How good is Caitlin Clark? Legendary high school coach, weighs in on her, Angel Reese, state of women’s game

Dorothy Gaters is retired now, 78 and chasing around a couple of great-grandsons despite a recently replaced knee, but it still gets her dander up to remember how difficult it could be in her Marshall High School heyday to get the Sun-Times to cover girls basketball.

‘‘Why don’t you cover the girls more?’’ she’d call and ask.

Because there just isn’t much of a demand for it, she recalls being told.

Gaters — Illinois’ winningest high school basketball coach, girls or boys — won 1,153 games and 10 state championships in 45 years at Marshall. Whatever attention she and her Commandos received, they surely deserved more of it.

But just look at women’s basketball now, would you? Gaters has been enjoying — and marveling at — the sudden surge in the popularity of the women’s game.

‘‘Now there’s a demand, isn’t there?’’ she said. ‘‘So let’s not cry about spilled milk. Let’s just [appreciate] what’s happening.’’

Gaters has mixed opinions about the most famous women’s hooper, WNBA rookie Caitlin Clark.

‘‘She’s obviously a phenomenal talent,’’ Gaters said, ‘‘but whether she’s a generational talent, I don’t know. Is Caitlin Clark [as good as] Maya Moore? I don’t know about that. But she’s a phenomenal talent, and she got to be that good because she put in the time. I appreciate her game.’’

Gaters, a Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer, has seen it all when it comes to star players. She coached 17 high school All-Americans and five players who went to the WNBA. One of them, Toni Foster, was a Big Ten player of the year and an All-American at Iowa long before Clark.

Debates are swirling around the women’s game, and most of them involve Clark. Is she as good as advertised? How real is the purported rivalry between Clark and Sky rookie Angel Reese? Are WNBA veterans out to get the ponytailed 22-year-old?

Shaking her head at some of it from afar has been Gaters, who doesn’t do the social media thing outside of Facebook but sees more than enough arguing and squawking on that platform alone.

‘‘People are just going to get mad,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s a 50-50 world. There’s always some people arguing about Michael Jordan and LeBron [James]. You’re always going to have the naysayers.

‘‘Caitlin is definitely a great talent, but because she’s Caucasian [some will] interject the race thing. And her just being a rookie, some people want to prove she’s not that good. She’s going to have to tie her shoes up a little tighter. It’s going to be rough. I do understand the jealousy around this, how she’s been lavished with fame, lucrative contracts, all those millions. But anyone who’s mad should direct it toward the sponsors, not her.’’

Gaters called the recent controversial foul against Clark by the Sky’s Chennedy Carter ‘‘unnecessary.’’ She’s a Sky fan, though, watching most of the games and particularly interested in the progress of Reese.

‘‘Angel has yet to develop a lot of offensive skills away from the basket . . . but she’s such an energy player,’’ Gaters said. ‘‘You’re going to know she’s in the game. She does the dirty work, and I appreciate her game because of that. She’s also very vociferous, but she plays hard. I wish her the best.’’

Three-dot dash

• Monday marks one year since the last great start by Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks. On June 10, 2023, he went eight scoreless innings at the Giants, losing a bid for a no-hitter on the next-to-last batter he faced. It was vintage ‘‘Professor.’’ Hearts soared. Angels sang. Then-manager David Ross called it ‘‘next-level conviction in every pitch.’’ What could go wrong from there?

Actually, Hendricks had 10 more quality starts after that last season. Nothing in the ‘‘great’’ department, however. And now that the 34-year-old has been banished to the bullpen, the odds of another great start in a Cubs uniform appear longer than ever.

• What a spectacle Saturday as the Red Stars drew an announced crowd of 35,083 — an NWSL record — for a game against Bay FC at Wrigley Field. Alas, the home team could muster only a single tally in a 2-1 defeat. If that was meant as a tribute to the Cubs’ offense, hey, it kind of worked.

• Another big-time soccer event had Ecuador taking on Argentina and superstar Lionel Messi in a friendly Sunday at Soldier Field in preparation for the Copa America tournament. Just spitballing here, but perhaps in memory of so many gaping Sunday divots past, the Bears unofficially can name the Soldier Field playing surface after the greatest soccer player in the world. ‘‘The Messi turf’’ rolls right off the tongue.

• If you’re Danny Hurley, do you take a massive bump in pay from the Lakers or hold out for a similarly massive raise from UConn, to which you have delivered back-to-back national championships? Also: If you’re Danny Hurley, why in the hell are you reading this silly column? You should be out celebrating.

• Is Clark one of the 10 or 12 best women’s players in America? Right now, the answer probably is an easy no. But leaving her off the team for the Paris Olympics has to be a mistake, no matter what anyone is saying to the contrary. Clark would draw eyeballs from TV viewers all over and from media covering the Games in Paris alike. The U.S. women roll out of bed and win gold, but their sport is kind of an afterthought. It doesn’t have to be.

(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *