BY DENNIS SILVA II | email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bubba Fife’s respect for Gary Joseph goes all the way back to the early 1980s, when Fife worked with Joseph’s father, Eddie, on the Texas High School Coaches Association board of directors.
Fife considered Eddie a mentor, and in the years that followed, specifically 22 spent as a coach and administrator in Katy ISD, it did not take long for his admiration for Gary, a football coach at Katy High since the early 1980s, to foster as well.
“Coach Joseph is one of the finest coaches, but also a fine, quality human being,” Fife said. “He’s a fine father, a fine husband and a great leader. He’s a close friend and I respect him so much.”
It’s only central casting, then, that Fife and Gary Joseph will be enshrined together this summer into the Texas High School Coaches Association’s Hall of Honor. Fife and Joseph are two of five inductees that will be acknowledged at the Hall of Honor Banquet at 7 p.m. on July 20 in Houston.
Joseph has been the head football coach at Katy High since 2004 and led the Tigers to four state championships. He won his 200th game in November, when Katy beat Fort Bend Travis in the first round of the playoffs after securing its 14th district championship under Joseph.
“Coming into this community and being around Coach Joseph, he has an incredible work ethic,” said Katy ISD athletic director Debbie Decker, who was brought on by the district as assistant AD in 2005. “He’s a man of integrity. He’s a man of high character. He demands all of that from his athletes, and it’s just not surprising to see the success that he’s had, based on how hard he works and how much of a great leader he is.”
The worst record Joseph has posted in his head coaching career is 10-3. He also served as the defensive coordinator on three other Katy High state title teams under Mike Johnston in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“Our coaches and myself, and my dad, have always talked for a long time that it’s not about me, it’s about our kids,” said Joseph, who has a career record of 201-20. “We’ll keep our kids first and foremost in everything we do. Hopefully we can give them an opportunity to be successful. That’s why we got into coaching.”
Admired by his peers and players for his attention to detail and no-nonsense approach to program-building, Joseph has long been the standard-bearer for Katy ISD athletics.
“He’s such a selfless guy,” said Travis Whillock, a former star defensive back for the Tigers earlier this decade and now a standout player at Northwestern. “One of the things I took from him, for sure, was being a great teammate, and making sure you did whatever you needed to do to help the team best. That really helped me through my process, especially when I was injured the first couple of years here. I didn’t really have the role I wanted, but I was able to take a step back and be a great teammate and a great student of the game based on what I learned at Katy under Coach.”
Fife spent 35 years as a coach, including 12 at Katy Taylor, and 10 years as an administrator in Katy ISD before retiring in the summer of 2009. Of his 77 career wins, 48 came at the helm of the Mustangs from 1987-1998.
“I cherish all those 12 years,” Fife said. “We had some fine young men we were able to coach. We felt like we were able to help quite a few youngsters further their education through athletics, and it was a great experience.”
Fife is still involved in the THSCA and remains a prominent figure around Katy ISD athletics, particularly within his work at district, area, regional and state track and field meets.
“It brought a tear to my eye,” Fife said of being recognized. “I’ve been involved in coaching and athletics for 45 years. I’m well aware of this honor, and I never dreamed it would’ve happened to me. That’s sincere. I’m so humbled and appreciative of this. It’s unbelievable.”
Fife’s coaching principles were predicated upon discipline and a program that fit schematically to the personnel available. He believed a coach had to be knowledgeable enough to change and adapt his style of play to the talent on the roster.
He emphasized academics, character and compassion. As a freshman football player at TCU, Fife recalls missing a block during practice and being scolded by his coach. Afterward, however, the coach made sure to address Fife, reassure his belief in him, and let him know what he needed to improve.
That simple act of generosity left a lasting impact.
“If I ever had to get on a kid during practice, in my career, I made it a point to see that young man again before he went home to let him know I cared for him and to let him know the things he had to do to get better,” Fife said. “Teachers and coaches don’t have an idea or a clue of what these youngsters go through each morning and each evening before or after school. That’s why it’s so important for a coach or teacher to meet those youngsters each day with a smile and you let them know you love them and care for them.”