Bertha Teague was born in Carthage to John and Lizzie Frank on September 17, 1898, and the 1900 census shows her family living in Joplin. She had a twin brother and younger sister, and graduated from high school in Amity, Arkansas. In 1927 she was hired to teach at Byng, near Ada, Oklahoma, when her husband was hired by the school system. Besides her job of instructing a class of first graders, and despite the fact that she had never played or coached basketball, she was assigned the job of coaching the girls high school basketball team, and built a basketball dynasty second to none. As a teacher, Bertha believed a person did not need to have played a sport to teach it. She also continued her education and graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1932.
When Bertha started coaching, girls basketball was entirely different from the game played today, and she was an early innovator in the sport. Her methods set the pace in Oklahoma, and her success was soon copied across the nation. She established the first girls basketball clinic in the Southwest United States.
During her 43 year career at Byng, Bertha’s teams won 1,157 games, losing only 115, for an unbelievable winning percentage of nearly 91%. Her Lady Pirates won eight Oklahoma State championships and were runners-up seven times. They also won 40 district championships, 22 regional titles, and 38 conference championships in 43 years.
Her teams compiled 36 seasons of 20 or more wins, including 28 in a row from 1930 to 1957. They also had five undefeated seasons and won 98 consecutive games from 1936-1938. Known as “Mrs. Basketball of Oklahoma,” Bertha Teague held the national record for the most wins by a girls high school coach until 1991.
Bertha’s accomplishments were widely recognized. She was named Coach of the Decade for the 1930s, 1940s, and 1960s by the Jim Thorpe Athletic Awards Committee in 1974, and was elected to the Oklahoma Girls Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame (inaugural inductee, 1972), the National Federation of State High Schools Hall of Fame (1983), the Naismith National Basketball Hall of Fame (1985, it’s only woman coach), the Oklahoma State
University Alumni Association Hall of Fame (1987), the Missouri Basketball Hall of Fame (1988, it’s only woman), and the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame (1989). In 1999 she was posthumously named a member of the inaugural class of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Bertha Teague’s mark was lasting. She fought to change the way girls basketball was played, authoring Basketball for Girls in 1952. Her efforts led to many changes in the game. As a memorial to her influence and the discipline and respect she established in her players, The Bertha Frank Teague Memorial Classic is still played annually at Byng High School. She and her husband Jesse married in 1920 and had one adopted daughter, Geneva. Bertha died in Oklahoma City June 13, 1991.