A pair of Texas high school volleyball coaching legends have retired after legendary runs atop two Texas powerhouses. 62-year old Al Bennett of Austin-Westlake High School and 55-year old Mike Carter of San Antonio-Reagan High School have both coached their last high school games.
Bennett has coached high school volleyball for 38 years, including 30 at Westlake. He’s led the team to 26 district championships in 29 years and so far has sent 76 players to collegiate volleyball (with more likely to come among the team’s current members).
Earlier this year, Bennett won his 1,000th game as a Texas high school coach by beating district opponent Vista Ridge, making him the 4th coach in Texas High School history to hit that milestone. His final coaching record is 1,012-230, including 28-16 this season. His final game was on November 3rd, when his team lost to San Antonio-O’Connor High School 3-0 (25-22, 25-19, 25-19).
The school won 4 state titles (1991(4A), 1993(4A), 2002(5A), 2004(5A)) and went to 8 state finals during his tenure.
Carter took Reagan High School to the 2006 Texas state finals, and while he’s never won a state title, his team did spend most of this season as the USA Today #1-ranked high school team in the country. His 28-year coaching career left him with an 880-190 career record, making him the winningest coach in the history of the San Antonio area. Were he to coach until the age of Bennett, he would almost assuredly hit the 1000 win plateau. The team finished the 2017 season with a 44-2 record.
Reagan too was eliminated from the tournament by O’Connor High School, also 3-0 (25-16, 25-22, 25-22).
What do the two have in common? They were both unlikely candidates to become legendary volleyball coaches. Carter, a Canadian, was a hockey player in the Chicago Blackhawks’ farm system before being tabbed in 1979 to help launch the girls’ athletic program at St. Austin High School in Austin, Texas. Just 5 years later, then-Texas head coach Mick Haley (now at USC) took Bennett in as a volunteer assistant, and during his time there, the Longhorns won 4-straight Southwest conference Championships and an NCAA title in 1988.
That propelled him to take over the Westlake team at 1986 and work with the Austin Juniors volleyball club.
Carter moved to San Antonio at his wife’s behest over 25 years ago with dreams of being a football coach – he was a student assistant at Southwest Texas University (now Texaxs State). When he couldn’t find a gig coaching football, but his wife said she wasn’t leaving San Antonio, he took a job as the head volleyball coach at Randolph High in 1990. He then moved on to Holmes High and finally on to Reagan High School.
Both schools are legendary in Texas high school sports. Among Westlake’s alumnus are NFL starting quarterbacks Drew Brees and Nick Foles, American League baseball Rookie of the Year Huston Street, NFL Super Bowl winning kicker Justin Tucker, and U.S. Olympic swimmer Scott Spann.
Reagan High School are the 2016-2017 Dan Cook Cup champions as the top high school athletics program in San Antonio.