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HomeSportsPioneer coaches Doug Bruno, Dorothy Gaters speak up

Pioneer coaches Doug Bruno, Dorothy Gaters speak up

Hillcrest senior girls basketball players Sungie Cobb, Kahlyse Wright and Amarria Jackson, left to right, were among the guests at a Title IX 50th anniversary celebration in Bedford Park on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. (Tony Baranek / Daily Southtown)
Come for the pizza. Stay for the legends. Learn about Title IX.
If that wasn’t the most delicious, star-laden, informative evening a high school female athlete could experience, I don’t know what is.
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Hillcrest senior Kahlyse Wright, who plays basketball, threw in the word “crazy,” and we’ll get to that shortly. But first, here’s what it was all about.
On Sept. 28, The Basketball Museum of Illinois presented a Title IX 50th anniversary celebration at the Wintrust Sports Complex in Bedford Park.
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The guest speakers were DePaul women’s basketball coach Doug Bruno and former Marshall girls basketball coach Dorothy Gaters — the winningest coach in Illinois history.
Among the guests were female athletes from Hillcrest, St. Laurence, Yorkville and Illinois Central College.
The reason for the event was Title IX, a landmark education amendment that was implemented on June 23, 1972. The amendment states:
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
What it did for female athletes was open doors to scholarships and create equal amounts of opportunities to play at both the high school and college level.
The stories told that evening were inspiring, eye-opening and somewhat shocking to some of the girls there.
Former Marshall girls basketball coach Dorothy Gaters, left, and DePaul women’s basketball coach Doug Bruno spoke at the Title IX 50th anniversary celebration in Bedford Park on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. (Tony Baranek / Daily Southtown)
For instance, Bruno and Gaters recapped the early days of girls and women’s sports, when female players had to wear hand-me-down jerseys from the boys and men while practicing and playing in auxiliary gyms.
An eye-opener, for sure, for Hillcrest senior Amarria Jackson.
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“We knew girls basketball had its ups and down, but we didn’t know how bad it was and how intense it was,” Jackson said. “To see where we have come from, how everybody doubted us, and now what women athletes and women in general are doing in the world is great to realize.”
Bruno is one of the greatest male benefactors that female athletics has ever had. He coached women’s basketball at DePaul from 1976-78 and again from 1988 to today. He also was the head coach of the Chicago Hustle women’s professional team from 1978-80.
Bruno said that it only took two days filling in for the women’s basketball coach at DePaul in 1975 for him to go all in on the spirit of Title IX.
“It was an unbelievable eye-opener,” Bruno said. “It taught me in just two days that a true competitive spirit of an athlete, the heart and guts of an athlete, had nothing to do with gender.”
The kids really seemed to get into what Bruno had to say. But the runaway star of the night was Gaters.
Title IX came too late for her to play basketball in high school or college, but Gaters became a beloved and magnanimous coach at Marshall.
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During her 45-year career, she posted 1,153 victories and won 10 state titles. Her teams won countless city and conference championships. She just recently retired to spend more time with her family.
DePaul women’s basketball coach Doug Bruno, left, Hillcrest girls basketball coach Ed Schodrof and former Marshall girls basketball coach Dorothy Gaters, right, took photos with a contingent of Hillcrest athletes at the Title IX 50th anniversary celebration on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. (Tony Baranek / Daily Southtown)
You could hear a pin drop as Gaters’ story was being told. The kids listened. They flocked around her for the photo op that came afterward.
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“To me, it was crazy that she didn’t get the opportunity to even play, but she still tried to be a coach because she loved the game,” Kahlyse Wright said. “She never let anything stop her and she kept going.”
Sungie Cobb, another Hillcrest girls basketball player, really hit on the head the effect Dorothy Gaters has had — and will continue to have — on young female athletes.
“Just hearing she didn’t have any background in basketball and for her to win all of those games really has inspired me to keep going,” Cobb said. “It makes you realize that no matter what you’ve been through, today is a new day and you can accomplish new things and take advantage of new opportunities.”
Gaters laughed when I called her a true women’s sports pioneer.
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“Ha-ha, I’ve still got to get used to that,” Gaters said. “I mean, who’d have thought? My mother told me back in 1981, ‘You’re going to quit, aren’t you? All of your good players have graduated.’ I never thought of that. I just loved what I was doing.”
She certainly enjoyed the love they poured on her in Bedford Park.
“Oh, it was great,” Gaters said. “And I love them back. I think they know that.”

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