The Gray duo of coach and son collect conference honors

Coach Monty Gray and son Will Gray won Coach of the Year and Player of the Year, respectively, in the Central Piedmont Conference.

The Gray duo of coach and son collect conference honors
March 09
14:30 2022

The East Forsyth boys basketball team had a good year under second year head coach Monty Gray. The team was led on the floor by Gray’s son, Will. For their efforts, Gray and son were named coach and player of the year in the Central Piedmont Conference (CPC).

The Eagles finished the season 21-6 (12-2) and first overall in the CPC. They made it to the second round of the state playoffs, losing to Myers Park. Even though their season ended earlier than Coach Gray wanted, he was honored to receive the coach of the year award.

“There were mumblings about it, especially toward the end of the season. I am a humble guy and I am appreciative and grateful for the award, but it’s really not about me, it’s about what my boys did on the floor,” said Coach Gray about winning coach of the year honors. “It’s about my staff, all the long nights before and after practice.

“This is a reflection of my team and my coaching staff. I am grateful for the award, but we have to continue moving forward.”

For Will Gray, he was excited to have his full complement of teammates this season as opposed to last year, where guys did not play due to the pandemic. He realized the conference player of the year award was within his grasp due to the attention he received upon walking in the gym.

“Every game we had when we were away, I noticed how the atmosphere was when I walked in the gym,” said Gray. “Not to sound cocky, but I would notice the looks I would get, the stares, the pointing, and I just realized that people know about me and made me feel good about myself.

“Player of the year really came into my mind when I started doing consistently well toward the end of the season. I just started thinking about it and said, I can do this.”

Coach Gray says he tried to divide being a dad and a coach toward his son when it came to Will winning the player of the year award in the conference, but it was difficult. He says Will could not have won this award without the contributions of his teammates.

Coming into the season, Coach Gray felt his team had the makings of a quality squad. Always having high expectations, Coach Gray just wanted his team to play up to their standards and felt they could achieve most of their goals.

“My expectations were high and once we got all of our team together; we wanted to put a banner up,” he said about his team goals prior to the start of the season. “That was our main underlying theme all year. We didn’t talk a lot about winning. We spent a lot of time talking about playing together, giving your best, being coachable. We talked about those things more than anything else.

“We knew that someone was going to win, and someone was going to lose, so we tried to concentrate on things that mattered. We felt like if we did that, the game would take care of itself. We knew we had some talented players; it was just trying to get everyone to gel and the guys did a really good job of buying into what we wanted them to do.”

With several players involved with other sports, it took a while for Coach Gray to get his full complement of players. Once they had the opportunity to all play together, the Eagles coaching staff knew they had a chance to be very good. They started to string together some wins and heading into the playoffs, the coaching staff had high hopes.

“Every game we wanted to do well, but we knew we had to build upon our chemistry as well,” says Coach Gray. “Of course, everyone will say they want to win the conference or win all the games, but we took a different approach. The expectation was for them to play hard every game.”

In the playoff game against Myers Park, the Eagles were overwhelmed by the size of the Mustangs. The Eagles are not a very big team, so with Myers Park having so much height, it was difficult to get into rhythm, said Coach Gray.

For Gray, coming into the year, his goal was to become more efficient on offense, more consistent with his fundamentals, and improving his defense. Gray really came into his own this season and played like he knew he belonged with the best players in the area.

“I feel like my game progressed through my confidence,” he said. “Last year I had confidence issues. Now every game I told myself, ‘I could do this.’ I just saw my game progress in every aspect.”

Gray also hit another milestone during the season by eclipsing the 1,000-point mark in his career at East Forsyth.

“It was in the back of my mind, honestly,” he said about scoring 1,000 points. “I wanted to, but I didn’t know how far I was, but once I started having games where I was scoring 20 plus, we just started looking into it and I reached it and I am glad I reached it.”

The father/son and coach/player dynamic with the Grays is a unique one. Both say they have found a great balance between the two and can separate them when on the court.

“I separate it pretty good; I’ve gotten better as I’ve gotten older, I would say,” said Gray about how he balances having his father as his head coach. “When he gets on me, I just take it as him trying to coach me and not trying to give me a hard time, just trying to tell me what I need to do and what I don’t need to do.

“When he’s being dad, I just look at it the same way, but him actually just caring for me. I do pretty well on splitting the two, you know.”

When it comes to Coach Gray, he says it’s really hard to balance being a coach and father at the same time. He has found a good way to balance both responsibilities.

“I would like to say that I make it look easy, but do trust behind closed doors, it’s really tough because you can’t let your own personal feelings and emotions be more important than the job itself of being a coach,” said Coach Gray about coaching his son. “It really is hard because he is my son and I think he deserves everything he gets, but at the same time I have to do a really good job making sure my team understands that just because Will Gray has my same last name, there won’t be any favoritism or special treatment for him.

“That’s why we are who we are and what we did this year, everyone bought into it. I know my boundaries though, because his mother is right there with me on the sidelines and at home, so I have to be careful. I just have to be mindful of what’s happening and what needs to be said at the right time and hope for the best.”

Coach Gray says he is happy for all of the accolades that his son is receiving, but still knows there is work to be done in and out of the gym.

“I know that he can do a lot of good things well, but there are still some things in his game I want him to improve on,” Coach Gray said about his son. “When you are dealing with teenagers, sometimes it’s hard for them to understand where you’re coming from. 

“I had to be real strategic when I talk to him about his game because he’s getting some accolades and making some noise in the city and state, but I still want him to be humble enough to understand he still has to work on his game every day. Just coming to practice is not enough, you have to spend some time outside of practice, before or after, to continue to keep working.”

The Eagles only had one senior on the roster, so they will return the vast majority of their team. Coach Gray feels they have a good chance of having another great season next year.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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