Franklin gym renamed for coach

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 19, 2008

FRANKLIN—The gymnasium at Franklin High School was renamed The Peggy H. Wilkins Gymnasium in a ceremony Saturday afternoon, a move to honor the girls’ basketball coach who amassed a 191-16 record in 12 seasons at Franklin.

Wilkins also coached at Hayden High School, compiling a 143-46 record in her stay there to post a 334-62 career record.

Remarkably, Wilkins coached every one of her Franklin High School teams to a district championship beginning in 1970-71, the first year after integration of the city schools.

She won a regional championship five times, was the state runner-up in 1979-80 and won the state title in 1981 after a 25-0 season.

The Greensboro, N.C., native came to the Franklin schools in 1960 as a physical education teacher having never coached a team in any sport before arriving at Franklin.

Franklin Athletic Director Darren Parker and current girls’ basketball coach Mona Sumblin addressed the crowd that gathered in the gymnasium. There was also a slide presentation and “reflections” by family members and former colleagues and friends.

Wilkins holds the state record for winning percentage at 89 percent of her games.

Incredibly, Wilkins came into the coaching ranks not knowing a thing about basketball.

“When I first came to Franklin in 1960, I didn’t know nothing about coaching basketball, not one thing,” Wilkins said in an earlier interview. “By me teaching PE (physical education), they expected the PE teacher to coach. I attended a lot of conferences, workshops, and clinics. I talked with other coaches and I just loved Dean Smith (legendary coach of the University of North Carolina). I attended a lot of his clinics during the summer. I just came to love it.”

Wilkins coached three generations of players in one family — Joyce Smith at Hayden, her daughter Jackie Smith at Franklin, and Joyce’s granddaughter, Linda Smith, at Franklin.

In 1981, the Bronkettes, as they were then known, went 25-0 and beat Harrisonburg 54-47 to win the state Group AA championship. On the way to the state championship, Franklin scored 80 or more points seven times, including a 102-35 win over Kennedy.

Wilkins said the 1981 group worked hard for the championship.

She remembers the win over Harrisonburg because Ralph Sampson, who played ball at Virginia and later in the NBA, had two sisters on the team.

“The one sister had long fingernails and was protecting those nails,” Wilkins said. “I said, ‘Eat her up because she’s too dainty and pretty to play ball like y’all play.’’’

Sports correspondent Jeff Zeigler contributed to this report.