Women's Hoops Blog

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Geraldine Opal Suiter of Tipton, Oklahoma died at the age of 93. She was Tillman County's first girls basketball coach and a longtime educator.

Suiter was a guard on the Laing High School girls basketball team that reached the state tournament during the 1928 and 1929 seasons. Recalled Reba Sturgess, 95, the last survivng player from the team:
"Laing was the first consolidated school in Tillman County,” Sturgess explained. "So we were a big deal back in the day. ... The community even raised money so we could make the trip to the state tournament, and we got to stay in a motel and everything. That was the first time I wore high heels.

"Of course, Geraldine was a fabulous guard. If she hadn't been, we never would have made state.”
Later, in 1934, Suiter became the Laing basketball coach.
"A woman coach was rare back then, but Geraldine was a good one," said Lucile Mitchell, who at 90 is Geraldine's last surviving sibling from a family of 10.
Which gives me an excuse to talk a little about early Oklahoma girls basketball and another trailblazing coach.

An unofficial girls' high school basketball championship emerged in Oklahoma in 1919 and a sanctioned championship came in 1924. Bertha Teague coached eight state championship teams and was runner-up seven times, which is one of the reasons she is known as "Mrs. Basketball of Oklahoma."

Born in Missouri in 1907, Teague started a girls basketball team at Ada, Oklahoma when she was 20. In her 43 years of coaching (1927-69) at Byng High School, she compiled a 90% winning average with a win-loss record of 1,157-115 which included, at one time, a 98-game winning streak. She had a large role in modernizing the sport, first at Oklahoma and later at the national level, establishing the first girls' basketball clinic in the Southwest.

Enshrined in the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1985 and part of the 1999 inaugural class of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, Teague is also a member of National Federation of State High Schools Hall of Fame (1983), Missouri Basketball Hall of Fame (1988), Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame (1989), Oklahoma State University Alumni Association Hall of Fame (1987), and Oklahoma Girls Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame (inaugural inductee, 1972). You can also attend the Bertha Teague Mid-America Classic.

Wouldn't you just have loved to have tea (or a frosty beverage or two) with Bertha and Geraldine? Imagine the stories they could have told....