Almost silently, Pam Hickman has etched her name alongside those of the top of athletic and coaching achievements in the Nashville area.
And Tuesday, she and seven other honorees were recognized for their accomplishments at the annual Metro Public Schools Sports Hall of Fame induction luncheon at the LP Field West Club.
After a sterling career in both basketball and tennis at Cohn, where she graduated in 1955, Hickman went on to a stellar 27-year career girls basketball and tennis coach at Maplewood. There, she took her team to three state tournaments and two other sub-states.
She took an interest in sports early on, playing near her home in West Nashville. She was the leading scorer on her Cohn basketball team. But she didn’t even pick up the game of tennis until she entered high school.
“When the season started, I didn’t even have a racquet, I had to borrow one from my cousin,’’ Hickman said in her quiet, shy way. “It was a sport I just loved right away.’’
From there, she took off in the sport, winning the City tournament five straight years (1962-66) and the Tennessee State Closed in 1966.
Significantly, she started two high school girls basketball programs at both Maplewood (in 1959-60) and Hunters Lane (1986-87) where she coached six years.
Asked what her favorite Maplewood team was, she said, “probably the 1966 team, we won 28 straight games and didn’t lose until the semis of the state tournament. We had a lot of outstanding players, especially Donna Vaughn.
As for Hunters Lane, she said, “I’d say that very first one when we were just getting everything started there. We had a lot of closeness on the team with that first group.’’
Hickman took her 1980 Maplewood team to state, the last time the Panthers have appeared there. It was also the last time Nashville had two AAA teams in state until last month (Hillsboro, McGavock). Old Pearl High won the title that year. Asked about her playing days at Cohn, she said, “The thing I remember most is just the closeness of our teams, the comraderie and all the fun we had.’’
It was a big day for former athletes at Cohn as Larry Schmittou was another inductee from the Knights (1958). He attended Cohn for one year with Hickman.
Known primarily for his being the ownership group with the Nashville Sounds and his sterling baseball coaching career at Vanderbilt, Schmittou was a good athlete at Cohn.
“Although, it was said during the introduction that I was an outstanding basketball player at Cohn, that was a bit of an exaggeration, I only scored two points,’’ he said, laughing. “I learned something from my coach, Eddie Adelman, early on that you keep your really good players in until the game was either won or lost,’’ he said. “I knew with guys like Louie Roberson and Bobby Roberts on our team that I’d get to play a lot in the fourth quarter,’’ he said.
But Schmittou was a very good pitcher at Cohn in baseball, a sport where he really made his name. After his teams won two SEC titles at Vanderbilt (1973-74, their first two in school history), he went on to become owner of the Sounds for 20 years (1978-97).
Other honorees included:
• Wayne Bush, Glencliff (1961): An outstanding football back, Bush scored an NIL record 343 points in just two years, leading the state in scoring both years. He was also a basketball and track standout. He was inducted posthumously.
• Corey Fleming, Stratford (1989): Lettering in football, basketball and track, Fleming was one of the greatest all-around athletes in Nashville prep history. He was All city and All state in football before going on to play for Tennessee, then the Dallas Cowboys (where he won a ’94 Super Bowl ring), then the Nashville Kats and Carolina Cougars of he Arena League.
• Joe Gilliam II, Pearl (1968): An outstanding quarterback at Pearl, Gilliam later went on to become Black College All-American and was named Player of the Year in 1971 and ’72 at Tennessee State. He was the 1973 College-Pro all-star game MVP and became the first black QB to start in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1974. He was inducted posthumously. His award was accepted by his father, Joe Gilliam, Sr., the long-time defensive co-ordinator for TSU.
• William Gupton, coach: A graduate of old Clarksville Burt High, Gupton went on to coach Pearl High to 11 state tournaments in his 22 seasons. He spent 36 years serving youth in the Nashville public school system. He was inducted posthumously.
• Dick Hays, Antioch (1948): An outstanding athlete in high school and college, Hays made All City in basketball and baseball. He went on to Austin Peay where he made All Conference in football, basketball and baseball. He then served as football and baseball coach at North High, then football coach at his alma mater, Antioch.
• Leon Moore, Cameron (1963): Selected all city and all state in basketball and football, Moore was chosen by Prevail Magazine as one of the top Nashville football players of all time. He went on to star at Tennessee State where he played defensive back for the Tigers, who had two unbeaten seasons and lost just five games while he was there. He was drafted by the L.A. Rams. He was an assistant coach at five schools, including Fisk (1971-78) and his alma mater, TSU (1986-06).