1912–1995) Basketball Coach
Born on 30 December 1912 in McCool, Mississippi, Lily Margaret Wade played a pivotal role in the sport of women’s basketball as both a player and a coach. Wade played basketball for two years while attending Cleveland High School, from which she graduated in 1929. Wade then spent three years playing for Delta State University, serving as team captain and earning all-conference honors each year and winning the most valuable player award in 1931 and 1932. The school’s administration cut the women’s basketball program after the 1932 season, however, arguing that the sport was too strenuous for women. Some women protested the decision by burning their athletic uniforms, but Delta State did not restore the program until 1973, when Wade became the coach.
In the intervening forty-one years, Wade had kept busy on the courts. She played semiprofessionally with the Tupelo Red Wings, leading the team to the Southern Championship and serving as the team captain in 1934–35 before a knee injury ended her career. Wade then found a new niche as a coach at Marietta High School (1933–34), Belden High School (1934–35), and Cleveland High School (1935–54), compiling an overall 476–94 record.
Wade headed the women’s physical education department at Delta State University from 1959 to 1973, when she brought the school’s women’s basketball program back to life. She had immediate success, compiling a 16–2 record in her first season and developing the team into a national basketball powerhouse. Prior to her retirement in 1979, Wade’s teams won three Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women national championships and posted an amazing fifty-one-game winning streak. Wade was the first woman enshrined in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and in the Delta State University Hall of Fame. She was also honored by the Mississippi Coaches Hall of Fame, and in 1984 she was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The Margaret Wade Trophy is now awarded each year to the top women’s college basketball player. She died on 16 February 1995. Delta State University dedicated a statue honoring Wade in 2014.
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame website, www.hoophall.com; Ernestine Gichner Miller and Carole A. Oglesby, Making Her Mark: Firsts and Milestones in Women’s Sports (2002); Margaret Wade Collection, Charles W. Capps Jr. Archives and Museum, Delta State University.