by Danny Andrews
The man who sandwiched two great coaching stints in high school around a stellar six years at Wayland Baptist College utilized both to cement his place in American basketball history and enshrinement in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
Dean Weese was anointed heir to the head coaching job of the famed Hutcherson Flying Queens at the small school in Plainview by his predecessor Harley Redin and the team’s longtime sponsor, Claude Hutcherson.
Weese had spoken at Wayland basketball clinics and, bolstered by state championships in 1966, 1971 and 1972 at Spearman in the Texas Panhandle, was a logical choice when Redin decided to retire. Redin’s record of 437-68, six national Amateur Athletic Union championships and six second-place finishes in 18 years would be a tough act to follow.
“I really didn’t interview for the job. I guess Harley and Claude just liked what they saw,” chuckled Weese, who turns 85 in September 2020. “Claude flew me and Harley to the Iowa State Girls Basketball Tournament, but we never talked about Harley getting ready to retire. But when he decided to retire (after the 1972-73 season), I think he and Claude knew what they wanted and I felt like it was time for me to go, though I hadn’t been looking for another job at all.”
A native of tiny Higgins, about 60 miles southeast of Perryton near the Oklahoma border, he coached one season in his hometown after graduating from Phillips University in Enid, Okla. It happened that his sister, Kay, was a member of the team.
Although he got his draft summons for the Army and resigned, he was playing in a semipro baseball game in Shattuck, Okla. when he was offered the girls’ basketball job at Spearman by the superintendent with the option to coach boys if that job came open.
“The superintendent had a friend on the draft board in Perryton and said he could pull some strings to get me a deferment. Anyway, that’s how I got into coaching girls,” Dean recalled.
A sought-after catcher by several area teams, Weese had been playing with and against grown men since the eighth grade. “That’s how I got started chewing tobacco,” he laughed, saying he gave up the habit a long time ago.
Weese spent 15 years at Spearman High School, coaching the Lynxettes to a record of 444-76 with 13 straight district titles. For several years, Spearman held the record of eight straight state tournament appearances.
Before Weese came to Wayland, he was asked by Redin to be his assistant for the Pan American Games in Cali, Colombia, in 1971. A mix of seven Flying Queens and several AAU players from around the country assembled in Plainview for about a week of workouts before heading to Cali for a week of games. America and Brazil finished with 5-1 records, but Brazil claimed the gold medal by virtue of its 64-60 win over the U.S. in the first game.
He said the adjustment to coaching the five-player game in Cali and later at the college level wasn’t difficult because his Spearman teams worked equally hard on defense as well as shooting. “I figured if you can’t play 2-on-2 or 3-on-3, you can’t play 5-on-5 or 6-on-6,” said Weese, whose mantra was “Can’t pass, can’t shoot, can’t play.”
“I thought the six-player (divided court) game was a super game. Some folks in Oklahoma threatened to sue to keep the six-player game after most other states except Iowa had adopted the five-player, full-court game. They wanted me to take their side for the six-player game, but all the colleges were going to the five-player game,” Weese said.
Before taking the Wayland job, Weese and his wife Jo Ann had been to Plainview to see one of his former players, Marcia Shieldknight. Her sister, Leann, played a total of eight years for Weese in Spearman and Wayland. Another former Lynxette, Sheila Patterson, also played for Weese in college.
Weese didn’t recall talking about a contract to coach at Wayland and he wasn’t paid a lot more than he was making at Spearman but looked forward to the new challenge.
Jo Ann remembers being included in an interview with President Dr. Roy C. McClung. “He knew we weren’t Baptists, but he was kind of laying out how we were supposed to act. He thought we were Methodists but when I told him we were First Christian, he said, ‘Well, they’re about as liberal as Methodists.’ I knew girls weren’t allowed to wear pants at Wayland. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to wear lipstick,” she related with a laugh.
Jo Ann said finding a house in Plainview after Weese took the Wayland job in 1973 was difficult because they moved a couple of months after a tornado did considerable damage to homes in the west part of town. DeAnn was about to start 7th grade and Todd was going to be a 4th grader. Jeremy wouldn’t come along until 1976, shortly after the Flying Queens played in the semifinals of the fifth national tournament of the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) in State College, Pa.
While Todd was able to play Little Dribblers, Plainview didn’t start basketball for girls until 1977-78. DeAnn played on the team that advanced to the state semifinals in Plainview’s first year of University Interscholastic League play the following season.
Weese was able to supplement his Wayland salary by hosting summer camps, attracting “140 kids per session with a waiting list,” bringing in area coaches to assist as well as utilizing members of the Flying Queens. Camps ran from Sunday to the next Saturday noon for three weeks.
Weese compiled a record of 193-30 in six years at Wayland plus five appearances in the national AIAW tournament (Manhattan, Kan.; Harrisonburg, Va.; State College, Pa.; Los Angeles, Calif. and Stanford, Calif.), two AAU titles and four National Women’s Invitational championships in Amarillo.
Even today, Weese is convinced the deck was stacked against a man winning the AIAW title. “They had a lot of older ladies coaching and in leadership, women officials and bookkeepers. Of course, the people we played were tough,” he admitted.
On the subject of tough, Dean personified it with a no-nonsense approach in practice and games. Leanne Waddell, a member of the Queens’ team that advanced to the Final Four in Los Angeles in 1978, quipped that she thought her first name was “Dadgummit” because Weese frequently barked at her, “Dadgummit Waddell!” when she made a mistake.
Weese’s comeback to a college official, who ran halfway down the court to apologize because “I’m sorry, I missed that call,” is the stuff of legend. “Hell,” Dean retorted, “you been missin’ ‘em all night. I don’t know why you’d come down here and brag on that one!”
At Wayland, Weese coached six players in the top 20 of all-time Flying Queen scorers, five Kodak All-Americans, six AAU All-Americans as well as consistent achievers in the classroom and campus activities.
Jo Ann fondly recalls an AAU-sponsored trip to the Soviet Union that included six Wayland players. The team played in four cities and each time a different Russian squad included 7-foot Uljana Semjonova, a future Hall of Famer and member of the Russian contingent that played at Wayland in the mid-1970s.
Wayland also sponsored the Queens on a “Hong Kong for Christ” trip that included games and testimonies by the players. “We got to spend a few days in Hawaii on the way back,” she said.
Although he turned down an opportunity to coach high school in Iowa, “I think I talked to Stephen F. Austin (in Nacogdoches) one time when I was in Levelland. Sue Gunter later was the coach there and she was one of my favorite people. She probably saved my life by helping me with the rules of Title IX (a federal law passed in 1973 to foster equity in women’s athletics) such as recruiting.”
Speaking of recruiting, Weese said most of his was done by telephone, via the Texas-Oklahoma High School All-Star Game that rotated between Plainview and Lindsey, Okla. each summer, and by assistant Shena Cooper who knew a lot of players in Oklahoma.
“Of course, the fact that we flew to our away games helped in recruiting, though I think some of the players thought we were flying on big airplanes” (rather than four-passenger Beechcraft Bonanzas provided by Claude Hutcherson).
Jo Ann said she knew things were going to get tougher on the recruiting trail when NCAA schools launched women’s basketball in the late 1970s and “Debra Rankin (sister of Flying Queens star Jill Rankin of Phillips, near Borger) signed with the University of Texas.”
Jo Ann recalls the respect new recruits had for veteran players like Carolyn Bush and Brenda Moeller and the bonding experiences players had during freshman orientation and basketball initiation. “The veteran players would take the newcomers way out from Plainview and make them walk back to town and then take them to breakfast,” she remembered with a laugh.
After the 1978-79 season that saw the Queens advance to the AIAW quarterfinals, All-American center Jill Rankin made the Olympic Trials and Weese was being wooed by Jud Phillips, owner of the Dallas Diamonds of the fledgling Women’s Basketball League.
“Phillips read a story about Dean in Texas Monthly and we flew to Dallas and got the royal treatment,” Jo Ann said. It didn’t hurt that Weese’s salary jumped from $18,000 to $23,000 with the Diamonds whose lineup included former Queens Jerrianne John, Valerie Goodwin, Shena Cooper as player-assistant coach, and Carolyn Bush, who had graduated in 1975.
“Jill and I had a deal. She said, ‘If you stay, I’ll stay. If you go, I’m going to Tennessee’ (to play for eventual Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt),” Weese related.
But things weren’t so rosy as the team got off to a miserable start, playing their home games with few fans in the Dallas Convention Center. “I think the team and games were promoted well but I guess people just weren’t ready (for women’s pro basketball, which had been tried unsuccessfully a time or two before),” Jo Ann surmised. “Also, Jud Phillips had declared bankruptcy and wanted a fresh start, so he fired Dean at midseason.”
A side note: Eric Nadel, who would go on to become the Hall of Fame voice of the Texas Rangers baseball team, was the play-by-play voice of the Diamonds, traveling with the team. He recalled that experience on a Rangers’ broadcast in 2010. “Eric was a real nice guy. I got to go to a couple of games in California before they decided they didn’t have enough money for me to fly,” Jo Ann said.
As it turned out, Weese got two more paychecks from the Diamonds and, with suburban Plano booming, found a job delivering supplies for a construction company. “I was afraid he’d get lost in Dallas since he got lost driving in our neighborhood,” Jo Ann laughed. “But they realized he was a coach and was used to being in charge, so they made him foreman and he got a raise.”
Weese soon got a call from former Plainview High School principal Bob Henry, who was in a similar role in Carlsbad, N.M. and who was looking for a boys’ coach as well as Bill Vardeman, the superintendent in Levelland who was seeking a new girls’ coach.
While DeAnn Weese graduated from Plano High School, where she played basketball, Todd Weese was about to be a junior but would have to miss a varsity season under existing UIL transfer rules. However – providentially, it would seem – the UIL changed the rule and Dean Weese accepted the Texas job.
Over the next 19 years, Weese would add to his sterling resume with a record of 551-85, seven more state championships (including four in a row from 1985-89) and 17 district titles.
In 2000, Weese was inducted as part of the second class of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn. with a 42-year record of 1,207-197 as well as the Wayland Athletics Hall of Honor. The same year, he also was selected as National Girls’ Sports Coach of the Year by the National Federation of Coaches Association and was named one of the 100 Sports Legends of the Texas Panhandle by the Amarillo Globe-News.
In 2001, he was inducted into the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame in Amarillo. He also is a member of the Texas High School Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame and the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.
Jo Ann kept the scorebooks for her husband during his high school coaching days and proudly says she got something he didn’t: A 20-year pin as a teacher’s aide in Levelland. The Weeses have lived in Granbury since 2002. Jo Ann enjoys Facebooking, bunko and spoiling her granddaughter Olivia.
Weese, who still plays a good game of golf, says his biggest satisfaction in coaching came from that fact that “we had good players and good support and people liked the job we did.”
The Hutcherson Flying Queens Foundation would like to thank Danny Andrews for writing this story about Coach Weese and his wife, Jo Ann.
As journalist who chronicled life experiences for over 50 years, Danny compiled some 250 of his stories into a delightfully humorous and heart stirring book entitled “Things I Have Saw and Did.” This book contains additional memories of Coach Dean Weese which will share in an upcoming post.
Danny, a Plainview resident since the age of nine months old, graduated from Wayland in 1972. He then worked 39 years at the Plainview Daily Herald, including eight years as sports editor and twenty-eight years as editor. He left the Herald in 2006 to become the director of Alumni Development at Wayland. He retired from Wayland in December of 2006. His wife, Carolyn Andrews, was executive assistant to the WBU president for 15 years before retiring in the spring of 2006. Danny and Carolyn now reside in Burleson, TX. A more complete bio was provided in our August 10, 2020 post. You may obtain their contact information by writing firstname.lastname@example.org