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The ‘64-’65 Victorious Eagles

By Ralphine Major

There were only four teams left on the list:  Livingston Academy, Murfreesboro, Memphis Treadwell, and Gibbs of Knox County in East Tennessee.  These were the names of the schools in the State of Tennessee whose basketball teams were still undefeated.

It was around Christmas time during the 1964-65 school year.  Bob Dagley was in his second year as coach of the boys varsity basketball team, known as the “Eagles,” at Gibbs High School.  The coach at Murfreesboro High School called Dagley to invite the undefeated Eagles to play at a charity event in Murfreesboro.   “I was convinced that we could play with anybody in the state and thought the boys deserved a chance to do it.”  Coach Dagley said.  “Plus, it would give them exposure to other parts of the state,” he added.  The Coach talked to Max Clendenen, Gibbs High School Principal, who was then in his twentieth year at the school.  Being a man of few words, Clendenen said, “Let’s do it!”

The Eagles had become accustomed to playing in gyms filled to capacity during  their spectacular season.  On a Friday night at Gibbs, there was a long line waiting to enter the gym way  before game time.  During the intermission, many fans would go outside and later re-enter using their ticket stub.  The following Monday, one youngster confessed to Coach Dagley; while he was outside, a gentleman offered him five dollars for his fifty-cent ticket!  He sold it.  “Don’t worry about it,” Dagley told him.  “I would have probably done the same thing.”

There was as much excitement back home in Corryton as in the Murfreesboro gym.  Our Gibbs Eagles were flying high—right into the record books.  They had taken the school of only 412 students to a level where not many teams had gone before.  Jim Holliday, former WBIR sports broadcaster, secured sponsorship for the Eagles from the neighborhood IGA grocery store and other local businesses.  He gave the play by play on the radio.  My brother was only in the second grade but remembers that our grandparents came over to hear the game broadcast on our floor model RCA radio.  We were like the sixties version of the Waltons, gathered around the radio and hanging onto every word to hear how our Eagles were faring so far from home.  Our school did not have a football team at the time, and seeing the basketball team go undefeated was huge!  As a fifth grader, the Eagles looked larger than life to me playing on our home court.  Looking back, they were sixteen-, seventeen-, and eighteen-year-old student athletes making history and putting the small school on the map.

Murfreesboro played Memphis Treadwell in the double header; Gibbs played Livingston Academy.  At the end of the night, there were only two undefeated teams:  Murfreesboro and the smallest school in Knox County—Gibbs.

Next week, the Gibbs Eagles travel to Murfreesboro for a second time in what was, up to that point, an undefeated season.

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