Jason Gray, GHS girls basketball coach will go after win 400 at the #3 Cournna Cavaliers (10-0) on Jan. 25. Photo by Patrick McAbee.
By David Fleet
Goodrich-Just 10 games into his 20th season at the helm of the Lady Martians, head coach Jason Gray is on the edge of history.
Gray, with a career record of 399-66 all at Goodrich, needs to tally just one more win to join an elite group of about 40 girls basketball coaches in Michigan sports history with more than 400 wins. The Martians (6-4) will go for that win on Jan. 25 when they travel to Cournna. The veteran coach will join local record setting coaches, Kathy McGee, Flint Powers Catholic, 599-153 (1976-06), Ian Smith, Oxford, 493-135 (1975-01) and Art Pelzer, Frankenmuth, 423-44 (1975-93).
“I try to not to think about number 400,” said Gray, 44, before the game Friday. “The only reason I do (think about 400 wins) is because people talk about it. Right now my focus it’s about these kids and the games, of which we’ve lost more than we are accustom to. But my support group including the team, the athletic director and my wife they are more excited than I am. As I look back over the past seasons and try to think why I’m here at 400, we have been fortunate as a school to have the consistency of great students.”
The son of an Eau Claire, Mich. High School basketball coach, Gray said he grew up watching and playing basketball.
“I really love the game,” he said. “It fit me. So, I always like learning more about the game—there’s always an opportunity with basketball to improve. In high school basketball it’s not what we get to come to Goodrich, we can’t recruit, rather it’s what we can develop each year. You try to make the pieces fit.”
The Michigan High School Athletic Association record books begin when coaches earn 300 wins.
“I get the question a lot about coaching at the college level,” he laughed. “No college team has contacted me yet. I’ll stay and coach as long as they want me to here at Goodrich. I’m teaching at the school where I’m coaching.”
Gray has taught high school history since 1999.
“It comes down to the players we’ve had over the years,” he said. “It’s only been 20 seasons to 400 wins but, its also been several good runs in the state tournament. That’s how you do it—March is the best time of the year and the most exciting. How far can you go? It’s that last eight (games) not the first 20 during the season. That’s where the memories come from.”
For the past 25 years Goodrich has one of the top Class B girls basketball teams in the state.
“Winning brings some challenges,” he said. “We get the best efforts from our opponents every night because it’s Goodrich they are playing. It’s not always easy for the kids. Over the past few years we’ve had a lot of media attention and this team has earned that, but if not for the collection of kids when I first walked in we would not be here now. They come in with their own expectations, they are easy to coach.”
In 2012 the Goodrich Lady Martians won the Class B state title defeating Grand Rapids Catholic Central 60-53 and in 2013 Goodrich defended their state crown by topping Flint Powers Catholic 51-34 at the Jack Breslin Center on the campus of MSU site of the MHSAA State Championship. At one point during the 2011-13 season the teams tallied 77 wins in 82 games, including a 2012 perfect season at 28-0. The back-to-back state championships followed a double overtime loss to Dearborn Divine Child in the state semi- final Class B championship game on March 18. 2011 the Goodrich girls varsity basketball team completed an impressive postseason run after a stellar 24-2-0 season which included blasting the state’s top-ranked Class B team Detroit Country Day (24-1-0) on March 15.
“We’ve had those types of games with big leads and players that work hard everyday and grind through practice deserve to play they get the consideration of instruction,” he said. “We’ve had some great girls who are not only basketball players, but also very good people. We’ve seen some great connections between girls, good people that value being on a team. We have not had to do a lot to form camaraderie they are the type who you want to have your team. A lot of girls have been driven academically and athletically they have made my job easy in a lot of ways.”