Disney Teacher of the Year, that’s my greatest moment,” she said. “I had to travel for Disney as an ambassador, and I had to keep coaching. There were a lot of sweet moments in my basketball career, but that’s hard to beat.”
And, of course, capturing that elusive state title in 1990 is also high on the list, she added with a smile. She’d had some of the best teams in Texas that came very close before that team reached the summit.
“I’d heard from so many people that Calallen couldn’t win a state championship,” she said. “When you get beat in overtime, double overtime, even triple overtime, you come so close, it just means so much more when you do win it.”
She coached the Granbury Lady Pirates to state in 1978 before leaving for Calallen. She came close to taking the Lady Pirates back there on a few occasions after returning in 1992, something she wishes she’d been able to accomplish.
She said it was her heart that brought her back to Granbury.”Corpus Christi had Petro chemical plants, and that school district paid their teachers well, so that was hard to leave,” she said. “But after 12 years there, when I learned Granbury needed a coach, I had to come back. David had retired and we just wanted to come back home.”
Leta and David had three daughters, all of whom played for their mom and later went on to be standouts for the University of Texas Lady Longhorns. Ironically, none played for her at Granbury, however. Linda Waggoner and Sissy Andrews-Tiberia graduated from Comanche, while Lisa Parker graduated from Calallen.
“They all went to that institution (UT) with a full ride and walked out debt-free,” Leta said proudly. “And now they are all fine adults.”
Leta stays busy these days, even find-ing time for basketball. She conducts two camps, one at Fort Worth Country Day School, where she has a family connection, and one in San Angelo for a family friend.
And players still come from near and far to learn from Leta, who admits she can’t say no when it comes to helping young people.
“When you get a hundred phone calls asking can you help my daughter, you just want to do it,” she said.
Sometimes the calls aren’t even connected to camps. In fact, she has to hurry after this interview to get to Godley and watch a young boy play at the request of his parents.
“Their son wanted Leta Andrews to come see him play, and they wanted me to critique him,” she said.”
No one has a bigger heart. Some people may see her as tough and ruthless, but she loved her players,” Granbury Lady Pirates Golf Coach and longtime friend Becky Addison said. “She knows everyone around her in a personal sense. She speaks to everyone, regardless of their station in life. She sends more handwritten cards than you can possibly imagine to say thank you, condolences, get well, and just to say she is thinking of you.”
Leta travels to do public speaking, though she doesn’t leave the state now that David isn’t around to accompany her. She delivers Meals on Wheels regularly, and she loves serving first responders, she said. And, of course, she loves seeing her four grandchildren and great grandson every chance she gets.
She often hears from her former players, and she keeps up with them consistently. In fact, she has paper files she keeps at home with how to contact and other information about them over the years.”
I’ve got records back to when we didn’t even have computers,” she said with a laugh. “Every now and then I’ll send them something, and sometimes they send me things.”
And there’s the 46-acre farm at home that still needs tending. Two other pieces of property are over 50 acres each. Her family helps out, of course, but it’s also another way to miss David.
“I’m on a tractor a lot,” she said. “But David just did so much around here. Every time I look around I just miss him so much.
“I’ll never forget our first date. We were walking the halls of Granbury High and he said, ‘Do you want to go with me to Northside Coliseum and see Elvis Presley?’ I said, ‘Who’s Elvis Presley?’
“He said to me once before he expired, ‘If I go first, I want you to continue to go to church, and if you go, I’ll continue to go.’ I’m looking forward to holding his hands with him again in Heaven.”