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Texas high school coaching legend Phil Danaher retires as all-time wins leader

Danaher spent 48 years on the sidelines, the last 38 leading the Calallen Wildcats. He amassed 490 wins and 28 district championships.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Texas’ all-time winningest high school football coach, Phil Danaher, announced Monday that he will retire, ending one of the sport's most storied careers.

Danaher just wrapped up his 48th season as a Texas high school head coach with 490 victories and 28 district championships. He had early coaching stops at Dilley and Hamshire-Fannet, but found a home in the Coastal Bend and has spent the last 38 years on the Calallen sidelines.

"Today was a tough day," Danaher said in an interview this morning. "I had all the coaches come in. It just got very touching for me. I said, 'I just wanted to let you know I'm retiring today.'"

The Wildcats made it to the state championship game in 2005 and 2016 before losing to Lewisville Hebron and Aledo respectively.

"People always say, 'Danaher, you've never won a state championship.' Well no, I hadn't, but I been there a few times," Danaher said ahead of what is now his final season.

Danaher first took over the Calallen program in 1984. At the time, they had not been to the playoffs in 28 years. Danaher missed the playoffs his first year, but the Wildcats have made the playoffs every season since -- a streak of 37 straight years. That's the longest active playoff streak in the state.

In 2016, he won his 427th career game, surpassing GA Moore to become the winningest Texas high school football coach. One year later, he was inducted into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame.

Credit: KIII
Phil Danaher gets a Gatorade bath after breaking GA Moore's wins record on Nov. 3, 2016.

Health issues cause Danaher to call it a career

Health complications forced Danaher to miss this year's season opener against rival Gregory-Portland on Aug. 27. At the time, the family and school said it was an undisclosed illness. On Monday, Danaher and his family confirmed that the 73-year-old has mild dementia.

Calallen opened this season ranked second in the Class 4A Division 1 despite losing more than 30 seniors from the 2020 team. The Wildcats entered the playoffs with a 9-1 record but were upset by Fredericksburg 14-10 in the second round of the playoffs.

Danaher able to coach his sons, 2 of the best to ever play at Calallen

Danaher was able to coach both of his sons while at Calallen. Wes Danaher was a running back from 1992-1995. He rushed for 8,855 yards, which at the time was the second highest in Texas high school football history. He signed with Southern Methodist and played for two seasons before a career-ending injury. In 2013, Wes Danaher was inducted into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame.

Cody Danaher played quarterback at Calallen from 1989-1992. He was a three-year starter for the Wildcats and signed with the University of Texas, where he was a backup QB for the Longhorns.

"That was heartbreaking when both your boys are leaving. I told Anita, 'I'm not going back up there next season.'" Mrs. Danaher chimed in and said, "I told him that's the most insensitive thing I've heard because those other boys need you.'"

Phil Danaher was born in 1948 in Missouri, but his family soon moved to South Texas. Danaher grew up in Harlingen and was an All-State football player for Harlingen High School. He played his college football at Angelo State University in San Angelo.

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