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Legendary Marshall basketball coach Dorothy Gaters steps down

Dorothy Gaters, the winningest high school basketball coach in Illinois history, has stepped down after a 45-year career at Marshall that featured more than 1,100 wins, 10 girls state titles and 24 state trophies.

Marshall’s coach Dorothy Gaters during a game on January 14, 2020.
Marshall’s coach Dorothy Gaters during a game on January 14, 2020.
Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Dorothy Gaters, the winningest high school basketball coach in Illinois history, has stepped down after a 45-year career at Marshall that featured more than 1,100 wins, 10 girls state titles and 24 state trophies.

Gaters, who will remain as Marshall’s athletic director, said she made the decision to give up coaching “some time ago. It wasn’t anything spontaneous.”

The last game she coached was the 2020 Class 2A state final, which Marshall lost 43-37 to Pleasant Plains. Less than a month later, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down high school sports in Illinois.

When basketball finally returned for an abbreviated season earlier this year, Marshall did not field a team. But now Gaters is ready to step aside in favor of Fred Eaton, a longtime assistant who has been in the program for more than 20 years.

Gaters finished 1,153-217. St. Joseph coaching legend Gene Pingatore, who died in 2019, is atop the boys basketball wins list with 1,035.

Gaters said the biggest reason for her decision to leave coaching is the desire to spend more time with her great-grandsons Tristian and Darius, whose father died three years ago.

“I’ve known for some time what I needed to do,” Gaters said. “They spend a few days a week here. They have homework, I never get out of the kitchen.”

Gaters believes girls and women’s basketball are trending upward. “It’s only going to continue to grow,” she said, noting this is the 50th anniversary of Title IX.

There’s also the success of the WNBA champion Sky, which Gaters got to experience in person by taking in Game 3 of the league finals.

Marshall, which won state trophies in Gaters’ final four seasons — a third in 3A in 2017, championships in 2A in 2018 and ‘19, and runner-up in 2A in ‘20 — is starting over in more ways than one.

“We were going to be rebuilding anyway before the pandemic,” Gaters said. “We only had a varsity team [in 2020] and graduated nine of 12 players.”

In any case, Gaters is at peace with her decision to step away from coaching.

“I haven’t really had time to reflect,” she said. “[But] it’s been a good ride.”