Coach Kyle Gray turned a lifelong passion of basketball into a successful season at Edmonds Community College earlier this year.
For one Ballard resident, coaching a lifelong passion
Coach Kyle Gray just finished a great basketball season at EdCC, but his journey doesn't end there
Coach Kyle Gray might be a successful head basketball coach at Edmonds Community College, but he's also a tried and true, lifelong Ballardite.
Gray, 33, grew up in Ballard. He graduated from Ballard High School. He coaches girls fastpitch at Ballard High School, where is his sister is a senior on the team. And he teaches P.E. at Viewlands Elementary on Holman Rd.
"What I like is all the families around here are pretty tight knit, it’s a great community," he said. "... I always stayed in touch with Ballard throughout the years. Ballard was always home."
Earlier this year, he was named coach of the year for the Northwest Athletic Association of Community College's North Division. His basketball team in Edmonds finished first in the league with the best overall NWAACC record and came just one game short of winning the tournament.
"When we first started, we felt like we had a good team, and as we went on we had surpassed some expectations we had. But at that point we just wanted to win," he said. "It was heartbreaking to fall a little bit short. It was a heckuva season."
It may have been Gray's first season at Edmonds, but he had been working hard for eight years at North Seattle Community College, until the program was cut last year. Several of his long-time players and his whole staff came up to Edmonds with him.
"We were chomping at the bit to get there for a while," he said. "Finally we had a breakthrough season this year."
Of course, he had his dazzling players. Such as Shaquille McKissic and Ricardo Maxwell.
"Those two are probably the most exciting players and the most fun to watch with all the flashy moves and the uptempo styles," Gray said.
But Gray stressed that the system of teamwork, and not just the star players, is what made their team good.
"You just have a good team that fits their roles very well. We had some plays that just made you just drop your jaw ... but at the same time they were playing in a team system and shared the ball.
That’s probably why we were as good as we were," he said.
It seemed as everything fit together perfectly and that the team had finally reached a dream season. So when they finally lost a last-minute nail-biter in the March 5, NWAACC finale against Chemeketa, 84-79, it was a hard loss.
"It was heartbreaking, it’s still heartbreaking," Gray said. "But at the same time we talked about it ... I would rather lose the championship game than lose the third place game. I wish we could’ve finished it out but at the end of the day you look back at the season and it was a special season."
Despite the loss, for Coach Gray, his career doesn't just come down to one season. It's a lifelong passion that has been with him since childhood.
"Sports was always big for us and our family," he said. "It gave us structure, motivated us to stay out of trouble."
While growing up with sports, his coaching career began when he was 18, when he coached at Loyal Heights Community Center with his mom as an assistant. Eventually, after having the chance to play baseball at the community college level (but he loved basketball too much, he said) he got a start on coaching basketball at Ballard High School. From there, he went on to coach at the community college level, teach P.E. and coach the BHS Varsity Softball team.
Coaching for Gray is a way to pass on the benefits of sports to a younger generation, and specifically to students who may not have as many opportunities.
"(I like) the life lessons that sports teaches kids that may not be the best students in the world, (to) create that opportunity for them to not only pursue something they love, but also academics, and teach them life lessons like how to work together for a common goal, and learn ... the ins and outs of what it takes to get something accomplished," Gray said.
In the end, it's not just about winning, but about becoming close and supportive of one another.
"I think I just love the family atmosphere, I know that’s one thing I try to incorporate as a coach," he said. "I’m not old enough to think of my basketball players as sons, but I call them brothers."
All in all, you can bet that Gray isn't about to give up coaching anytime soon.
"I think that you never know what life’s gonna throw at you, because soon enough my wife and I will start a family, and it will certainly take a lot of time," he said. "But coaching is my passion and its something I will do for a long time."
"The journey has been so much fun," he said.
Zachariah Bryan can be reached at email@example.com
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