Longtime East Texas Coach Dickey Meeks Announces Retirement
For the past 26 seasons, Dickey Meeks has been a fixture on the sidelines of East Texas. But on Monday morning, he decided to call it quits.
Meeks, who led two different schools to their first-ever football state championships during the course of his career, announced his retirement after two seasons as head coach in Pittsburg and stints at four other schools in East Texas.
"When I left Henderson for Pittsburg I kinda knew I was only going to be there one, two or three years max," Meeks told ETSN.fm on Monday afternoon. "I had the heart-valve replacement in March and April, and I didn't really feel all that great during the year. I need a knee replacement, and that's made it hard to get around."
Meeks said he sought council about the decision from a couple of recently-retired, fellow East Texas coaching greats.
"I talked to some of the other retired coaches like Mike Vallery from Kilgore and Jerry Bennet from down in Jefferson, and they told me 'when the time comes (to retire), you'll know,'" he said.
Meeks, who finished with an all-time record of 157-136-2, began his coaching career across the state line in Louisiana, but found immediate success at his first head coaching job in Texas.
After serving as an assistant the year before, Meeks took over the reins at Chapel Hill in 1989 and guided the Bulldogs to an unlikely run through the playoffs. Needing a win on the final night of the regular season just to qualify for the playoffs at 6-4, Meeks ultimately led Chapel Hill to six postseason wins, culminating in a Class 4A state championship victory over heavily favored A&M Consolidated, 14-0, at the Houston Astrodome.
"That was one of the first (teams) with multiple losses to make it all the way through," Meeks said, "It showed that one of the second-place teams out of a district could still be pretty good."
Meeks remained at Chapel Hill until 1996, and spent the next 10 seasons at Pine Tree and Mount Vernon, before taking over the Henderson program prior to the 2006 season.
The first four years there did not yield any playoff appearances, but in 2010, Meeks-led Henderson earned its first-ever state championship with a 28-21 upset win over, ironically enough, Chapel Hill in the Class 3A Division I final -- the first state championship game held at then-Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
Chapel Hill was heavily-favored, having blown out its previous playoff opponents. Meanwhile, Henderson's record-breaking quarterback Del Barnes broke his wrist the week before and was forced to play with a cast on his non-throwing arm.
"That was a crazy week playing Chapel Hill again," Meeks said. "I still have a lot of friends over there. With them being so dominant in the first four (playoff games), I didn't know if we had a good chance, especially with our quarterback with a broken arm over there. I think it was about as good as we could've played. If we would've played them 10 times, I don't know if we would've won again."
Henderson was 33-10 in Meeks' final three seasons with the Lions, reaching at least the state-quarterfinal round all three years. Meeks left Henderson after the 2012 season, and moved to Pittsburg where he ended the Pirates' three-year playoff drought with back-to-back postseason appearances.
"That kinda has really been my M.O., and I don't know why it turned out like that," Meeks said of his penchant for turning around programs. "Jeff Traylor of Gilmer told me one time, 'dang, coach, I don't know if I could do that (somewhere else) again or if I'd even want to do it.' It does take a lot of patience, knowing that it's not going to happen right away."
Dickey Meeks' Head Coaching Career in Texas
- Chapel Hill (1989-1995) -- 47-31-2 (1989 Class 4A state champions)
- Pine Tree (1996-99) -- 15-26
- Mount Vernon (2000-05) -- 42-26
- Henderson (2006-2012) -- 44-39 (2010 Class 3A Division I state champions)
- Pittsburg (2013-14) -- 9-14