KILGORE, Texas — Coach Evelyn Blalock is a named revered across all of East Texas, often referred to as the Pat Summit of the region with coaches from all over paying their respect.
“Coach Blalock, it broke my heart when she passed," Trenia Tillis-Hoard, Tyler Junior College head coach, said. "She was like the Pat Summit of junior college. You just wanted to work for her. You wanted to be around [her] and more than anything you want it to hear the coaching stories that she had to tell.”
Jack Stallard, sports editor with the Longview News Journal, followed her career closely, back in a time when women's sports weren't all that popular.
“She started the program in '79," Stallard said. "I came to Texas from Tennessee in '86. Her first two really good seasons where she took them to the tournament, were my first years of school and then my first year as sports editor in Kilgore was her first national championship. So I got to actually cover two of her national championships.”
Blalock would go on to win three national championships, becoming the first coach in the history of NJCAA women's basketball to accomplish that feat.
“She did the laundry," Stallard said. "She probably drove the van to the games, which doesn't happen now. But she got in on the bottom floor, built a program and didn't just build a program, she built a great program. High school and college coaches around this area, many of them trickle down from Evelyn Blalock.”
Blalock was the grass roots to many East Texas programs today, like the Tatum Eagles. Patricia Nelson both played and coached under Blalock.
“I was actually on one of the championship teams in 1990," Nelson said. "And then I got a chance to coach with her in 1993. So we have two national championships together.”
Beside her talent, what everyone seemed to notice was her fashion.
“Way back then in the 90s, she had black leather jeans," Nelson said. "Blue, red, she had a dress that was bedazzled, she had her shoes."
Her fashion was so eye catching, even Kilgore College's athletic director, Courtney Pruitt noticed as a kid.
"When I was younger, my mom used to take me to the junior achievement tournament," Pruitt said. "And I remember seeing Evelyn Blalock. She had on a blazer but it was sequins just like the Rangerettes' uniform. Red, white and blue, with a huge star on it. Had her slacks on and she had the sequins shoes to match. Oh, it was beautiful she was blinging in today's society on the sideline. I'm like, man, what's going on? It was a game between Kilgore College and Connors State. I'll never forget it like it was yesterday.”
She set the blueprint for women’s sports in East Texas, back in a time where just one journalist decided to stick his neck out to tell our stories.
“Fifty years isn’t that long," Stallard said. "I'm about to start 37th year as a sports editor. When I started, and I tell this story all the time, I was told by some sports writers around this area. 'Don't even bother covering girls sports, nobody cares. 'But I'm kind of hard headed and I said I'm just gonna see what it's about.”
This story is about a two time finalist for the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, who will be inducted some day. When she does, she’ll make headlines again. Because legends never die and the story of Evelyn Blalock will forever be told here in East Texas.