CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Legendary Calallen coach Phil Danaher has announced his retirement as the Wildcats' head coach, ending a 48-season head-coaching career that made him the winningest coach in Texas high-school football history.
Danaher, who turned 73 on Nov. 23, made the announcement shortly after visiting members of the team late Monday morning.
"I am just wore out so I felt like it was time to take a break and get away from it for awhile," Danaher said. "I had a good run and I have really enjoyed my time at Calallen. It's a very special place and I love it here and I have been blessed with great coaches."
Danaher's retirement is coming as he says he's in the early stages of dementia.
"It's not always constant (memory loss) for me," he said. "It changes every once in a while, depends on how much I have been working. There's a lot more to it than when people say you have dementia."
The Wildcats claimed 24 district championships during Danaher's career, the most recent one coming last month.
Danaher was born in Missouri but moved to South Texas as a boy. He played high school football at Harlingen High School, where he graduated in 1967.
He received a college scholarship offer from Angelo State and was a three-year member of the Rams' team as a quarterback. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education in August 1971 and started his coaching career as an assistant at Class 5A Edison High School in San Antonio.
His head coaching career began in 1974 at Class 2A Dilley. The Wolves won their first district championship in more than a decade in his first season there as regional co-championns. He spent four years there before moving to Class 3A Hamshire-Fannett where he coached for six seasons, winning three district titles and advancing to the regional finals twice for the Longhorns.
His tenure at Calallen, a Class 4A school at the time, began in 1984. When he arrived the Wildcats had not made the state playoffs in 28 seasons. The Wildcats missed the playoffs in his first season there and then have made the playoffs for the next 37 seasons - the longest current active playoff streak of any Texas high-school program.
Calallen advanced to the state semifinals seven times and two state championship games under Danaher. And beginning in 1988, Calallen won at least 10 games for a state-record 16 consecutive seasons. That was twice the previous record established at Yates High School in Houston in the 1960s.
Danaher became the winningest coach in Texas high-school football history, breaking G.A. Moore's career record of 426 wins on Nov. 3, 2016, when the Wildcats defeated Flour Bluff, 31-7.
His final team in 2021 finished 10-2. advancing to the second round of the playoffs before losing to Fredericksburg, 14-10.
Two of Danaher's sons played for him at Calallen.
Wes was a running back at Calallen from 1992-95, rushing for 8,855 yards which was at the time the second-most yards in state history behind only Ken Hall.
Older son Cody was quarterback for the Wildcats and later went on to play at the University of Texas from 1993-96.
Danaher plans to have knee replacement surgery in the next several months. But he says being away from his players will be the toughest part of giving up coaching.
"I will really miss the kids, that's why I have coached for so long," Danaher said. "My dad died in a car wreck when I was 3 so I know what it's like not to have a dad growing up.
"Not only have I wanted to coach but more importantly I wanted to be a mentor to my players too. That's what I will miss the most."
We'll have more on this breaking story as we learn about it.