, Muskogee, OK

March 16, 2014

Coach-daughter mix part of FTG’s championship lore

By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer

— OKLAHOMA CITY – Chasing history can sometimes prove troublesome.

For the Fort Gibson Lady Tigers, whose 50-47  win over Anadarko  on Saturday made them the first Class 4A school to repeat as champions in the 5-on-5 era (dating back to 1995), was downright nerve-racking, especially for the coaches and parents.

Add to that if coach and parent is one in the same, then a defibrillator might need to be on hand.

“The coach side you tries to separate from the dad and tries to go about business as usual,” said Fort Gibson assistant Chuck London, whose daughter Taylor was on the floor last season when the Lady Tigers captured their second state championship in three seasons. “But back in there the dad side tries to come out and it’s very, very difficult.”

This season, that experience fell on Denise Gray, mother of senior Savannah Gray who was watching her daughter play her final game in an FGHS uniform from the bench as the Lady Tigers’ other assistant coach. She has been through this before with three daughters having played in the state tournament.

“It’s really indescribable,” Denise said. “You want your kids to win and play well. They’ve worked hard all year and never gave up. It’s just surreal.”

It’s not any easier for the children. Just ask the younger Gray who finished the game with 11 points and eight rebounds in the championship game.

“This is exactly what we wanted,” Savannah said about winning state with her mom there. “I just want my mom to be so proud of me. Her sitting on the bench and being an assistant coach, she helps me every day with what I need to do and what I’m not doing. It’s just that mother feeling of having her on the bench.”

Another parent who was in attendance was Derald Glover, Fort Gibson Schools superintendent and father of Allie — whose 27-foot shot with 3.2 seconds left won the game for the Lady Tigers — and Jodi, a member of the 2011 title team.

The eldest Glover also had the pleasure of presenting Allie with her championship medal, just like he did last year and with Jodi in 2011. His wife, Liz, played collegiately at Oklahoma State.

“You want your kids to be successful doing what they’re doing,” Derald said. “You want them to do it the right way and they’ve done it the right way.”

Big sister Jodi was left watching her younger sibling pull ahead in the gold medal count 2-1. Another sister, Kayci, will play as a freshman next year with a shot at four medals.

“You just can’t put into words,” Jodi said. “For the team to comeback and for Allie to hit the game-winner, it’s amazing.”

Another alum with a ring watching the celebration, Taylor London reflected back on her own journey under the thumb of a coach.

“Everyone was like ‘Aw, a coach’s kid, has to suck,’” Taylor said. “But I know how my dad handled it and I know how coach Gray handles it. I think it’s more fun playing with them on the sidelines with you.”

Adding head coach Jerry Walker’s daughter Brooke — a member of the team’s first state title team in 2011— to the mix, and all can claim a coach-daughter championship.

“Just think about that. Three coaches on one staff each have a daughter win a title in their senior year,” Walker said. “That’s incredible.”

Kind of like the comeback on Saturday from 18 points down.