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Gates becomes 800 game-winner

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    Examiner Photos by Matthew Ybarra
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To most it may seem like an impossible feat, but to Navasota Lady Rattler Head basketball coach Tommy Gates, picking up win No. 800 in his career is just another day at the office.

His Lady Rattlers helped him achieve the milestone in his illustrious career by defeating Fort Bend Austin 39-28 in the opening-round of the Royal basketball tournament in Brookshire.

The game was tight, and the Lady Rattlers trailed 22-23 in the third period when Ta’Shaunna Leigh nailed a shot from behind the arc to put the Lady Rattlers on top 25-23. Leigh attempted another shot behind the arc that missed, but she was fouled on the follow through.

Leigh was cool as ice sinking all three free throw shots to extend the Lady Rattler lead 29-23. The Lady Rattlers never looked back and held the lead the remainder of the game.

“I just told my team that 800 wins just means I’ve been doing this for a long time,” said Gates. This is the 32nd year that Gates has been a head coach – 22 years for Navasota. “We’ve been clipping off wins at a pretty nice pace, but since I became a head coach in 1985, I haven’t made one free throw, haven’t made one rebound, haven’t made a jump shot, I haven’t done anything. I’ve won 800 games but it’s players like the ones on this year’s team as well as on the 31 other teams I’ve coached. They are the ones that have gotten me the 800 wins.”

Gates recalled his first win as a basketball coach where he was coaching the varsity boys’ team in Comanche. “I didn’t think I would ever get that first win,” Gates said through the laughter. “I think we started 0-6 or 0-7. We were in a basketball tournament in Brady playing in the auxiliary gym.” Win 800 for Gates was also played in an auxiliary gym.

While going through the slump to start his career Gates mentioned sitting on the gym floor and having an in-depth conversation with the school mascot, an Indian painted on the gym wall. After picking up that first win (in double-overtime), Gates has begun to lead his teams to victory often averaging 25 wins per season.

“I surround myself with great people,” explained Gates. Nikki Robinson, one of Gates’ former players returned to Navasota and has coached alongside Gates for 21-years. “I’ve had some great assistant coaches over the years, and they are a part of this.

Gates has another familiar person coaching alongside him nowadays as well, his son Jersey. The father-son duo has shared many things in life on the court including special moments involving their significant other. Gates said he was married on the free throw line of a basketball court, and not to be outdone Jersey proposed to his fiancé a couple of weeks ago on the floor of Rattler Gym.

There have been many great wins in Gates’ career and many tough losses, but the love Gates has for his former players is unmatched. Gates watched a video presentation from former players and coaches congratulating him on the 800 mark.

“Usually you don’t get to hear those things because they are usually saying those things at your funeral or possibly at your retirement dinner,” said Gates. “To hear those things really meant a lot especially from my former players.”

Navasota has won 10 district championships, made seven trips to the regional tournament and has one state tournament appearance under Gates.

Gates said without his family supporting him none of this would be possible.