Jon Teitel's "Coaching Greats" Series: Texas A&M's Shelby Metcalf

    
September 15th, 2011

In the most recent installment in his "Coaching Greats" interview series CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with Texas A&M SID Alan Cannon discussing the coaching career of the late Shelby Metcalf. In 27 years in College Station, Metcalf won 438 games and led the Aggies to five NCAA Tournament appearances. 

Jon Teitel: Metcalf was an All-American guard at East Texas State (now TX A&M-Commerce), where he helped lead the team to the 1955 NAIA national title. How good a player was he back then, and what did it mean to him to win the title? 

Alan Cannon: From what I was told he was a very heady and competitive player.  With any national championship team you need a coach on the floor, which was another way he was described to me by people who saw him play.

JT: He was known as the "King of Tournaments" after taking the Aggies to 74 in-season tournaments (to ensure that they played at least one game every year on a neutral floor). Why did he do this, and do you think it helped when the Aggies reached the NCAA Tournament? 

AC: During Coach Metcalf's career the entire state of Texas would concentrate on football until January 1st (when most of the bowl games finished).  When you combine that with the fact that many good teams did not want to face A&M in G. Rollie White Coliseum, Coach would take his team to tournaments and ensure at least one neutral-floor game if he happened to face the host school.

JT: In his first season as head coach in 1963 the Aggies win their first conference title in 41 years. How was he able to come in and have so much success so quickly? 

AC: He just took a bunch of guys and made them believe.  Coach Metcalf tried to downplay his basketball intelligence but he was crazy like a fox. He could poor-mouth his ability and his Aggies, then jump out there and would give you the fight of your life.

JT: The A&M student body had always loved football but Metcalf's success made them start paying attention to basketball, as the Coliseum became known as the "Holler House on the Brazos". How gradual was the shift in focus, and how loud did it get during games? 

AC: It was very loud, especially when the entire Aggie Band was in the gym.  In the 1970s and mid-1980s it was the place to be...of course, after football season!  A lot of the A&M football players would sit court-side to heckle the opponents as well. Of course with Coach Metcalf the Aggies were contenders, and everyone loves a winner.

JT: In 1971 the Aggies broke the color barrier after Metcalf convinced African-American player Mario Brown to enroll. What was the racial climate like in the early 1970s, and how big a deal was it at the time for Brown to join the team? 

AC: I was not here at that time, but I can tell you that Coach Metcalf did not care about the color of anyone's skin. He just wanted quality young men who loved to play basketball.  He did a terrific job of getting inner-city players to come to A&M, pursue their education, and enjoy playing basketball.

JT: Metcalf earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees during his senior year of college, and in 1974 he earned a doctorate in Recreation and Resource Development with a dissertation entitled "Crowd Behavior at SWC Basketball Games". What importance did he place on education, and what was his conclusion regarding the fans? 

AC: SWC fans made it tough to go on the road and win.  Coach Metcalf placed a high emphasis on education and would go out of his way to help young people succeed.  His wife was an educator and one of the most respected teachers in the community.

JT: What are your memories of the 1980 NCAA Tournament (after scoring only 23 points in the 2nd half the Aggies scored 25 in a 10-minute stretch for a double-overtime win over North Carolina, then lost in overtime to eventual champion Louisville)? 

AC: The one thing I remember about this run was UNC coach Dean Smith stating that he wanted the media to remember that the Tar Heels had tied Texas A&M twice before losing in double OT.  It was one of our most exciting wins of all-time.

JT: What are your memories of the 1987 NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis (Kevin Strickland scored 20 points in a seven-point Duke win)? 

AC: Coach Metcalf and the Aggies made a great run at the SWC tourney.  The team was seeded eighth and Coach did not expect to go far because he mentioned that he only brought one pair of underwear!  The Aggies upset the #1-seed and rolled to the title and an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney.  Mike Clifford drew the defensive assignment against All-American Danny Ferry and did a great job.  It was a much closer game than people expected, which is a compliment to the players and to Coach Metcalf.

JT: He was also known for his hilarious quotes. What did people think of his sense of humor, and do you have a favorite quote of his? 

AC: Coach Metcalf was a favorite for speaking engagements because of his sense of humor.  He could be serious when he needed to be, but his style was refreshing.  The quote that gets the most play is about one of his players who brought home 4 Fs and 1 D on his report card. Coach Metcalf said that he was spending too much time on 1 subject! 

JT: He finished his career as the winningest coach in SWC history. What made him such a great coach, and do you think anyone will ever break his record? 

AC: Considering the SWC has broken up, he will go into the record books for all-time.  He loved the game of basketball.  His sense of humor may have caused people to take him lightly, but he was very intelligent and should be remembered as one of the all-time great coaches.

JT: He died of cancer in 2007. When people look back on his career, how do you think he should be remembered the most? 

AC: People will remember Coach Metcalf as the winningest coach in school history.  They will also remember that he enjoyed coaching basketball, loved his family, and loved Texas A&M. He is truly missed.
 
Coach Metcalf is also on Jon's list of best coaches in Big 12 history.

Baylor: Bill Henderson (1941-1943, 1945-1961) 201-233, 3 NCAA tourneys, 4 conference titles
Iowa State: Johnny Orr (1980-1994) 218-200, 6 NCAA tourneys
Kansas: Phog Allen (1907-1909, 1919-1956) 590-219, 3 NCAA titles
Kansas State: Tex Winter (1953-1968) 261-118, 6 NCAA tourneys, 8 conference titles, 1-time national COY
Missouri: Norm Stewart (1967-1999) 631-333, 16 NCAA tourneys, 8 conference titles, 2-time national COY
Oklahoma: Kelvin Sampson (1994-2006) 280-108, 11 NCAA tourneys, 1 conference title, 2-time national COY
Oklahoma State: Henry "Hank" Iba (1934-1970) 654-317, 8 NCAA tourneys, 15 conference titles, 2 NCAA titles, 3-time conference COY
Texas: Rick Barnes (1998-present) 322-123, 13 NCAA tourneys, 3 conference titles, 3-time conference COY
Texas A&M: Shelby Metcalf (1963-1990) 438-306, 5 NCAA tourneys, 6 conference titles
Texas Tech: Gerald Myers (1970-1991) 325-262, 4 NCAA tourneys, 2 conference titles