JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
MARBLE FALLS — Since 2004, Jerry English has led the Faith Academy of Marble Falls girls basketball team to eight appearances in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools state tournament and one state championship in 2014.
On April 6, Faith Academy dismissed the second active winningest girls basketball coach in the United States.
“They decided to go in a different direction,” said his wife, Barbara English, who has served as his program’s scorekeeper, bus driver, and liaison ever since he became a girls basketball coach 43 years ago.
Jerry English departs the program he helped build after 13 years.
Faith Academy athletic director Randy Denton issued an email statement simply confirming the school had parted ways with English and thanked him for his service to the program. He added that Faith is “in the process of reorganizing the coaching staff, and the new lineup will be announced as soon as all of the positions have been confirmed.”
During his 43-year coaching career, English amassed an overall coaching record of 1,227 wins and 261 losses. He’s the fourth all-time winningest basketball coach in the country for both men’s and women’s teams and across all levels. He has guided 18 teams to state tournaments during Texas high school stops at Pflugerville, Sweeny, Dripping Springs, and Faith. His 1994 Dripping Springs team won the Class 3A state championship.
While the wins and championships are great, to the Englishes, it has always been about the players.
Recently, he and his wife attended the funeral of a former player’s relative where they visited with other former players. One of those players pulled English aside to thank him then returned a few minutes later to be sure she communicated accurately what she wanted to tell him.
“‘I want you to know there’s no positive way I could thank you enough,’” Barbara English recalled overhearing. “‘I was having home problems, my parents were divorcing. You became that person who gave me security. I didn’t give you what you gave me.’”
“She gave us everything she had,” Jerry English said.
“And that’s all any of us can expect,” his wife added.
Jerry English didn’t move to the Highland Lakes looking to coach at Faith Academy.
In 2000, the year he was elected to the Texas High School Hall of Fame, the Englishes retired to the Kingsland area, where could go fishing anytime he wanted. To stay involved in the sport, he led summer camps at high schools, emphasizing the most important part of basketball: fundamentals.
“There’s no doubt in my mind it’s the most overrated thing in the sport,” he said. “Coaches are concerned the kids get bored. There are a lot of coaches who change drills because they’re afraid the kids will get bored. We’re doing it because it’s part of our schemes, so we’ll do it every day.”
Fundamentals were the foundation on which he built his teams.
In 2004, after turning down the chance to coach the Temple Central Texas Christian women’s basketball team because he and his wife thought it was too far from their Kingsland home, he accepted the Faith job.
In 2004-05, his first year as the head coach, the Lady Flames made the playoffs but lost early. Sitting in the stands for that game was the Field family, whose daughters would go on to be key in the program’s early success.
To English, Ashley Field, a 2008 Faith alumnae and a member of the 2012 Baylor University women’s national championship team, is still the finest finisher of the 2-footer he’s ever coached.
Ashley with younger sisters, Kendra and Brooke, helped Faith get to four state tournaments dating from the 2006-07 season to 2010-11.
But when the Englishes reflect on those early years, what stands out was class of 2008, which included Bailey Brown, Kristin Jung, Megan Long, Kristin Bohannon, and Meredith Piatek.
“He had that group for three years,” Barbara English said with a smile, “and they never missed a practice or a game.”
“We’ve never had six again like that,” the coach said. “They were best friends, they were straight-A students, they did everything together.”
As thrilled as he was with the Lady Flames’ talent, he was equally impressed with the talent in the class of 2008 at Marble Falls, Burnet, and Llano high schools.
In 2006-07, the Faith Academy and Marble Falls girls teams made their first trips to state, while Llano returned to the tournament.
The least surprised person to see that happen was English. He had worked with many of the athletes as they were learning the sport, and he told his wife he believed they would all get to the state tournament before they graduated.
He just didn’t realize it would happen in the same year.
“The thing that impressed me was the want-to,” he said. “I felt that as I was coming out of Dripping Springs, I thought we had the want-to. I thought what separated us from the teams we beat was the want-to. I thought I saw the same want-to out of those kids (in the Highland Lakes).”
In his 43 years of coaching, his teams have averaged 28 victories a season. He said this last season at Faith was the most challenging of his career. Four players suffered injuries. He’d look down the bench, and he didn’t see much experience.
“We didn’t have any depth,” English said. “We had freshmen and sophomores who were unproven.”
And yet, the Lady Flames returned to the state tournament after winning the Class 4-4A district title, their 11th in a row. The team also improved the Lady Flames’ winning streak to 120 in district play.
“Seeing the improvement (in the players) is amazing to me,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons I love the camps.”
It’s more fun to build a program than it is to maintain it, he said. The secret to keeping it maintained goes back to fundamentals and having two quality team captains who are mature, outspoken, and “unafraid to speak to you and their teammates,” the coach added.
To Barbara English, her husband’s success was always about his ability to communicate with his players, to get them to give more than they thought they could or do more than they thought they could.
“I know what the players would say,” she said. “They’d say he was their second dad.”
As for his future, English isn’t quite ready to close the door on coaching yet.