Decades in the making, the Gibbs High School gym was christened the Freddie Dyles Gymnasium Feb. 1. Dyles was Pinellas County’s winningest boys basketball coach for decades.
BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – “As our students walk these hallowed halls, they will forever remember when they walk under the name of Freddie Dyles,” said School Board member Rene Flowers. “They will remember and know the essence of loyalty, respect and honor.”
Decades in the making, the Gibbs High School gym was christened the Freddie Dyles Gymnasium Feb. 1. Named after legendary Gladiator basketball coach, the Gibbs auditorium was filled with alumni, family, friends, Dyles’ former players, and even some who didn’t make the team such as Rev. Wayne Thompson, who was told he was too short.
Master of ceremony Ray Tampa started the celebration off on a somber note when he announced Minson Rubin, president of Gibbs Gladiator Alumni Association, Inc., passed that very morning.
“For those of you who did not know, Minson bled the blue and gold of dear old Gibbs High School. I can’t imagine anyone with more passion, dedication, and commitment to preserving and celebrating the rich history of this school.”
Tampa said the Freddie Dyles renaming ceremony was the last project Rubin worked on. Back in 1996, he tried to get the school board to rename the gym in Dyles’ honor, but they refused.
“They had all kinds of lame excuses,” said Rubin back in April.
When Coach Dyles was still alive, and Barbara Shorter was Gibbs’ principal, Rubin would hold activities at Gibbs to honor him, so he was delighted when the school board unanimously voted to rename the gym back on April 23 of last year.
“He wanted what we’re doing today to happen so badly. Since Minson couldn’t be with us today, I suppose he’s with Freddie Dyles,” said Tampa.
School board member Bill Dudley was a new basketball coach at Northeast High School when Dyles was still at Gibbs. He sought advice from the then-most winningest high school coach in Pinellas County.
Dyles told Dudley to be himself, be honest and do the right thing. He also told him that his players would emulate his actions.
“His kids had this burning desire to be the best they could be,” said Dudley, noting that Dyles’ team held him in the highest regard.
The driving force behind the renaming of the gym was School Board member Flowers. Tampa charged her with the task of moving the request through, and she did not disappoint.
Both of Flowers’ parents were Gladiators. As a small child, she can remember attending the famed holiday tournament played at the Bayfront Center in downtown St. Pete with Coach Dyles at the helm. Crowds are said to have reached close to 10,000.
“If I didn’t get a chance to do anything else during my service as school board member, I got a chance to honor your request,” said Flowers to the Gladiators that lined the auditorium.
Alvin Frazier, one of Dyles’ top players on the court, introduced keynote speaker Coach Dan Wright, another one of Dyles’ top-notch student-athletes. Wright, who unseated his hero in 2010 while coaching the Lakewood Spartans, went on to become the most winningest coach in Pinellas County.
“I am the ambassador for Freddie Dyles,” said Wright.
He regaled the audience with Coach Dyles stories, such as the night he made sure Wright would become a Gladiator. It was the summer of ’69, and Dyles took a pair of brand-new Chuck Taylors out of his trunk and handed them to a young Wright with his name already on them.
Wright became a star player and helped cement Dyles’ legacy when he took what he learned and applied it to his program, so much so that the gymnasium at Lakewood High School bears his name.
Coach Dyles began his Gibbs coaching career in 1964 during staunch segregation. He led the Gladiators to a black-school state title in 1966. Under his watch, Gibbs became the first all-black high school to leave the Florida Interscholastic Athletic Association in 1967 to join the Florida High School Activities Association.
Coach Dyles led Gibbs to FHSAA state crowns in ’67 (Class 2A) and ’69 (1A).
He and his team drew spectators into the thousands. In 1967, during the regional final against Tampa Hillsborough, 5,000 excited fans packed the University of Tampa’s George B. Howell Gym. Gibbs drew large crowds wherever they competed.
Coach Dyles won another state championship during the 1968-69 basketball season with some amazingly entertaining victories. In 1993, he retired with an impressive 674 victories during 30 years of coaching.
He left a legacy of instilling discipline, pride, determination and respect in legions of young folks. Coach Dyles passed away in 1999 at the age of 66.