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Former Gleason Bulldog players from the last 20 years gathered to pay tribute to Randy Frazier.
 Photo by Heather Phillips ~ Jackson Sun

Gleason Honors Coach Randy Frazier for 20 Years of Service

By Jason Peevyhouse
Sports Editor ~ Dresden Enterprise

For 20 years, Gleason High School Girls Basketball Head Coach Randy Frazier has been coaching and molding young players in both the junior high and high school programs.

On Saturday night, many of those players returned to their alma mater to pay tribute to their coach, honoring Frazier with a surprise celebration of his tenure at the helm of the girls program at Gleason School.

After a dinner to honor Coach Frazier in the school's cafeteria, the crowd adjourned to the Dudley Sanders' Memorial Gymnasium for the tribute program.

Kellie McElhiney Sims introduced the host for the evening, former Gleason girls' assistant coach Shane Sisco. Sisco is now the head boys' basketball coach of the Union City Golden Tornadoes. After having the Lord's Prayer, led by Frazier, with former Gleason Lady Bulldog players in the audience, Sisco shared some of his memories of working under Coach Frazier.

In the first of many presentations of the night, Lee Ann Bell Smith presented Coach Frazier with a DVD tribute video, showing highlights of his 20 years at the Gleason School.

Another member of the West Tennessee coaching community was also on hand, as former Bradford girls and current Gibson County girls head coach David Russell spoke about his rivalry and friendship with Coach Frazier, ranging from topics on the court to fishing on the Mississippi River.

More presentations followed as Kristy McKee Dunn presented Frazier with a scrapbook, while Beth Steele, Gail Muzzall and Cristi Sawyers Wallace paid tribute to Coach Frazier's wife, Terry Frazier with gifts and special music.

After hearing from former coach Henry Farrar, players from both the 90s and recent years spoke about the effect Frazier had on them, both past and present.

The final presentations of the night were then made. Monica Aylor Rollins and Melanie Green Sawyers presented Frazier with a commemorative quilt, showcasing his 20 years of coaching at Gleason, made by Nancy Guthrie. Nicki Stephens Pace and Rollins then gave Frazier a painting of himself from McKenzie artist Tuva Stephens, a Gleason alumna.

After a night of tribute, Frazier helped close the program, thanking everyone for the overwhelming honor. Miss Basketball 1999 Ashley McElhiney and Kay Hudson closed the program, leading everyone in attendance with the singing of the school's alma mater. Source: McKenzie Banner.

High School Basketball: Gleason Pays Tribute to Longtime Coach

GLEASON - It's not basketball season yet, but parking places were at a premium Saturday night at Gleason. With the season still a couple of months away, the school held a tribute for girls basketball coach Randy Frazier for 20 years of excellence in leading the Lady Bulldogs.

Frazier may have been the only person in Gleason not to know about the evening until he arrived at the school.

"I'm speechless, especially on a night when Tennessee is playing (football against. Florida)," Frazier said as he entered the gymnasium for the evening's festivities, which began with dinner in the cafeteria.

The night started for Frazier when his wife had a tie ready for him.

"Terry told me to trust her," he said.

He still wasn't sure what was going on when he was intercepted by local police for an escort to the school.

"I thought we had run a stop sign," he said.

Frazier began to figure out what was going on when he saw signs leading to the high school that had his motivational sayings on them. Among them was one that read, "Offense scores points, defense wins games."

Frazier finally figured what was going on when he arrived at the school and saw a sign thanking him for his years of service.

"This is a night to honor coach Randy Frazier and what he has meant to the program. We won't be running tonight at all," former Gleason player Vanessa Patrick said to the delight of the crowd.

After dinner, the crowd moved into Dudley Sanders Memorial Gymnasium where speaker after speaker was introduced by Union City boys basketball coach Shane Sisco, who hosted the event. He quickly noted there were coaches in attendance but no officials.

Sisco was an assistant to Frazier in the late '90s, and last spring he led Union City to the boys' Class A state title.

Gibson County girls basketball coach David Russell looked at ease in a gymnasium where he undoubtedly was applauded for the first time in his life. The former Bradford coach's teams squared off with the Lady Bulldogs in some of the area's greatest games.

"Shane (Sisco) said there are no officials here tonight. Randy was the best official in the gym," Russell said. "Two great schools, two great communities, and I don't think we will ever have that situation again."

The legion of Gleason players who went to the podium expressed their appreciation to the individual who's had a tremendous impact on their lives.

Afterwards, the appreciation continued as the crowd mingled on the floor.

"(Playing for Frazier was) the most rewarding experience. Everybody knows about Gleason basketball," 1996 Miss Basketball Kara Atkins said. Atkins, whose maiden names is Sanders, is now a stay-at-home mother of two. She obtained her degree in education at Freed-Hardeman.

About the possibility of her four-year old playing for Frazier, "You never know."

Most attendees couldn't control their emotions, having been part of a district title at one time or another. Frazier has fifteen, as well as two region, one state runner-up, and two state titles ('92 and '99). Frazier's record with Gleason is 535-103.

"I don't have the words to show the love and gratitude for (Saturday). The program is not about any one person but a part of a puzzle, and it all has to fit together. I can't remember the wins, but I can remember the losses. I've been at Gleason 21 years and have never worked a day," said Frazier, who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in the spring and has since had surgery twice.

"You don't have to thank me. Every day I see those who are moms, workers. That's the thanks." --- Photo by Heather Phillips /The Jackson Sun

McElhiney Puts ABA Experience Behind Her

Ashley McElhiney may understand better than anyone else whether an ABA franchise can succeed in West Tennessee.

She grew up in Gleason and then went on to coach the Nashville Rhythm from 2004-05.

Although she doesn't follow the league any more, McElhiney said the ABA could flourish in Jackson.

"With the right people it could succeed," she said Saturday during a tribute to honor Gleason coach Randy Frazier.

McElhiney's experiences in the ABA and her abrupt firing are not her favorite subjects. She declined any further comment on the situation.

However, McElhiney - who is in her second year as the director of human and organizational development for University of Alabama women's basketball team - wanted to talk about was the success of Gleason.

As the evening's final speaker, McElhiney, 25, standing on the floor where she enjoyed some of her greatest moments, eyed those in attendance.

"This is the first time I have ever been this nervous. We were more impressed with (Frazier) as a person than statistical value."

And McElhiney got to know Frazier well over the years. In fact, she got to know the high school coach sooner than most.

When she was in the first and second grade, McElhiney spent time dribbling a basketball on a stage that was courtside at Gleason's old gym as the Lady Bulldogs held practice. She would often get in trouble with Frazier for doing so.

When Gleason won its first state title in 1992, McElhiney moved front and center in the Dudley Sanders Memorial Gymnasium, sitting in the front row during the celebration. Thoughts of "I want to do that some day" naturally followed.

That day came in 1999 when McElhiney won the Class A state championship with Gleason. She was also named Class A Miss Basketball that same year.

"It's a huge honor to be nominated. A great honor, but never did individual awards take the place of a state title," she said. "It was incredible what we overcame. We were underdogs, not a tall team."

McElhiney shrugged when asked where the Miss Basketball trophy is now.

"I think my mom has it in the house somewhere."

Due to her basketball prowess, McElhiney received several letters from colleges but selected Vanderbilt.

"After my visit I knew that's where I was supposed to be. I never thought about anywhere else but (Vandy)."

At Vanderbilt, McElhiney played in the NCAA tournament, reaching the regional finals. The Commodores even managed to defeat mighty Tennessee twice in the SEC tournament.

"The Elite Eight was huge. (It was) a great experience overall."

After college, McElhiney's life began to take more turns than the Tater Day Parade in Gleason. She was hired to be an assistant at Ohio State under Jim Foster. Foster had coached her at Vandy.

But it was goodbye Columbus before she even got there.

The upstart Nashville Rhythm of the American Basketball Association hired her to be the head coach, making her the first female to lead a men's professional team.

The conflict with the team owner is well documented, and McElhiney has put more distance between that incident than there are miles between Columbus, Ohio, and her current post in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

But on Saturday she returned to her old stomping grounds. When all is quiet, you can still hear a roar of the crowd if you listen hard enough.

She read a poem in a voice that continued to quiver, but like her other team members, she held her composure as if they were shooting a one-and-one with no time on the clock.  --- Photo by Heather Phillips /The Jackson Sun

Tribute brings Lady Bulldog Family Together

By Stephanie Sturgis ~ Sports Editor, Weakley County Press

A few years ago, a country song entitled "Here's Your Sign" made a statement about pointing out the obvious.

Saturday night in Gleason, girls basketball coach Randy Frazier got many signs, both literal and figurative, to show him how beloved and admired he is by the players he mentored during his 20 years at the helm of the highly successful Gleason Lady Bulldog basketball program.

Players from throughout his coaching tenure at Gleason traveled from as far away as California to gather together in Dudley Sanders Memorial Gymnasium, site of so many of those Gleason victories, for a surprise tribute to the coaching legend honoring his successes and positive influence over the past two decades.

Athletes from every era and fellow coaches made their way to the podium to tell their stories of what impact the Gleason sideline leader has made in their lives.

"This is my opportunity to say thank you for the opportunity to live on this floor. You gave us a belief in ourselves and the dedication to know what it takes to be winners," Tonya Parham Lutz said during her time at the microphone.

Those sentiments, lessons learned about dedication and devotion and desire to succeed, were repeated time after time, often said by successful women overcome with emotion or laughing about shared moments.

Saturday started out as a normal fall day for the GHS coach with a golf outing in the afternoon to be followed by an evening watching his beloved Tennessee Volunteers take on heated rival Florida in football action.

The evening plans were pushed aside by an unexpected demand by the coach's wife, Terry, to get dressed and put on a tie after his return from the golf course. "It wasn't easy," Terry Frazier said of coaxing her husband into the necktie and away from the television.

Still in the dark as to what was on the agenda, Frazier eventually complied and rode with his wife and children, Jenna and Preston, into town. Another clue that this wasn't just any Saturday night came when the Frazier's vehicle was met by a police escort which led the family to the school in the heart of Tater Town.

On the way, signs posted alongside the streets gave hints that basketball was the theme of the evening. Event organizers had stationed posterboard signs with mottoes and phrases that echo in the gym during every practice and are shouted out in huddles over the roar of the crowd during every game. "Be the best." "UCLA." "110%." "Offense wins games. Defense wins championship." "All it takes is all you've got." The phrases pointed the coach's way back to the Gleason gym.

When a surprised Frazier walked into the lobby of the school, he was greeted by applause and camera flashes from two thirds of the 58 players he coached at Gleason High School on the way to a sterling record of 535 wins and only 103 losses.

"It was a shock. I didn't know. I didn't have a clue. I figured we just had to go somewhere for church, but then the police stopped up and said, 'Follow us.' Then I saw the signs like they do for the tournaments," the winning coach said of finally understanding what was going on.

"It's the best. It's good to see everybody. It brings back a lot of memories. This is what separates us, we're a family. This is the Lady Bulldog family," he added.

After a dinner buffet, players, friends and family gathered in the gym to watch a DVD tribute with footage and photos of moments both on and off the court over the past two decades. Although the hair styles, uniforms and faces changed as the video presentation marched through the 20 years, the tradition and victories were consistent throughout.

Shane Sisco, currently the coach of the defending state champion Union City Tornadoes boys basketball team and a former boys head coach and assistant to Frazier at Gleason from 1997-99, acted as master of ceremonies since longtime Gleason fixture Mitchell Parham was in Knoxville. Parham, the assistant principal lovingly known by students as "Mr. P," did make an appearance in the video tribute offering his congratulations and also teasing Frazier with the fact that he was currently in attendance at the Vol game.

Former Bradford head coach David Russell, now the leader of the Gibson County girls team, spoke of the intense rivalry between the two schools in the 1990s. "A lot of great players from two great schools in two great communities got together. It was a great time and may never be matched again," Russell said.

West Tennessee coaching legend Henry Farrar also commented on Frazier, noting he was always prepared and well organized and did his best to get the full potential from every player.

As the evening went on, Frazier wasn't the only one honored, as Terry Frazier received praise and hugs for the sacrifices she has given to the Lady Bulldog program and its players. Beth Steele presented her a framed photo of the Lady Bulldog coach in action entitled "The Strength Beyond."

Cristi Sawyers Wallace thanked the coach's wife for the hugs she handed out and the clothes she washed over the years, "You were the second mom for more than 20 years of girls. You are a saint for having to put up with 20 years worth of girls. You held down the bottom row of bleachers in every gym we ever played in. I'd like to say thank you."

"It was just incredible. Words can't describe it. It brought back so many memories. I'm thankful and blessed to be a part of this community. The way they show gratitude is second to none," Terry Frazier said after the tribute.

Presentations were also made to the man who guided the Gleason girls to two state titles, one state runnner-up finish, two region championships and 15 district crowns. He received a scrapbook filled with memorabilia, a portrait entitled "Vision for Champions" painted by 1971 Gleason graduate Tuva Stephens and a handmade quilt honoring his 535 wins which includes the names of all his players. The quilt was made by former Gleason guidance counselor Nancy Guthrie. "It was a labor of love. There's a lot of love and respect in there," Guthrie said of the quilt she spent the summer months working on.

"This is a total reflection of his 20 years, not just of teaching the game of basketball, but of teaching the skills you need in life," former GHS player Kellie McElhiney Sims said after the official ceremonies ended.

Monica Aylor Rollins was one of the driving forces behind organizing the tribute. "You know as you get older, you see the important things in life. It was more than an honor to put this together. It was an honor because of the man he is and the things off the court he does to influence kids," Rollins, a former player and current teacher at Gleason, said.

"I'm a little uneasy about this evening. I've always taught that, even as a coach, you're only one part of the team, a piece of the puzzle. I've always taught that if you work together as a team, good things will ultimately happen to you. I've had a lot of 80 hour weeks here, but if you do something you love, it's not work," the Gleason coach and principal said at the microphone near the close of the event. "I can't remember all the wins or losses but I can remember every girl here. I wake up thankful every day for the opportunity to do what I do."

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