Editor's Note: Gloria (Scott) Deathridge will join her brother ,Terry, and local longtime coaches Mike Turner and Judy Pruett in being inducted into the 2020 Greater Chattanooga Hall of Fame on Feb. 24 (6:30 p.m.) at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
Gloria (Scott) Deathridge was a natural in basketball the first day she walked onto the court at Michigan Avenue Elementary School.
A six-foot wingspan caused the eyes of veteran Coach Sam Ledford to light up; he realized he had a special athlete.
“I became a defensive specialist after Coach Ledford asked me to show him how I shot the ball,” remembered Gloria. “After that he decided to teach me how to play defense.”
In those days of elementary and high school basketball, it was a 3-on-3 game. The three forwards played on one half of the court and three guards on the other side. “My first instruction from Coach Ledford was to just stay between the player and the goal,” she noted.
Gloria established herself in the strong elementary league and was ready to step in and play for legendary Coach Jim Smiddy at Bradley Central High School from 1967-1971.
Matriarch of Scott Family: “Our grandmother, Marie Bradford Gaines, was the matriarch of our family and the reason our oldest brother Terry ended up going to Bradley. She, along with the NAACP, met and decided that some of the students in the community (from the all-black College Hill High School) needed to help integrate the schools. She volunteered Terry and told him he was going to Bradley. He was hesitant but she said, 'You are going.’ Our grandmother was very supportive of all of us (Terry, Levi, Alvin and me) while we were at Bradley. She never missed a home game and even traveled to Atlanta to see Alvin play when he was in the NBA,” explained Gloria.
Praising the late Coach Smiddy: “Playing for Bradley, under Coach Smiddy, was one of the greatest experiences of my life. He taught me the meaning of hard work (running up and down the concrete steps), endurance (long practices during school and summers), and dedication to the game.
“He taught us how to be gracious in winning as well as in losing, to be a good ball player on the court and a lady off the court. Coach Smiddy was responsible for making sure I was exposed to being a leader and an ambassador for the game. After my senior year of basketball, Coach Smiddy recommended me for my first government job with the Soil Conservation Service Deptartment, at the downtown post office building. I would get out of school early and walk downtown to work every day after school. This helped me save money for college. He was a great coach and a mentor to me.”
At BCHS Gloria was voted Most Athletic her senior year. She was a Girls State delegate. As a Bearette she was three times an All-District, All-Regional, and All-Sub-State. She was a member of the 1970 BCHS State Basketball Championship team and was selected to the All-State basketball team two years. Her No. 13, which she wore during her playing days at Bradley, was retired and now hangs from the rafters of Jim Smiddy Arena.
Next Stop, UT-Knoxville: Back in 1971, at UTK, players were recruited by seeing an announcement posted on poles and walls asking athletics who were interested in playing basketball for the university to report to alumni gym at a designated date and time. Gloria was excited because she didn’t know the university had a women’s basketball team.
There were about 30 girls that showed up for the tryouts. One of the girls knew that Gloria had played for Coach Smiddy and had won a state title. She told Coach (Margaret) Hutson, the Lady Vols coach at the time, that she needed to get Gloria on the team.
“A lot of the things that Coach Smiddy had used in practice that taught us how to defend and rebound were things that I mentioned to our coach. Coach Hutson had never played before so she would have me demonstrate some of the fundamentals of rebounding, showing how to position yourself for a rebound depending on where the ball was shot. Things like that was just second nature to me,” she said.
Through all the struggles, the UTK women had a couple of good years but needed help to improve, especially their conditioning.
“We didn’t have the same equipment as the men, so we sometimes used the smaller players as weights on our backs when doing pushups. The team sold donuts to raise money to help defray the cost of our travel and to purchase the team’s first orange uniforms. Prior to that, our uniforms were blue and white with orange numbers,” Gloria recalled.
Help from Ernie Grunfeld: To help our coach with game time strategy, Coach Hutson recruited one of her students to come to practices and games to watch the team play and make recommendations on how players could improve.
“We found out afterward that the student was the former Vol All-American Ernie Grunfeld. She gave him extra credit for assisting. The team thought Ernie was just supporting our team because he liked watching us play," Gloria related.
“My last year (I was a junior at the time and Coach Hutson’s final year) we were 25-2. The two losses that year were to Tennessee Tech, 54-51, OT, in the TCWFS Championship game played on Tech’s home floor. Their only other loss was to Winthrop, 55-53, in the AIAW Regional Championship game in Harrisburg, Virginia.
"That loss stopped us one game short of reaching the AIAW National Tourney. That was a record for wins by a Lady Vol team and the deepest in the post-season we had reached before (Coach Pat) Summitt came in 1975,” Gloria pointed out.
She had the opportunity to play against the Russians as a member of the Eastern Region U.S.A. All-Star team. Gloria is a member of the Lady Vols Basketball Alumni program.
Career after College: She received her B.S. Degree in Business Administration from UTK and worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority from 1975-2005, serving in several positions from Administration, Personnel, Finance and a Special Projects Manager.
After retiring from TVA in Knoxville as a Business Analyst, she became a real estate agent with Realty Executives Associates, where she continues to work today. While continuing to work as an agent, she was elected to the Knox County Board of Education for eight years (2010-18).
Gloria has served and continues to serve on several community boards and organizations throughout the Knoxville area, including the Project Grad-Knoxville, Secretary of the Board of Directors for the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and a member of the Knoxville (TN) Chapter of Links, Incorporated. She has been a member of Leadership Knoxville, the University of Tennessee’s Chancellor’s Associates and the YMCA Black Achievers Program.
Gloria is an active member of Mt. Olive Baptist Church, where she serves as Chair of the Finance Committee, member of the Personnel Committee and sings with the Voices of Praise choir. She is the wife of Mark Deathridge and they have two children: Markeisha and Devin.
Grateful to Cleveland Community: “I will always be grateful for the people and the community in Cleveland who helped me become the person I am today. The support my family received is far beyond what we could ever have imagined," she proclaimed.
"Each summer, my brothers and I host a LETS basketball camp at Bradley to give back a little of what was given to us. We ‘Thank You’ Bradley for all you've done for us and appreciate your continued support,” said one of Bradley County’s all-time greats (on and off playing court) in closing.