Icon of Fort Worth basketball, Lester J. Beene, known as ‘Big Coach,’ dies at 86

Clarence E. Hill Jr.
·3 min read

Legendary championship basketball coach and school administrator Lester J. Beene has passed away, but his legacy will endure forever in Fort Worth.

He was 86 when he died on April 10 after a long battle with an illness.

Known as “Big Coach,” Beene was a contemporary of Hall of Fame Dunbar coach Bob Hughes as they helped make Fort Worth the title town by winning state championships representing the now-defunct Prairie View Interscholastic League before integration in the late 1960s.

Earlier this year, Beene was named as one of the 100 greatest high school basketball coaches in Texas by the University Interscholastic League as part of an effort to commemorate 100 years of basketball in Texas.

Beene led Kirkpatrick to Class 3A state titles in 1961, 1964 and 1967. Hughes won Class 4A titles at I.M. Terrell in 1963, 1965 and 1967. Those two 1967 title teams that swept the top two classifications were honored on the 50th anniversary of their championships at the UIL state tournament in 2017.

UIL executive director Charles Breithaupt led a ceremony for the Terrell and Kirkpatrick teams during halftime of the Silsbee-Argyle game.

“During that time these men here would not have played on this floor, they weren’t allowed to play at the University of Texas on that floor,” Breithaupt said. “They had to play at Prairie View [A&M] in the PVIL. Progress was beginning, but it wasn’t there yet.

“We all know how important it is to not forget our past so that we won’t repeat the mistakes of those days,” he said. “These men won state championships under difficult circumstances.”

Beene was unable to attend, but many of his players were there for the celebration.

“He was a part of their families, not just a high school coach,” Pam Edwards, Beene’s daughter, told the Star-Telegram at the time. “They continue to talk about how he made such a positive impact in their lives. It means a lot to my family. It has meant a lot to us..”

Margene Adkins, who won football and basketball state titles at Kirkpatrick before going on to play in the NFL for Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints and New York Jets, called Kirkpatrick “a good and fair man” who ranked up there with Hughes as fair as coaching prowess.

But he also remembered Beene being a stickler for details with immediate accountability discipline. “If you did something wrong, he would get right up on you in the huddle and sock you in the chest. I never got close to him,” Adkins recalled with a laugh.

Beene, who also coached at Dunbar and Glencrest Middle School, had success away from the court as a long-time administrator, educator and benefactor in the Fort Worth school district and community.

Beene and his family donated uniforms to Kirkpatrick Middle School for the 2016-17 school year, according to the school’s website.

He was a member of the Texas Coaches Hall of Fame, the Texas Golden Gloves and the Eastside YMCA board of directors.

Beene, who was born April 28, 1934 in Haynesville, La., played football at Bishop in Marshall, Texas, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. He received a Masters of Education and Lifetime Certification in School Administration from Tarleton State University. He also served in the United States Army and was honorably discharged.

A “Celebration of Life” service will be held at noon on Saturday, April 17, at Sweet Home Baptist Church at 5225 Ramey Avenue in Fort Worth.

He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Ida Hubbard Beene, his daughter, grandchildren, siblings and additional family and friends.