Perryton graduate Kurt Haberthur will make his debut as the Rangers head football coach when Perryton plays host to Dalhart at 7 p.m. Friday. [David Erickson/ Press Pass Sports]
Kurt Haberthur just knew on that memorable day.
The last high school football game for any player is unforgettable. But when senior defensive end/tight end Haberthur and his beloved Perryton Rangers bowed out of the state quarterfinals in 1993, before the final buzzer blew he had made a decision.
A career decision still alive today.
“I played my last high school game against Southlake Carroll,” Haberthur said. “I knew right then even before I could take my pads off I can’t do without this. If I couldn’t play, I’d coach. I loved every coach I ever had and saw the impact they had on me and the other guys.”
Haberthur has indeed coached.
Starting in 1998 as an assistant under Gary Newcomb back home in Perryton, the likeable Haberthur’s 22 years of coaching stops along the way include Pampa (2005), Sunray (2006-08), Randall (2009-10), Sunray (head coach, 2011-17), Amarillo High (2018-19) and Friday night he makes his debut as the Perryton High head football coach against visiting Dalhart.
Yes, Haberthur has decided to come home to Perryton, leaving his last job as the respected and popular offensive line coach at Amarillo High.
The Perryton football job opened after a 2-9 season in 2019. Haberthur didn’t hesitate throwing his name in for the job.
“Coach Hab” had spent those seven years as the head coach in Sunray compiling a strong 43-27 record. He still had the head coaching bug.
“I talked to my wife first about going back to Perryton, my hometown,” Haberthur said. “Her hometown is Panhandle. So she was all for it. She’s knows about Perryton and my family is still here. I didn’t have to think about it very long. I did study and looked at some things and talked to coaches still on the staff. But I didn’t thing very long. Head coaching jobs don’t come around very often and they are hard jobs to get.
“I feel very blessed to get this job.”
Chris Samples is the longtime Perryton radio personality and co-voice of Perryton athletics for more than 20 years. Samples announced Haberthur’s high school games and said the choice to select the hometown kid as the new Rangers football coach was a good one.
Haberthur played football, basketball and baseball in high school and was known for his hard work and hard-nosed style of play.
“A big ol’ doer,” said Samples, currently the president/owner/morning how host at KXDJ (98.3) in Perryton. “Hab was a defensive end and just played hard. He loved it. He wasn’t the most talented, his foot speed was what you could say Panhandle typical. I remember him on the basketball floor getting in the paint and he’d buck ya and bang ya. And just played hard. He’s a Panhandle just getter done type of guy.”
Samples said the choice to select Haberthur to lead the Perryton football program has been nothing but positive.
“You know,” Samples said. “The people I’ve heard from on the hire, and it’s certainly my opinion, ‘Good for Hab. Good for him. Congratulations. You paid your dues and put a lot of work in and you come back to alma mater.’ I didn’t hear a negative thing.”
Many talented coaches avoid going “back home” because of the added scrutiny and pressure to succeed. Samples, AHS head football coach Chad Dunnam and Haberthur believe this time it’s the right move.
“It’s not an easy task coming home,” Samples said. “I commend him and respect him for being willing to come home. Because it is tough. People say, ‘Oh, I know him. He wasn’t all that.’ Golly, Jesus wasn’t loved in his hometown either and I think He talked about that.”
Dunnam, a high energy coach for the Sandies, spent almost every day over the last two years with Haberthur and gushes over Haberthur’s ability to coach and how much players respect him.
“First of all Coach Hab has been around the game a long time,” Dunnam said. “He grew up around a great community and great football program in Perryton. A lot of tradition and a lot of pride in that program. I think that has carried over with Hab wherever he has been. He’s was a longtime assistant for Bryan Wood and Bryan Wood is about as good as there is in the business as far as a head coach.”
Dunnam said Haberthur was an assistant he would often seek out advice from.
“The maturity he brought to us I can’t say enough about,” Dunnam said. “He was always just a mature, experienced opinion. He had been there and done that. He was always somebody I could bounce ideas off of. He’s an excellent, excellent offensive line coach and I hope he never takes himself out of that area in football, even as a head coach because he’s so good.”
Dunnam said Haberthur challenges kids to dare to be great and they respond to his ways of coaching.
“He has high expectations out of his kids,” Dunnam said, who is known for demanding the same. “He demands greatness out of them on a daily basis and never really takes a day off as far as that goes. There isn’t a play you can come up with that Coach Hab won’t find a way to block it. And he has a gift to make minor adjustments during a game, which sounds easy but isn’t at all. The kids love him.”
As far as going home, no problem in this case, Dunnam said.
“It is hard going home, no doubt,” Dunnam said. “Because everybody thinks ‘well, I know coach.’ And everybody in town thinks they know him on a different level and might have an angle with him. But Coach Hab will handle it fine. The good thing about Coach Haberthur is he knows what he believes in so I think going home will work in his favor with all the good relationships he has. He won’t waiver in his decisions.
“And every guy who takes a head coaching job, your allegiances switch over to that job. But with Perryton, it’s already in Coach Haberthur. He’s got that Ranger Pride in him even before he took that job.”
Oh, yes. Ranger Pride. Haberthur says it’s still alive.
“A lot of things are different when I was here previously but a lot are the same,” Haberthur said. “I walked in the school for my interview and the smells were the same. We went through the gym and the gym smelled just the same as when I went to school. It’s not a bad smell, it’s just the same smell. The lockeroom is the same lockeroom my dad dressed in and the weightroom is the same room I worked out in.
“So a lot is the same. But a lot is different. Different families live here now. We have a turf field, thank goodness. The home stands are on the east side instead of the west side. But like I said, a lot is still the same and Ranger Pride is still very heavy here. It’s nothing that is a joke. There are people deep into it. It’s been a fun thing to comeback and listen to people talk about some of the old times. We are going to bring back some of those things.”
One thing certainly different is the Coach Hab fresh out of college in Perryton compared to the Coach Hab today.
Haberthur spent the past two seasons as the Amarillo High offensive line coach. [David Erickson/ Press Pass Sports]
He not only is an talented fly fisherman, he said his coaching style is a result of learning the game under guys like Newcomb, Wood and Dunnam, to name a few. And then that previous head coaching experience at Sunray was a Masters class in coaching.
“Absolutely I take lessons learned from Sunray into this job,” Haberthur said. “You hear a lot of people say they want to be a head coach and they are ready. My advice to them is you are never ready. It doesn’t matter if you are 34 or 44, when you get it you are going to sit down and say ‘Oh my god, I don’t know what I’m doing.’ Not I’m not saying I know everything I’m doing, but I do have a little bit of a heads up on things with seven years experience as a head coach.”
Haberthur also refuses to stop learning. Dunnam is known as a defensive guru and his two years at AHS his soaked in as much Dunnam knowledge as he could.
“That was a great place to be, being at Amarillo High,” said Haberthur, praising what he learned not only from Dunnam but other AHS assistants. “I couldn’t have moved to a better situation under Chad Dunnam as being an assistant again to work on myself and work on my own knowledge of the game and culture development. Then working with Coach (Jason) Pillion and Coach (Jeff) Williams there, well there aren’t whole lot of people more successful than those two guys.”
No doubt, Haberthur wants the best for Perryton. He will bring back some traditions from his playing days and start new ones like honoring a top and respected player on the team with the first locker and call it the Hombre Locker.
Haberthur’s coaching wisdom has him not worrying about the Ws and Ls to start with (of course he wants those Ws), but he desires “competitive greatness” from his team.
“However fast and however much time it takes I’d like to get us to a level what I consider competitive greatness,” Haberthur said. “A lot of things are involved in that and can take time. Coachability, kids that take pride in what they are doing, relentless effort, positive energy every day, self control and loyalty. So competitive greatness to me is that we want to play the best of the best because we are one of those people. If competitive greatness is a state championship, then it’s a state championship. If that’s going three rounds deep in the playoffs each year, then that’s it. I don’t know what it looks like right now but in a few years I hope to. Canadian is obviously that way. Dumas is that way. We have both those teams on our schedule and I want that to be a competitive game for them.”
Included in Haberthur’s competitive greatness philosophy is growing boys into responsible men.
“We come in and win 100 games in 10 years and do a bad job of building relationships and teaching these young men how to be a grown man and hold them accountable for their actions,” Haberthur said. “Then we have failed.”
Haberthur started playing football in his front yard with his dad playing catch and pretending he was Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett.
He moved to Perryton in the fifth grade, the biggest kid in his class, and that become the home of his youth and ten years. Although college recruits didn’t knock down his door to play at the next level, he did receive a letter from legendary college coach Lou Holtz.
“Me and probably 10 million other people got the same letter from Lou Holtz,” Haberthur said. “But it helped motivate me to try harder. To try and be my best.”
And the big kid who grew up in Perryton hopes to be at his best as his head coaching career kicks off Friday night in the friendly confines of the place he wore #84 all those years ago, Ranger Field.
“I have thought about what Friday night will be like,” Haberthur said. “I think there are going to be a lot of jitters. I’m already nervous (a week before kickoff) as I was working today and watching Dalhart and picking out their best players and all that.
“Along the same lines, I get more and more excited. I think the first time I walked out into Dick Bivins working at Amarillo High and all the people there. Then the first Tascosa-Amarillo High game, seemed like the entire city of Amarillo was there. We won’t get to that with Covid. But Perryton has traditions at home games, like walking through the Harley’s all revved up. I can remember that from 20 years ago, it’s a really electric environment and I’m ready for that. That part of me has to go crazy and then the play-calling half of me has to stay calm.”
No doubt, Haberthur is ready to pass down the wisdom he has gained since his playing days and one year spent as an assistant in Perryton.
“I sure hope I’m a better coach than when I started,” Haberthur said. “You come in and think you know quite a bit. Then when you coach a while you realize you don’t know anything. I might have known what the tight end and defensive end did. But not everybody else.
“And then I’ve learned how important relationships are and building trust and love with the kids. had no idea about when I started. Now I feel it’s more important to build strong relationships and show love for those kids than running the trap.”