Legendary Retirement

When the time came a few years ago to start an annual women's basketball award for the best college player in Mississippi, the name "Gillom" emerged.

Now Peggie says she's retiring. Say it ain't so.

She's much too young to do so, at least in terms of age. In resume' years, she's certainly built one most could never match in a lifetime.

Football has Charlie Conerly's name on its trophy for Mississippi's annual collegiate finest. Baseball has Boo Ferriss. In men's basketball, Bailey Howell.

Peggie Gillom, who married Anthony Granderson in 2005, was an obvious choice for the women's basketball award given annually in Mississippi. But there were others who were likely considered. Women's basketball has quite a history in this state.

For Peggie to emerge says as much about her life after her playing days as it does about the years she scored baskets and grabbed rebounds in record numbers for the Lady Rebels.

Margaret Wade, the legendary Delta State women's basketball coach, already has her name on the national collegiate player of the year award. It's the equivalent of the John Wooden Award given annually to the top male player in the sport.

Van Chancellor continues to coach the sport and is already in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

Lusia Harris, the star of Delta State's great run in women's basketball in the 1970s who was actually drafted by the NBA's Jazz, was also a possibility for the name on the award.

Even Peggie's sister, Jennifer, a former Lady Rebel and WNBA star who won a gold medal playing basketball for Team USA in 1988, was a possibility.

But it is Peggie whose name is on the trophy. I'm sure she feels the honor is shared with Jennifer, like the sports building on campus, and all the Gilloms of Abbeville and Lafayette County.

When Van and Peggie left to coach in the WNBA in 1997, there was a void at Ole Miss. When Peggie left as head coach at Texas A&M to come back to Ole Miss and assist Carol Ross in building the program again, something was very right about that.

Seeing Peggie in the halls of the coliseum and on the court at practice and in games just felt right. Legends who are where they are supposed to be add comfort to the soul, it seems.

On a late August day in 2004, I stood outside Tad Smith Coliseum with Peggie. We looked over at the still smoldering remains of the ATO house and talked about the Bonfire collapse at Texas A&M, which was during her time there, and how college should mean not having to deal with such tragedies.

I remember the Lady Rebels, one of the country's richest women's basketball traditions, getting back to the NCAA Tournament earlier that same year for the first time in eight seasons and how happy the coaches were, including Peggie. And how everything seemed right with that program again.

There is still much right with that program. Head coach and loyal Ole Miss alum Renee Ladner continues to build it. The future is bright.

But not seeing Peggie around on a daily basis again will make things a little less right, at least for a while.

When legends retire, that's just the way things always are.


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