Frank Seals, born in Houston, Texas, first found his love of basketball at Phyllis Wheatley High School where he won three state championships. His hard work allowed him to earn a scholarship to continue to play ball at Prairie View A&M University.
However, in 1964, Seals chose to sport a new hat and began coaching Southwestern Bell basketball teams.
Following that stint, Seals, alongside coach Selwyn Wilkinson, coached Cinema West, Houston Flights, Coaches Corner and Team Frank in the Houston Summer Pro-Am at the Fonde Recreation Center beginning in 1966. Wilkinson, a native of San Antonio, attended the University of Houston in 1977 where he developed relationships with coach Seals and athletes like Moses Malone and Hakeem Olajuwon.
“[Seals] came when the Fonde first opened,” Wilkinson said. “He helped to integrate the Fonde because it was a majority of white people that were here.”
While the center remains in the middle of a predominantly white community, the Fonde’s primary use comes from African-Americans, which resulted from Seals and others effort in the late 1960s.
“It was kind of tough,” Seals said. “When we first came down here, we knew the majority was white, and blacks started coming in. They acted like they didn’t want [blacks] in.”
“As a whole, it’s changed a lot.”
With that change, many athletes found refuge and opportunity through the center, which has increased in popularity with professional athletes playing in the annual summer league.
“Back then, they had gyms that [players] would have to go to out in the neighborhood to play,” Seals said. “Guys started coming in, and then the competition started to come in. Then, the pros started coming in.”
Seals firmly believes that the Fonde “is the greatest thing going down here, as far as basketball is concerned, during the summer.”
Recalling the struggle that Seals and other coaches dealt with to gain access to the center, Coach Wilkinson shared his memories of playing Seals’ team in the summer league.
“[Seals] would beat a majority of the pro teams because his teams played together year-round…even though they were just coming in,” Wilkinson said.
“I was a player-coach; I had a good team, but I kept losing to Frank.”
Despite their opposition on the court, Seals reluctantly offered his assistance to Wilkinson. He jokingly stated that he believed his words would come back to haunt him.
His advice to Wilkinson consisted of how to rest his players. Rather than playing them the entire fourth quarter, pull the players out near the end of the third. Once there are six minutes remaining in the fourth, put your best players back in and accept the final results.
Ultimately, that small bit of advice came back to haunt Seals.
“I eventually got the win; it was very competitive and was able to beat him,” Wilkinson said. “He was my coach and mentor that taught a whole bunch about how to coach basketball.”
That is the character that defines Frank Seals: passionate, competitive, but most importantly, unselfish.
Wilkinson continues to describe Seals as one of the most successful coaches to participate in the league.
“He is being modest,” Wilkinson said, with a laugh. “He has won more championships than anybody, any coach, but he has been here longer.”
Seals has won more Pro-Am and TAAF state championships than anybody in the state of Texas, as well as, numerous national championships for both men’s and women’s teams. In total, Seals has captured 23 awards from several cities, such as Las Vegas, Atlanta and Miami.
From 1986 through 2002, Seals led his team to 12 TAAF championships. The only years that the team did not win the title were 1989, 1991, 1994-5, 1999 and 2001.
Seals recalled this time as the moment that he knew he had found his purpose in coaching.
“I brought in a bunch of new players that got together, stayed together and worked together. To me, that was real enjoyable to watch,” Seals said. “They stayed with the team 10-12 years, and all 12 years we won. I feel that team there was the best team I had ever coached.”
Coaching takes special gifts as leadership, dedication and commitment are all key to seeing your team succeed. Over four decades, Seals has not only developed these traits, but also passed them along to the next group of young stars in both playing and coaching roles.
“I get the enjoyment out by putting guys out there on the floor and getting a great team to play disciplined basketball,” Seals said. “You want to win. Everybody wants to win, but when you see these guys are learning how to do teamwork and team basketball, that is a good thing.”
The number of players coach Seals has guided over the years has grown into the hundreds, and the athletes include Moses Malone, Jonathon Simmons, Isaiah Cannan and DeMya Walker, to name a few.
Coach Wilkinson summarized the mentality of coach Seals in one phrase.
“Giving back to the community; that is what it is all about.”
Visit the Fonde Recreation Center on Aug. 23 at 7 p.m. to witness the lifetime achievement award presentation during halftime of the championship game by Casey Williams and Selwyn Wilkinson.