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Gray prefers to share the glory

Barry Gray prefers to share his coaching achievements with hisBrookhaven Academy players, fans and family. The highly successfulmentor has helped elevate the school’s basketball program to theupper echelon of the Mississippi Private School Association.

Gray’s expertise has earned the Lady Cougars statewide respect,even in a rebuilding year. For example, his latest editionsurprised many prognosticators with their achievements. The LadyCougars captured the District 4-AA and South State AA Tournamenttitles, placing third in the State AA tourney at Grenada andadvancing to the MPSA Overall Tournament.

That performance has earned Gray The DAILY LEADER’s LincolnCounty Girls Coach Of The Year honors. He shares this year’s honorwith Freda Craft of Brookhaven.

“This year’s team reached the maximum amount of its potential,”said Gray. “They played together and were a very close group, witha lot of unity. They enjoyed each other.”

The Lady Cougars were anchored by four senior starters in guardsBetsy Lynch and Kelli Snider, and forwards Hannah Watts and KellieBrady. They were complimented by two underclassmen, sophomore guardNicole Smith and freshman center Anna Katelyn Mangold who helped BApost a 32-5 worksheet.

“They all worked hard to improve,” said Gray. “They practicedevery morning at 7 a.m. before school. Our girls handled adversitywell when they lost.”

Gray said his team had a favorite Bible scripture which theyoften referred to. II Samuel 22:33 “God is my strengthand power.”

Now in his 13th year at his alma mater, Gray, 45, is a 1981 BAgraduate. He later graduated from Ole Miss.

His record is remarkable. His girls have won 6 of the last 10state championships, winning an Overall in 2004. They’ve won 9 ofthe last 10 district and South State crowns, compiling a 362-35record.

“We have been blessed with good athletes,” said Gray. “As awhole, they get along with each other very well. It takes a greatcommitment from players and parents to be part of our program.

“Lincoln County is a great place to coach basketball,” Graycontinued. “The Lord has blessed us beyond measure.”

Gray said he wanted to thank the school’s administration andfans for their whole-hearted support. “Our fans are the best in thestate.”

Judging from the 20-plus championship banners which hang fromthe rafters of BA’s John R. Gray Gymnasium, basketball is by farthe focal point of the school’s athletic program. As BA’s athleticdirector, Gray oversees a highly successful athletic department,featuring district championships in several sports.

Besides basketball, Gray teaches biology, coaches the juniorhigh football team and serves as the varsity’s offensivecoordinator. He also coaches the golf team in the spring.

He said he has an advantage in basketball. He begins coachingthe girls in the seventh grade, teaching fundamentals. They quicklylearn what is expected of them to be successful.

“Basketball and coaching in general is a great tool to teachplayers about life and giving God the glory,” said Gray. “Ouroffseason program is demanding and I push them pretty hard.”

His summer schedule includes 35 games for his varsity girls andseveral team camps. Gray’s annual team camp attracts many teams,public and private, from Mississippi and Louisiana.

According to Gray, the future looks bright for BA basketball.His latest junior high team finished 23-0, winning a secondstraight district title.

“We will be depending a lot on junior high girls to step up nextseason,” said Gray.

His wife, Lindy, serves as an assistant coach. She was a memberof the Ole Miss basketball team. They have two sons, Alan, asophomore at Ole Miss; and Alex, a 12-year-old seventh grader.

His brother, Ricky, coaches the Parklane Academy boys basketballteam. Their father, John R. Gray, was headmaster and coach at BAfor 25 years, winning a state boys title in 1981.

Basketball is a family tradition.