Breezy Bishop stands about five-feet tall. In Baltimore-area girls basketball, especially at Western High, she’s a giant.
Saturday, on the court where she guided the Doves to unprecedented heights, it officially became Coach Breezy Bishop Court.
“The Lord has given me the grace to walk this earth for 87 years,” said Bishop. “I feel like maybe I did get it right.”
Several former players, parents and friends attended the ceremony inside the North Baltimore school’s gymnasium where Bishop’s accomplishments adjourned the walls.
Fifteen Baltimore City championships, two state championships and 424 victories over three decades led to enshrinement in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
The wins and championships were secondary to Bishop, who helped her players discover their voice.
“What Coach Bishop has done is replicate herself in thousands of young women,” said Monica Dailey, who played for Bishop, graduating in 1990. “Whether you played for coach or was just a student in her class, you were part of her community.”
Dailey, who will start this week as an assistant principal at Western, said Bishop, not parents, was the first to see a player’s report cards.
“She taught us the habits you have to have in the classroom, you bring to the court,” she said, “and if you’re not doing your homework, you can’t come in here, working hard playing basketball and you don’t have that same discipline in the classroom.”
Kim Smith, a star guard on Western’s 1994 and 1995 Class 4A state championship teams, knew she needed discipline when she came to Western.
However, it took a lot of “head-butting,” according to Smith.
“She really didn’t like players doing a lot of talking. I walked out of practice at least once a week, but always came back,” said Smith, whose brashness and toughness were reared in the then-Lafayette Court hi-rise housing project. “She wasn’t going to allow me to do whatever… I was really scared of my mother, I was definitely afraid of her (Bishop) but she didn’t know it.”
A few years later, Smith and Bishop reunited at North Carolina State where Smith transferred to and Bishop became an assistant after stepping down following the 1996-97 season.
“She was such an anchor for me. I was going to let this take me around the world,” said Smith, who didn’t know Bishop was going to N.C. State after she decided to transfer from Georgetown. “She left such an impression.”
Despite her stature, Bishop was an intimidating figure. However, she saw potential in every player.
Tiffany Silver remembers how demanding Bishop was when she was the point guard on Bishop’s final teams at Western.
“Always felt I wasn’t good enough,” Silver said.
Silver, then a sophomore at UMBC, was surprised when Bishop asked to be her assistant at Cherry Hill Middle School.
Five years later, Silver assumed the seat at Western that once belonged to Bishop.
Silver, faced with re-establishing the Doves’ program, said Bishop was a huge asset.
“She still coached me, the players…the entire staff on how to coach young women,” said Silver, who spent six seasons as coach. “We never took it for granted at that time and we don’t take it for granted now.”
Bishop has been there for current Doves coach Tasha Townsend, a 1993 graduate and former player. Bishop was on the floor last March at the University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center after Western won its first state title since 1995.
Saturday, Townsend and Ny’Ceara Pryor, the star of the Doves’ 2021-22 title squad presented Bishop with a massive championship ring. Former players living in Georgia and California saluted Bishop for helping them forge their paths to adult life in a video presentation.
“To name this court after her speaks for herself. Not only is she up there (on the gym’s walls) but she’s in all of our hearts,” said Smith. “Things that she said to me when I was 14 years old, I say now.”
Of all the lessons Bishop taught, she wanted her players to attend college for free.
“We excelled beyond our wildest dreams. We ascended to the mountain top in athletics. At the top of that mountain was a slice of the “American pie,’” Bishop said. “No student loans, no bills for the parents. It wasn’t about basketball, you use basketball to get to that goal.”
Bishop asked her former players in attendance to stand.
“What you see is a slice of the “American pie,’” she said.
Then, Bishop, the five-foot larger than life coach, mentor and friend, did the only thing fitting of an iconic career.
She dropped the microphone.