Athens Review, Athens, Texas


June 13, 2013

JAYSON LARSON: New CRISD boss knows a thing or two about success

CROSS ROADS — Leland Hand is like other coaches I’ve met through the years in a sense that he’s gracious enough to talk about his days as a head basketball coach but humble in a way that makes him guarded so as not to look like a braggart in the newspaper.

So for the record, what follows is based on a conversation I sought to have with Hand — not one he sought to have with me.

I couldn’t help it. When you find out the new superintendent at Cross Roads ISD walked away from one of the most successful coaching runs in East Texas basketball history to eventually pursue his dream of being a school administrator, heck, you gotta talk to that guy, don’t you?

Yeah, he’s that Leland Hand — the one who as head coach led Troup’s varsity boys basketball teams to the state tournament in Austin in seven of his 11 years at the school. Those teams won two Class 2A state championships (in the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons) and, at one point, held a state record for most consecutive district wins at 118. Let me save you from the math — with Hand at the helm, Troup didn’t lose a district game for 10 years.

Hand’s 1992 team finished 35-1, blowing out Krum by 20 in the state championship game after beating Poth in the state semifinals by 44. That team, which Hand said was his best, won by an average margin of victory of about 31 points per game — in the playoffs, that is.

The next year, Troup went 33-5 and whipped teams in the playoffs by a margin of about 22 per game en route to a second consecutive title.

“It was a fun run, it really was,” Hand said. “We were very athletic and very intelligent, and that’s hard to beat. We were known for our scramble press ... and it was hard to handle. We pressed you from the time you got off the bus. We were relentless.”

He parlayed his success there into a job as the head men’s basketball coach at East Texas Baptist University  in Marshall — where he played collegiately. His coaching years, however, were numbered.

In 2000, Hand was one of three finalists for the head men’s basketball job at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. He didn’t get the job and soon began shifting his focus from the court to campus administration.

He worked at several districts, serving as a principal at the elementary, junior high and high school levels. He spent time at Warren ISD in southeast Texas as an assistant superintendent and then returned to East Texas to work as Winona High School’s principal the past seven years.

Upon arriving at Winona, Hand set a goal to help the high school achieve “exemplary” status from the state of Texas and to help lead students to UIL academic championships. He did both, with Winona earning an exemplary rating in four years.

“The team we assembled upon my arrival accomplished some great things,” he said.

He has a mind to do the same at Cross Roads. When he gets there, he won’t exactly be a stranger to the area.

Hand arrived at Troup in 1987. His team faced a big test in the first half of the season at the always-competitive Tyler Junior College Christmas tournament. Troup ended up winning the championship, beating Roger Goode’s Brownsboro Bears in the title game. Hand says the win was a big step forward for the program.

A bigger win would come the next year, when Troup shocked Class 2A by knocking off 35-0 Edgewood in the regional championship game played at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens.

And that 118-game winning streak? It came to an end during the 1995 regular season against district foe LaPoynor and 6-11 super-duper star Steven Eldridge. Head coach Dwane Nichols went on to lead LaPoynor to the state championship despite Troup winning the district title.

Upon his arrival at ETBU, Hand met and became good friends with the school’s women’s basketball coach at that time, Michael Landers — who would go on and lead Trinity Valley to a pair of national championships.

So really, it’s all coming full circle for Hand. Except now he’s a life coach, not a basketball coach.

“I have a love for kids,” Hand said. “It’s been my passion to reach kids, and there’s no better way than through education.”

Jayson Larson is editor of the Athens Review. Drop him a line via e-mail at

Text Only
  • Jeff's mug.jpg Serial killers an interesting group of people

    I don’t mean to scare you - at least not for the wrong reasons.
    One of the reasons my wife, Jean and I married is that we liked many of the same things.  That includes entertainment.  And that further means, the same kind of movies.
    Many times we have found ourselves going to theaters to see Stephen King movies, such as “Carrie,” “Misery,” and the list is just too long to mention here.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wilson mug.JPG Rolling into something new

    She did it.
    My baby girl rolled over for the first time this past week while daddy and mommy were watching closely.
    As other major news broke across the county, watching my baby roll over for the first time was by far the biggest news of the week for me. Odd.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Joe new mug.jpg Fanfare is a time to prepare for another season

    I love to see the talent our student athletes have across Henderson County. To know that each player puts in the blood, sweat and tears to play for a district championship and hopefully a state title is something special to see.
    Another great in the world of sports is a player who is retiring this season in New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.
    Jeter once said, “There may be people who have more talent than you, but there's no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do — and I believe that.”

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • kathi New  copy.jpeg The greatest country in the world has hungry children

    No child should go hungry. We are the greatest country in the world, yet we have hungry children.
    An article I recently read said that if a child in school can't afford lunch, they will be given a sandwich and water. I was told the sandwich is cheese between two pieces of bread.
    I hope everyone realizes that is what they serve in the county jail. Not that I know this from personal experience. I was told from someone who did know from experience.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wilson mug.JPG Hakuna Matata, what a wonderful phrase

    Hakuna Matata! What a wonderful phrase.
    Hakuna Matata! Ain't no passing craze.
    It means no worries for the rest of your days.
    It's our problem-free philosophy.
    Hakuna Matata!
    Congratulations, if you have watched the Lion King a couple of times you now have this song stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jeff's mug.jpg It was a week in the depth of heat, then cooler

    Sunday and Monday of this week have been very uncomfortable.  The air conditioner at our house has been down, and the temperature outside and in the house have been way up.
    Thank God for the blessing of the cool temperatures and the rain that fell on Tuesday, then on Wednesday.  It changed things just a little bit.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Time away is necessary for everyone

    I can remember as a kid writing essays on “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.” As the years pass, and we are more in-tune with the workplace, those vacations get shorter and shorter.
    Do you ever have those days  when you just need a vacation? Sometimes you just need to get away.
    Taking time off work should be fun and rejuvenating. We all need a recharge every now and then. But vacations aren't what they use to be. We rarely disconnect ourselves from our jobs.

    July 12, 2014

  • Joe new mug.jpg Student athletes: Time to wake up and get to work

    Hey student athletes, it is about time for you to wake up and get to work.
    Your summer is coming to an end, and the early morning wake up calls for practices are right around the corner.
    I am talking to the football players, volleyball players, cross country kids, band members, drill team members and cheerleaders.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wilson mug.JPG Remember who you are

    Are you running so fast that you have forgotten why you started the race in the first place?
    Life moving at a blistering pace that it is tough to keep up?
    Maybe it is time to stop, take a deep look into the pool of water and remember. Remember who you are.
    On numerous occasions, I have had to do just that. Ironically, various movies have caused me to look inside.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jeff's mug.jpg CSUMC provided a memorable experience

    My wife Jean and I went to a very interesting, and what I consider a very unique event last Saturday night.
    I had heard that the church where we are members, Carroll Springs United Methodist Church, was having an event in which people sitting in the audience would sing their favorite hymns into a microphone.

    July 5, 2014 1 Photo

Biz Marquee
AP Video
Renewed Violence Taking Toll on Gaza Residents 2 Americans Detained in North Korea Seek Help US Employers Add 209K Jobs, Rate 6.2 Pct House GOP Optimistic About New Border Bill Gaza Truce Unravels; Israel, Hamas Trade Blame Raw: Tunisia Closes Borders With Libya Four Rescued From Crashed Plane Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction