Acclaimed Breathitt County basketball coach, husband, killed in car accident

In June, coach Peggy Moore announced the signing of softball player Grace Bio with Kentucky State University.
In June, coach Peggy Moore announced the signing of softball player Grace Bio with Kentucky State University. Brendon D. Miller, Bluegrass Sports Nation

Peggy Moore, a longtime Breathitt County coach, educator and a former star athlete at Buckhorn who shattered gender barriers in the 1970s, died Saturday afternoon, along with her husband, Leon, after they were involved in a car accident.

The Moore’s were in a Chevy Equinox when it collided with a truck about 5:45 p.m. on Ky. 15, said Breathitt County Coroner George Griffith. The Kentucky State Police didn’t have any details on the cause of the accident Sunday afternoon.

“They were both deceased when I got there,” Griffith said. “It was a real bad wreck.”

Peggy Moore, 60, was an assistant coach for the Breathitt County High School boy’s team, the latest stop along her storied sports career.

Moore was born in Buckhorn as Peggy Gay, the only girl in a family of six children. She grew up competing with her brothers and neighborhood friends, including Larry Sparks, 55. Moore would become the first girl to be on a boy’s elementary basketball team in Perry County.

“Peggy is the best female athlete I’ve ever seen,” said Sparks, a retired business education teacher and superintendent for the Leslie County school district.

Moore played baseball for Buckhorn High School. She played third base and was the only female athlete to play baseball in the 54th district. During her senior year at Buckhorn, Moore finally got a chance to play girls basketball after the Kentucky High School Athletics Association brought it back as a sport in 1975, Sparks said.

In one game against Oneida Baptist Institute, Moore scored 74 points, helping to cement her place as one of the region’s leading scorers, according to a newspaper clipping provided to the Herald-Leader by Sparks.

Moore attended Eastern Kentucky University on scholarship, and she became the program’s first 1,000-point scorer, finishing with 1,696 points for her college career.

“Another highlight for Gay came in the opener of her senior year against No. 1 ranked Tennessee, when she scored 26 points, prompting Lady Vol coach Pat Head Summitt to say, ‘That Peggy Gay is a super player, one of the best I’ve seen,’” states Moore’s bio on EKU’s Hall of Fame site.

After graduating in 1979, Moore played for the Philadelphia Fox of the Women’s Professional Basketball League (WBL). WBL lasted from 1978 to the spring of 1981 and was the first professional women’s basketball league in the United States.

After the WBL, Moore eventually moved to Breathitt where she would teach and lead the girl’s basketball team to “four Region 14 titles, advancing to the second round of the state tournament in 2007-08 when Breathitt County was 27-5,” EKU said on its website.

In the early 2000s, Moore’s coaching career at Breathitt overlapped with that of former boy’s coach Christopher Baker, 49. He remembered the encyclopedic knowledge Moore had about basketball, and her tenacity on the court.

“She was this kind of people that the mountains needed. I loved her. I learned more about life from her than anything else,” Baker said. “She was such a role model to those young women and young men. She was fiercely loyal. That’s hard to come by in today’s world.”

Current Breathitt County boy’s basketball coach and athletic director Robert Amis, 30, formally renamed the Dec. 10 basketball tournament the “Peggy Moore Classic.” The tournament starts at noon and features five high schools from around Kentucky.

“She was one of my all time favorite people; the Buckhorn community and Breathitt County in general, has lost an iconic figure,” Amis said. “I don’t know if it will ever be the same.”

The Moores are survived by their sons Kyle and Kevin. Leon Moore was 59 years old. Visitation will begin at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Fairce O. Woods Coliseum on Bobcat Lane in Jackson. The funeral will take place at noon Wednesday also at the Coliseum.

Fernando Alfonso III: 859-231-1324, @fernalfonso