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Game changer: Hare fought for equality in girls basketball

Douglas Fritz • Apr 2, 2020 at 10:00 AM

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of a two-part series about Frank Hare. Today’s article focuses on his impact with the game of girls basketball in Northeast Tennessee.

NEW PATH

After rubbing elbows with some famous folks, Frank Hare settled down into a life that involved less of a spotlight.

He began his student teaching at Blountville Junior High in the spring of 1968. When the 1971-72 school year rolled around, Hare received an opportunity that would change his life’s path.

“It was the first year they brought back girls basketball since World War II,” said Hare. “I was coaching football and track, and the principal asked me if I was interested in coaching girls basketball. I said, ‘Sure, I’ll take it.’ ”

Like most folks in those days, Hare didn’t expect much from the girls on the basketball court.

“They just didn’t play girls basketball in those days,” Hare said. “It was 3-on-3 on both ends of the court. You had to coach differently. It was a whole new game for me. Do you play zone or man?

“But once I started coaching, I realized just how much these girls took it seriously. They were much more meticulous than guys.”

When Hare moved on to Sullivan East in the fall of 1974, he stayed with football and was an assistant coach on a staff that included Darrell Watson and Greg Stubbs. Stubbs was in his first season as a coach and later led Tennessee High’s football program to a resurgence in the first part of the new century. Watson later became a well-known assistant coach at Dobyns-Bennett.

As for basketball, East’s girls were coached by the gym teacher.

“They didn’t care who coached it,” said Hare.

But with Title IX becoming federal law in 1972, things needed to change for girls basketball. Prior to the 1975-76 season, a school board member asked Hare if he would be interested in taking the girls job.

MAKING DO

East didn’t have much money to spend on the girls.

“My girls had $10 Chuck Taylor Converse shoes while the boys had two pair of leather Adidas,” said Hare. “We had to have bake sales just to come up with enough money to supplement the $10 the athletic director gave me for shoes. We had to do fundraisers every Saturday.”

Also, Hare had to find creative ways to get his players to the games.

“I wore out two station wagons because we couldn’t take buses,” he said. “Parents even had to give the girls rides.”

Plus, Hare didn’t get paid for coaching the girls.

“I didn’t get a supplement until Title IX was fully implemented,” said Hare. “I remember the principal came up to me and said, ‘I guess you probably want the same equal stuff as the boys.’

“To the girls, equal was really good. I told him I would like to be paid a supplement, the same the boys’ coach gets. And I told him I would like to coach one sport. It all came about.”

FIGHTING THE OLD GUARD

Hare said he didn’t like the idea of the girls playing on Mondays and Thursdays. He believed the girls should get to play on the same nights as the boys.

One issue with playing on Mondays was practice time.

“Something nobody every thought about was playing on Monday meant you needed to practice on Sunday,” said Hare. “The parents didn’t want their girls practicing on Sunday.”

Hare knew it was going to be a battle to fight against the boys’ coaches, who wanted their junior-varsity players on the court prior to the varsity game.

“Back in those days, they had a meeting after the basketball season,” Hare said. “There were no principals or athletic directors involved. The coaches ran the show. I used to go behind the scenes and talk to Randy Quillen (Dobyns-Bennett), John Stephens (Sullivan Central), Donnie Stafford (Tennessee High) and Clarence Mabe (Daniel Boone). I told them all we needed were four votes. I wanted to play on the same nights as the boys.”

For two years it was voted down, Hare said. But a local sports writer helped turn the tide.

“Dave Sparks worked for the Bristol paper, and he was about 7-foot tall,” Hare said. “He was a great sports writer. He started writing articles about girls basketball. He said he saw how the girls would fight to win. If it wasn’t for him, things wouldn’t have changed.”

When the girls were finally granted the Tuesday and Friday spots, they were still regulated to the 5 p.m. time slot, instead of 6:30. Hare scheduled a game against Gatlinburg-Pittman, one of the schools across the state that didn’t drop girls basketball and continued to play after World War II.

“They arrived at 4:30, and I thought they were running late,” Hare said. “It turned out the coach was also the head principal. He said they play at 6:30 as a preliminary to the boys’ game. I told him up here we are supposed to play at 5 o’clock. He said, ‘I can tell you this. We will play at 6:30 or we are heading back to Gatlinburg-Pittman, boys’ team included.’

“Our athletic director said we would do it this once. The administration called me in the next day and thought I was the one who set it up. I told them I didn’t even know the guy, didn’t know he was the principal, and didn’t know the way they did things down there.”

That was the first time East’s girls played right before the boys’ varsity game.

“The pressure became too great and with the help of Dave Sparks and the articles he wrote, eventually we got to play at 6:30,” Hare said.

Hare even pushed for the girls to get the 8 o’clock slot on alternating nights, but the idea never found wings.

Despite the game-time conflicts, Hare became good friends with legendary Dobyns-Bennett boys’ head coach Buck Van Huss. He played golf with Van Huss and Charlie Bayless.

BEFORE SHE WAS SUMMITT

Hare took his team to East Tennessee State University to watch a women’s game against Tennessee.

“I had a girl who wanted to play for UT,” Hare said. “After the game, Pat Head was picking up the basketballs and stuffing them in a bag. I told her about this girl (Ann Elsea). She said, ‘When do you play next?’

“She came and watched her play against Sullivan Central. After the game, she said I was right and the girl could play. But her foot speed was a little slow. She asked if the girl would be interested in playing at Tennessee Tech. Long story short, she played at Tennessee Tech and worked there for 30 years.”

THE LEGACY

Hare guided the Lady Patriots to several district and regional titles. He was chosen as the conference coach of the year in 1978.

Frank’s son Andy is the principal at Sullivan East. Prior to that job, Andy followed his dad to the bench and was chosen as the Big Seven Conference girls basketball coach of the year with David Crockett in 2005.

“That was humbling for me to share the same award with him in the same conference,” Andy said.

Frank’s son Hank led the Mary Hughes Middle School girls team to a state sectional title. Mary Hughes won in 2018, finishing with a record of 30-0.

Also, Frank’s daughter Krista won the Class AAA state high-jump title in 1986.

Frank has also been blessed with athletic grandkids. Included in the mix is 2017 East graduate Alyssa Hare, who scored 1,000 points in her basketball career. Jenna Hare just completed her freshman basketball year with the Lady Patriots and was a first-team All-Northeast Tennessee selection by the Johnson City Press and Times News.

Alyssa and Jenna’s maternal grandfather is Sullivan Central basketball coaching legend Dickie Warren.

“Hank married Dickie’s daughter,” said Frank. “Dickie had a little athletic ability, too.”

Andy said his dad made a lasting impact on girls basketball in Northeast Tennessee.

“Girls basketball is a beautiful game that may not have made it where it is today in our area without his willingness to fight to give the girls equality,” Andy said. “He is the definition of humble, and has never done anything that wasn’t for others.

“Of course he always said he did not do the things he did for recognition. He liked being behind the scenes and watching others benefit from him, and standing up for those who could not stand up for themselves. I am proud of my dad.”

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