Former Alice High School principal Alex Gonzalez had a theory about Phil Danaher’s success with the Calallen Wildcats.

Fresh out of college several years ago, Gonzalez had job interviews at Calallen and couple of other schools. Gonzalez’s plan was to begin his career in education with a solid foundation built on coaching. He interviewed at a couple of places and those went as expected. He was asked a lot about Xs and Os, and a lot of straight forward questions about the profession.

Then came his interview with Danaher in Calallen. Though years away from becoming the winningest Texas high school football coach of all time, Danaher was still regarded as the best in South Texas and a legend in coaching. Gonzalez expected more offense and defense, but instead, Danaher’s first question was, “Tell me about your family?”

“He asked me about my family and what my goals were,” Gonzalez recalled. “He didn’t ask me anything about football. That’s the kind of coach he is. Family is very important to him.”

And looking over Danaher’s body of work at Calallen, which includes 32-straight playoff appearances, one common bond that’s held the program together for that long has been family.

Many of Danaher’s assistant coaches have been by his side for years and players that have long since graduated and started their own families often return to keep up with their old coach. It’s difficult to imagine that in the competitive world of Texas high school football and with all of the long hours that often come with the profession, that family is the underlying foundation, but it is. Danaher is the first to say.

“You know, your kids are going to be there a very short period of time, and I tell my coaches if your kids have something to do,” Danaher said. “ If you daughter has a cheer competition somewhere then go. We can get by, but that daughter needs her dad. Or maybe their son has a little league football game, go and you can come back and watch film later.”

That approach has helped the Calallen staff retain a solid core of assistant coaches, and that in turn has allowed the program to evolve in a way that may high school football programs simply never do. Often times, by the time an athlete reaches Calallen High School, he’s already someone the high school coaching staff knows very well.

And the cohesiveness allows the Wildcats to combat their No. 1 threat — complacency. A program, especially a high school program, doesn’t go 32-straight years of dominating with complacency creeping in. It’s the toughest obstacle for the Wildcats to overcome year after year.

“What people don’t understand is the biggest thing we have to fight in complacency,” Danaher said. “It’s been 32 consecutive years in the playoffs. The kids we have don’t even know the last time Calallen wasn’t in the playoffs, and probably some of their parents might not remember.

“Complacency… and then we get to 7-0, and they think, ‘Well, we’re going to win because we’re Calallen.’ Well no, it doesn’t work that way. We need to get ready for every ball game.”

And it's something that Calallen usually does. Coming off a 2016 season in which the Wildcats went 14-2 and reached the Class 5A, Div. II state championship, Calallen is an impressive 7-0 and has already earned a spot in the District 30-5A InterZone championship game against unbeaten Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial Friday, Nov. 9 at Wildcats Stadium.

By winning the North Zone, Calallen is already assured of a postseason bid, which would be the program’s 33rd in a row, something that Danaher is proud off, even if he’s humble about it. In fact, the joy of being a success and coaching the game of football is what keeps Danaher motivated.

Even after 34 seasons at Calallen and an unmatched record of 371 wins, 70 losses and two draws, retiring it something that Danaher hasn’t really considered.

“I’ve been very fortunate,” Danaher said. “I’ve had a job my entire life that I thoroughly enjoy, and I still enjoy it. As long as the good Lord keeps me healthy, I don’t know that there’s anything else I’d rather do that work with young people and try to teach them right from wrong.”