MURFREESBORO — Ben Cates can remember driving by Oakland High School more than 40 years ago and seeing the school’s gymnasium being built.
He’d walk through it every weekend, inspecting the facility that would be his coaching stomping ground for the school’s first 14 years.
On Tuesday night, the Lady Patriots’ first basketball coach was recognized along with four others in the inaugural class of the Oakland High Basketball Hall of Fame.
“I’d walk through it, and see what they had done,” Cates said. “I dreamed a lot of dreams. And some of those dreams came true.”
Joining Cates in the Oakland Hall of Fame class were former boys coaches Dickie Thomas and Randy King, and former players Fred Batten Jr. and Alice Lawrence.
“When I first started coaching here, Ben Cates was a teacher, Dickie Thomas was a teacher and Randy King was the (boys) coach here,” Oakland girls coach Jennifer Grandstaff said. “I got to know all three well. …
“It’s great to be able to witness it and know I know all of them personally. It’s a great tribute to all five.”
All five received a plaque with a frame made from the former gym floor. The floor was replaced for the the first time prior to this season.
“I don’t know what part of the floor it is, but maybe I had a few sweat drops there, or hit a couple of free throws or a jump shot,” Batten said. “Hey, it’s a nice feeling.”
Batten, a 1983 Oakland graduate, started three seasons under Thomas. He led the Patriots to two state tournament appearances, scored more than 1,000 points and was an 88 percent free-throw shooter during his career.
Thomas, who was the Patriots’ second basketball coach, led the program to a Class AAA runner-up in 1984. He was 218-61 with four state tournament appearances in 10 seasons (1976-86).
“This is something that I guess is long overdue,” said Thomas, who is also in the school’s football hall of fame as a former assistant. “It’s been a good tradition here. It’s good to recognize a lot of these players and coaches.”
Lawrence, who played at Oakland from 1980-84, remains the Lady Patriots’ all-time leading (1,932 points) and has the record for the most points scored in a single game (38). That came before the 3-point line was introduced.
“It’s an honor,” Lawrence said. “I am overwhelmed.”
Lawrence averaged 20 points a game her final three years at Oakland.
The gym is named after King, who spent 23 seasons as the boys head coach. He was 552-168 and is also in the TSSAA Hall of Fame.
He had 20 consecutive seasons of winning 20 or more games. The Patriots reached the TSSAA Class AAA state tournament five times under him.
“I’ve been extremely blessed just to be with this group of guys,” said King, who is now the Providence Christian athletic director. “I’m fortunate to be part of it.”
Cates, who went 213-130 in 14 seasons, said he was humbled to be part of the inaugural class.
“You don’t coach to get recognized,” he said. “If you do, you are in the wrong business. But when you are recognized, it is meaningful. And this is a meaningful night.”
Reach Tom Kreager at 615-278-5168 and on Twitter @Kreager.