Best Of :: People & Places
If you're to be the best, preaches Dallas Lincoln High basketball coach Leonard Bishop, you must stand ready to prove it. Which is exactly what his undefeated state Class AAAA champions did last season. En route to a 40-0 record and the No. 1 spot in the nation in schoolboy rankings conducted by USA Today and Prep Sports, his Tigers defeated five schools that were judged among the nation's premier teams.
Invited to a tournament in St. Louis, they won the championship by defeating No. 6-ranked Midwest City High. In Lake Charles, Louisiana, they knocked off No. 23 Westbury Christian. Closer to home they scored wins over No. 6 Beaumont Ozen, No. 9 Cedar Hill (before a crowd of 17,995 in Reunion Arena at The Dallas Morning News Shootout ) and The Colony, which was ranked No. 14 in the country.
"I think the fact we were willing to go up against so many outstanding teams in non-district play," the 52-year-old Bishop says, "was the reason we were ultimately picked as the national champion."
Which is a pretty daring act for a man who looks more like a businessman at courtside, rarely displaying the emotional rants of many in his line of work; a coach who insists his primary job is to make sure his kids excel academically.
"Basically," says the former all-state guard who grew up in little Sexton, Missouri, "my job is that of a teacher. I spend most of my time trying to help students learn life skills that will be important to them long after they've played their last basketball game."
He says with pride that all 10 seniors who made the recent season so memorable are now on college campuses.
"Every player on our team," he says, "grasped the fact that playing basketball wasn't the only reason they were coming to school every day. They were a group that recognized that hard work--in the classroom, at home, at practice and on game day--was essential to reaching the goals we had set before the season began. They realized that to be successful you have to apply yourself fully every day.
"What these kids accomplished," Bishop continues, "is something they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. I've done some research in an attempt to see if there has ever been any other high school basketball team that has gone undefeated, won state and been ranked No. 1 in the same year and haven't found one."
For the Southeast Missouri graduate who entered his 30th year of coaching when practice for the new season opened in October, the magical 2001-'02 season was not something he'd foreseen. Even getting a job at a school with a celebrated athletic history like that of Lincoln's seemed out of reach when he launched his career back in New Madrid, Missouri. From there he came to Seagoville, where he served three years as coach of middle school basketball before working his way up to the high school job he held from 1984 to 1999.
Then, three years ago, Lincoln High came calling. In his first season as head coach of the Tigers, his team made it to the regional finals. In the second year, they advanced to the state tournament. Then last year, Bishop and his team rang all the bells, turning away all opposition with a controlled fast break offense that averaged 78 points per game and an aggressive defense.
Where does one go from perfection? Despite the fact only two players return from last year's varsity, there are great expectations. Last year's junior varsity went 16-2, and the freshman team lost only one game, in overtime. Back from last year's championship team are junior forward Cedric Griffin and the coach's son, Leonard Bishop Jr., a senior guard. A 5-foot-10 sophomore, Byron Eaton, has already been ranked by one preseason publication as the No. 2 point guard in the United States. "One of the things we try to do," Bishop says, "is develop talent on our lower-level teams. We had kids playing jayvee ball who were good enough to be on the varsity had we not had so many good seniors. Now, it's their turn."
Not only to add to the school's string of victories but to benefit from the lessons coach Bishop will teach.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, we gather defenses, pool resources and try our damnedest to beat the heat. And, though we may win a few battles along the way, the heat always wins the war. You can't beat it, so why not--as the cliché goes--join it. Revel in it. Bake in it. And the best place to do it is Hurricane Harbor, which opens just as the heat kicks into gear and closes as it begins to peter out into fall. The water park offers respite in the form of dozens of slides for the novice and the cowardly to the experienced and the brave, along with a lazy river for floating, pools and a pirate's ship play area for the kids. Though the lines twist up and up for popular rides such as the Black Hole, most of the waiting area is shaded and, with a 500-foot drop into a pool, the payoff is worth the wait.
The large, renovated ballroom upstairs at Sons of Hermann Hall is the perfect venue for swing-dance nights, which it hosts every Wednesday. There's a refinished hardwood floor, smooth enough for twirling without friction but with enough traction that you can stay on your feet. There are tables and chairs for those who need to take a breather, and a bar for those who need some liquid incentive to strut their stuff. With the air conditioner cranked and music blaring from the sound booth or from the bandstand, it's easy to feel as if you've stepped back in time, since Sons was around decades before swing was popular the first time.
On the weekends you can't stir the bicycles with a stick. Mom and Dad are there with their trail bikes, and the kiddies, some still maneuvering with training wheels, tag right along. There's a maze of off-road cycling for all ages and all levels of expertise. The park's most popular trail is a collection of three single-track routes that wind through woods and a tall grass prairie with a nice, cooling view of Joe Pool Lake. If it has rained recently, you might want to call and check on trail conditions before loading up and heading out.
Little kids who like airplanes, trucks and other big stuff (which means all of them, natch) will truly be thrilled to spend an hour watching the jets come and go from this busy airport. The plaza overlooks main runways and provides a clear view of takeoffs and landings. Voices of air-traffic controllers and pilots can be heard over a speaker on the plaza. There is room to walk around on grass around the plaza, but parking is also plentiful from places where you can see the big beasts soar.
A true hidden paradise for local anglers, this Turtle Creek estuary is home to 1- to 2-pound bass. On a recent summer day, a single fisherman was casting his line (a light-action pole with an open cast reel), relishing the solitude away from the city traffic just a few yards away. Besides the bass, there are also some nice-sized bluegills and carp around here, according to the University Park Wildlife Department. All are edible, say the park officials. Ready to be fried up on one of those $5,000 Viking stoves in the mansions nearby.
Along with its sister club, Escapade 2009, Escapade 2001 is the No. 1 destination for Dallas' swelling Latino population (the people who've made KNOL-FM one of the highest-rated radio stations in the area) every weekend, the place to go for people looking to blow off steam by dancing to ranchera and cumbia music. And there are quite a few of them: Every Friday through Sunday--the only nights Escapade 2001 is open--the parking lot outside rivals that of a Mavericks game, and the bar receipts routinely top the list of drinking establishments in the city. With that many people voting yes, who are we to say no?
When you enter Fossil Rim, it's hard to figure who is really in the zoo: you and the wife and kids, locked up in your SUV, air conditioner running, carbon monoxide emitting, or the 50 species of well-attended animals languishing over 1,500 gently rolling, beautifully wooded acres in the North Texas Hill Country. Located 75 miles southwest of Dallas, no zoo could offer the contact, the closeness, the natural setting that is afforded over 1,000 animals that are free to roam its savannas and juniper-oak woodlands save only the carnivores and rhinos. Humans remain in their vehicles during the two hours that cover the scenic tour. The Fossil Rim mission is one of conservation rather than conquest; its intention is to better establish the balance between man and nature. What better way is there for your screaming 4-year-old to get up close and personal with an ocelot? Just make sure you keep things in balance and take your little creature home.
You might think you're just not old enough to visit Granbury, Texas; that it's a place for bus tours and blue hairs and history buffs. But that's precisely the reason to visit: The trip is a trip, a Victorian town that is remarkably well-preserved and riddled with legend and myth and memory--from Jesse James and John Wilkes Booth to the ghost-haunted Opera House. There is a fully functioning drive-in movie house, boat tours on Lake Granbury, and the town, located 65 miles southwest of Dallas, is damn near close to an antique shopping mecca, with more than 50 stores at your disposal. But if quaint you ain't, then Dinosaur Valley State Park (best-preserved dinosaur tracks in Texas) and Eagle Flight Skydiving (lessons available) are within jumping-off distance.
If you are willing to get wet and spend a little money for the privilege, the best water playground in the Dallas area is in North Richland Hills. NRH20 has something for everyone, priding itself on a safety rating system that identifies which rides are appropriate for which age category. Low speed is for shallow-water attractions and shallow-water kids. High speed is for the more skillful swimmer, someone who can navigate the new Green Extreme, a seven-story-tall water slide with 1,161 feet of twists and turns. The thoroughly modern water park has one holdover from days gone by: an outdoor "dive in" movie on Friday nights throughout the summer, where kid flicks like Shrek and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone can be seen while floating in the wave pool or relaxing in a lounge chair on the beach. Well, a simulated beach anyway.
You've done your Chuck E. Cheese's, your Fun Fest, your rain-soaked birthday party at the neighborhood park. And there's no way you are going to subject your own home to the kind of abuse 30 5-year-olds can cause after the giant Jaws bounce house you promised doesn't arrive on time. What you need is a seamless, low-maintenance, high-energy, modestly priced, kid-tested alternative to the mind-numbing childhood ritual known as the birthday party. You can find it at ASI Gymnastics, with its seven ground-level trampolines, its carpet-bonded tumble floors and its giant foam pit. Curb service for your store-bought cake and decorations, which can be any theme you bring in, from Sesame Street to Harry Potter. The first 60 minutes will be spent jumping and running and swinging and tumbling with coaches who are both cool and safety-conscious. The next 30 are spent in a private room with cake and pizza or whatever you decide to import. The best part is, ASI provides the cleanup. If they could only dispose of the 30 gifts that your child is dying to get his hands on and doesn't really need.
Some pools are just chlorine and water, a liquid playpen that, when combined with the intense summer sun, will cause the most exuberant of children to grow tired enough to take a nap. But then there are other pools that soak you in luxury, acting as therapy for the mind, a spa for the body. One of these is the pool at the Four Seasons Hotel in Las Colinas: lagoon-shaped, waterfalls cascading, attractive attendants who not only serve you frozen drinks to relax your spirit, but also frozen face cloths and ice water to brace yourself against the hot Texas summer. Of course, it comes at a price: You have to stay at the hotel, but the Four Seasons offers weekend packages for those who need to get away from home without ever leaving it. Parents of young children understand this need. Parents of young children are willing to pay this price. Parents of young children can be found poolside at the Four Seasons Hotel, without their young children.