Gray takes second straight coach honor

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 30, 2006

You can ask John Gray the question. Go ahead. He&8217;ll give you the response he&8217;s given to everyone else who has asked since the season ended whether or not he&8217;ll be back next season coaching the girls at Adams Christian.


And don&8217;t think players, parents, family and friends haven&8217;t asked him. That&8217;s what happens when you step in to take over a program when no one else could get lined up and lead that team to the state tourna

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ment two straight years and to the MPSA Overall tournament for the first time in school history.

Gray, also the school&8217;s headmaster, is advertising for the position. He put out the ad for a girls&8217; basketball coach before the season was over. Now 68 years old, he may step down.

Or he may return for one more year.

&8220;He promised us during practice earlier this season if we made it to Overall he&8217;d be our coach next year,&8221; junior Katie Anne Swinny said. &8220;He didn&8217;t think we would make it to Overall. Since we did, he kind of called us on that. He brought in somebody a couple of weeks ago, and we liked him &8212; and he knows that &8212; but I think he&8217;s going to end up coaching us. We know Mr. Gray won&8217;t ever leave us.&8221;

If stepping down after last season was hard, stepping down after this season may be the next worst thing. Gray led the Lady Rebels to the Class AA state championship game, a 28-9 overall record and the school&8217;s first appearance at Overall.

Stay or go, Gray turned in another good year coaching. He&8217;s the 2006 All-Metro Coach of the Year.

&8220;I really appreciate them thinking overall what&8217;s best for our basketball team,&8221; Gray said. &8220;But more so, I think they were real pleased with the relationship I had with the girls during the season. They&8217;re hoping I stay one more year. I really think if I knew my health would be OK (I&8217;d stay) probably one more year. It would probably be a one-year decision on that end.&8221;

It&8217;s the success the Lady Rebels have had in the last two seasons combined with Gray&8217;s abililty to connect with them that&8217;s made the question so popular around campus and with the players. The longtime Brookhaven Academy boys&8217; coach had a great deal of success there with the Cougars before he got out of it for administration about 20 years ago.

Now that he&8217;s back doing something he loved doing for so long, Gray really doesn&8217;t feel 68 years old anymore.

&8220;I personally think there&8217;s probably a 70-percent chance he&8217;ll coach next year,&8221; said his son, BA girls&8217; coach Barry Gray. &8220;I thnk he&8217;s leaning that way. It&8217;s been revitalizing to him, and he&8217;s really enjoyed it. To me, his energy level has gone up and his health has been better than it&8217;s been in years.&8221;

That&8217;s the major concern of Gray, who had heart surgery prior to coaching at Adams Christian. But the positives outweigh all of the negatives, and it&8217;s always more fun when you&8217;re winning.

The Lady Rebels did that and did it well at the end of the season. They got on a roll late after losing a district game at Riverfield and won the district tournament, beat Columbia Academy on its home floor for the South State championship and beat a tough and scrappy Trinity Episcopal team a second time to reach the state tournament.

For Gray, the task of straightening out personality conflicts or other kinks in the system is different with girls, and it was something he had to adjust. By the time the postseason began, the Lady Rebels were clicking on the offensive end.

The enjoyable parts, however, out-weigh the negatives. Don&8217;t be surprised if Gray returns for one more year next season.

Feel free to keep asking him.

&8220;I think the one good thing about that group is they appreciated what he&8217;s done for them,&8221; Barry Gray said. &8220;I told him last summer he had a real good chance at getting to the state finals because the chemistry is so good and they liked each other. If he doesn&8217;t coach them, it&8217;ll be a person he really trusts to give it to.&8221;