Herb Stephens: The Greatest Celebrity I Ever Played Golf With

Herb Stephens - TCU basketball spark plug and former FWISD athletic director
Herb Stephens – TCU basketball

I was playing in a celebrity golf tournament in Waco in 1990, and our group headed to our starting tee box, but without our celebrity. Then a red-headed guy with a big grin drove up in his golf cart and said, “I’m sorry but your celebrity from the Dallas Mavericks was not able to make the trip. I’m friends with Brad Davis (Mavericks fan favorite), so he brought me with him. I’m so sorry you don’t have a true celebrity.”

My eyes opened wide and I said, “Herb, you’re a far bigger celebrity than I could ever have hoped to have on our team. YOU are the reason I attended basketball games my last two years at TCU!”

He didn’t just play basketball. You see, Herb was this red-headed force of nature who TCU Coach Johnny Swaim brought into the game for the last five minutes of the first half and the final five minutes of the game. He ran full-speed and was constantly diving for the ball. He was reckless and he was passionate. Most of all, he was fun to watch. 

Herb created a new level of “leaving it all on the court.” The blood on his elbows and knees from his dives for the ball elevated what dedication meant. Most of all, we could see the pure joy in his eyes whenever he was on the court.

Herb redefined for me what “Giving it your absolute very best” means. His presence on the court energized the fans and his teammates. The Frogs finished with a 15 -9 record that 1971-72 season and place third in the old Southwest Conference.

He went on to become a biology teacher and golf coach at my high school alma mater, Paschal, and moved to the administrative side, serving as Fort Worth ISD’s athletic director for five years before retiring.

Learning of Herb’s passing reminds me to raise the level of my own “absolute very best.” And to “leave it on the court” the way he did.

Leaders are well-known, well-liked, and well-respected.
And, they tend to do far more business.