Hodges headed to Hall of Fame
By By Marty Stamper / EMG sports assistant
July 7, 2004
In a ceremony that many of his former players say is long overdue, former Hickory and Philadelphia basketball coach Frank Hodges will be inducted into the Mississippi Association of Coaches Hall of Fame Friday night at the Hilton Hotel in Jackson.
Hodges was the innovator of fast-break basketball in this part of the state.
In 13 years at Philadelphia (1953-66), he carried 11 boys' teams and two girls' teams to the state tournament. The Tornadoes won back-to-back Class A-AA state championships in 1958 and 1959 and were the overall state champs in 1958, snapping Coffeeville's 49-game win streak 75-74 in the overall finals.
His Philadelphia boys' teams won over 340 games.
"He revolutionized basketball in the state of Mississippi," said former Philadelphia player John White, now a principal at Choctaw Central High School. "He's the one that started fast-break basketball and full-court pressing.
"He made you shoot year round. We'd travel all over the state playing. We'd go up to North Mississippi and down on the coast. We played the better teams."
Philadelphia frequently played regular season games with Clinton, Columbus Lee, Meridian, Jackson Murrah, Booneville, Baldwyn, Vicksburg, Starkville, Harrison Central, Jackson Central, Brookhaven, and Laurel.
His boys' teams won 10 Choctaw Conference championships including seven straight from 1954-1960.
"There wasn't anybody in the Choctaw Conference that could stay with us," White said.
Nor could teams in District 4 A-AA as the Tornadoes won 12 championships, losing only in 1962 to Union.
The Tornadoes also won four A-AA North State titles and finished second on three occasions. Philadelphia finished second in the state tournament once and third three times.
Hodges' first team at Philadelphia broke the school scoring record in an 87-75 win over Belzoni in the 1954 A-AA North State Tournament. That mark stood until the next season when the Tornadoes routed Carthage 92-57.
The 1958 state championship team clocked Union (108-64), Carthage (102-68), Leland (100-57), and Bay St. Louis (111-70).
When the Philadelphia girls joined the Tornadoes in the Choctaw Conference's winners' circle in 1965, it marked the first time since 1950 that one school had won both championships in the same year.
White smashed the school scoring record with 43 points in a 107-75 win over Pelahatchie in 1959.
That mark stood until 1961 when current Philadelphia mayor Rayburn Waddell tossed in 48 in an 88-84 loss to Union.
"I think he put basketball on the map in Mississippi," Waddell said. "I played there in 1959, '60, and '61. To me, there were a lot of good coaches back then, but he was one of the greater coaches. I had a lot of respect for that guy."
White, Waddell, Malcolm Robinson and others had a big role in getting Hodges, who now resides in a Pensacola, Fla., nursing home following a stroke, the belated induction.
"We were just so excited about it," White said. "We had some of the guys that played for him at Hickory that worked with us and we met about three times at the mayor's office in Philadelphia and one time at Robert Thomas' law office. All of us got our heads together and worked on it.
"We called a lot of past presidents of the Coaches' Association like Bert Jenkins that coached against Frank and knew him.
"We got him in on the first go-round and we're real excited about it."
Hodges coached for six years at Hickory before going to Philadelphia with the boys compiling a 174-18 record and the girls posting a 160-22 mark. The Hickory girls won the 1951 Class B-BB state championship, knocking off Collinsville 53-48 in the finals. The Hickory boys won a B-BB state title in 1953, beating Martin 51-43 in the finals.
One of his players at Hickory was Richard Harris, who would go on to win five state championships during his own career that spanned more than 40 years.
"He was a fellow that could get the best out of his players and everybody respected him," Harris said. "I know at Hickory, he put us on the map. We went from being just average to competing with anybody all over the state. Any time coach Hodges could find a good team, he wanted to play them and most of the time we were successful.
"When I played, we went to the state championship and ended up third. There were just a number of outstanding players there. Most of them went on to be coaches. Two or three of them are already in the Hall of Fame, so he's left his mark."
In addition to Harris (1991), other Hodges' players who have been inducted into the MAC Hall of Fame are the late Herman Robinson (1994) and Malcolm Robinson (1997). Others have been selected for various other halls of fame.
"I don't know what I would have been if it hadn't been for him," Harris said. "He did so much for me and a lot of others there."
Among his players at Hickory were Joe Gibbon, who went on to play at Ole Miss before playing Major League baseball, and Ole Miss basketball standout Denver Brackeen, who had a brief NBA career.
"His theory was that you do a fullcourt press and anytime you get the ball off a steal or off the board you should have the advantage," Brackeen said.
"He brought the fast type of basketball into this section of the state. He believed in running and gunning and that's what they're doing now."
A classic example would be the Choctaw Central Lady Warriors, whose rise to prominence came under the leadership of Willis Tullos, who played for Hodges at Philadelphia.
"Frank would get tired of seeing us dribble sometimes and he'd say if we dribbled it any more, he'd let the air out of it and we'd play awhile with no air so you couldn't dribble," Brackeen said.
"He meant an awful lot to a lot of people at Hickory. The year that I finished, he had seven people that were offered scholarships to college off a 10-to-12 player team.
"Somebody that's helped put as many guys in the Hall of Fame that he has deserves the honor too."