In 22 seasons as head coach at the University of Houston, Tom Tellez produced some of the greatest track & field performers in the history of the sport.
A standout collegiate athlete, Tellez was a halfback and defensive back at Whittier College. He also was a sprinter for the school’s track & field team while earning a B.S. degree in physical education in 1955. He earned a master’s degree at Chapman College in 1962. Tellez began his coaching career as a graduate assistant coach at Whittier. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, he was named the head coach at Buena Park High School in California.
In 1961, he became the head coach at Fullerton Junior College before becoming an assistant coach at UCLA in 1968 under fellow USTFCCCA Hall of Famer Jim Bush. While at UCLA, he coached the likes of Dwight Stones, Mike Tully, Willie Banks, and James Butts. In 1976, he was offered the chance to become the strength and conditioning coach for the Dallas Cowboys under Tom Landry. Instead, he opted to move to Houston to replace retiring track coach and USTFCCCA Hall of Famer Johnny Morriss.
A list of his accomplished individual athletes might fill a book. To highlight just a few, his former Cougars include nine-time Olympic Gold Medalist Carl Lewis; Olympic 200m Gold Medalist Joe DeLoach; Olympic Silver medalist Kirk Baptiste; Olympic Bronze Medalist Frank Rutherford; and Olympic Gold Medalist, former world record holder in the 100m, and current UH head coach Leroy Burrell.
Tellez also tutored numerous post-collegians, including Olympic Gold Medalists Mike Marsh and Michele Finn-Burrell. From 1984-96, six of the seven U.S. sprinters who won Olympic Gold Medals were coached by Tellez, and seven of the USA’s 13 overall medals were claimed by his athletes.
Beyond his success in coaching individual athletes, Tellez also put together some very successful teams at Houston. His men’s teams won two Southwest Conference (SWC) indoor championships, and in 1997 and 1998, he was named the Conference USA men’s indoor and outdoor Coach of the Year after leading the Cougars to four titles in their first two years in the league. He also led the Cougars to nine top ten showings at the NCAA Indoor meet and six Top 15 finishes at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
In addition to his success as UH’s men’s coach, Tellez began the Lady Cougar program and led them to three top ten finishes at the NCAA Indoor Championships and eight Top 20 finishes at the NCAA Outdoor meet. The Lady Cougars also won the 1983, 1984, and 1987 SWC indoor titles and the 1984 and 1990 SWC outdoor championships under his direction. He earned the 1998 C-USA women’s indoor and outdoor Coach of the Year honors after leading the Lady Cougars to both titles.
Tellez’s achievements led to several international coaching appointments, including head coach for the 1991 U.S. World Championships team, head coach for the 1987 USA Pan American team, and assistant coach for the 1980 and 1984 USA Olympic Teams. Tellez is honored in the Mt. SAC Relays Hall of Fame and the University of Houston Athletics Hall of Honor.