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"A guy came up to me and said, 'Third Ward, Texas,'" Mumphery says. "He identified Third Ward, Texas, with Yates High School. In fact, it's called Third Ward High."
Mumphery returned to Yates in 2008, after a ten-year absence when he served as an assistant principal at Houston's Jones High School and as principal at Cullen Middle School, a Yates feeder.
He's done what he can to promote academics. One of the first things he did was to have all the lockers removed from the hallways. Parents of students pick up books from the school during the first week of class and are asked to keep the books at home. Each classroom has another set, and, the point is, students can't use the excuse of losing books.
But while students at Yates are accepted to West Point and awarded the prestigious Presidential Scholarship — both happened this year — athletics stays at the forefront.
"Championships that are won, it's not just the team. It takes the whole school and the neighborhood and the community," Mumphery says. "It takes everybody's effort to win a state championship."
"But when I think of coach Greg Wise of Houston's Yates High School, I become darker than Johnny Cash's closet. The things I would like to do to Coach Wise would curl an executioner's toes." — Rick Reilly
Taking heat for blowout victories is nothing new for Wise. His Yates team was doing the same thing a year ago.
In its first ten games of the 2008-2009 season, Yates went undefeated, beating its opponents — all Houston-area schools — by an average of close to 44 points. Toward the end of that streak, Wise started pulling back his players, coaching to try to keep down the score.
"We started playing a zone the entire second half," Wise says. "We don't even practice a zone."
In the championship game of the Houston ISD tournament, on December 20, 2008, Yates played Alief Elsik, a team that had lost eight of 14 games before facing Yates. Elsik won the game 78-76, the last time that Yates lost a game.
"I said then, 'From now on, we're going to at least play the way we play for three quarters,'" Wise says.
Wise grew up in the Third Ward, attended Ryan Middle School and attended the high school for one year before his family moved. He graduated from Madison. After attending Houston Baptist University, where he played basketball, Wise started coaching.
His first coaching job was at Paul Revere Middle School in west Houston, and he later jumped to coach at Lee. Wise moved to Hightower High School in Fort Bend County in the early part of this decade, but he eventually left the sport to run a real estate company.
After his two sons graduated high school — they both went to play basketball at the University of Arizona — Wise decided to get back into coaching. Along with the job at Yates, Wise had offers from six other high schools.
"Being able to coach in the area I grew up in, and give back to the kids in the area, that was important to me," Wise says. "This is where I wanted to be, so you can't complain about what you don't have."
The transition wasn't smooth. The facilities at Yates were a big drop from what Wise had at Hightower. At Yates, for example, there isn't anyone to wash the kids' workout clothes, and there isn't even a full-time trainer.
That can be a problem, considering the intensity of practices. In fact, this year a Yates player passed out during a practice. Of course, Wise says, the player was too embarrassed to tell anyone he hadn't eaten anything in a couple days.
"That's one of the reasons I'm so proud of these guys. They already go through more than what a lot of people will ever go through," Wise says. "We have kids that spend the night with other kids because they don't have any other place to go. Both the mother and father are out on the street, and if there's no place for the father to be, there's no place for the son to be."
Wise started at Yates in 2007, a year after a lengthy decline in academic performance landed the school on the state's academically unacceptable list.
"The school could've been run better. It was tough to get kids in class, and even if they were in class, to get kids to learn," Wise says.
So, Wise used basketball. His system was such a change, the commitments he required of his players so intense, that some kids quit the team. One senior player who quit during Wise's first year later came back and apologized to the coach and was allowed back on the team. He ended up being co-MVP of the district.
Another tough first-year decision for Wise, he says, was keeping Elton Roy, who starts for the team this year, off the varsity squad.
"He was one of the ones I had to deal with. He had varsity talent, but he was a little immature in the way he did things; his mind-set wasn't ready," Wise says. "Now he's where he needs to be, and with that, he's got a lot of colleges recruiting him."
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