Q & A with Lafayette AD Chick Drewrey
This week’s Q & A is with Lafayette Athletics Director Gary Drewrey. Here is more in-depth information about his hire, philosophy and background that wasn’t in Monday’s story I broke and reported first locally.
John Davis: Let’s start at the genesis of this, the overall desire to come back to your alma mater. Now that everything is official, does it feel right to be back here?
Gary Drewrey: It does. It feels right. It’s just the right thing for me to do. Coach (John) Sherman and I were talking about this when I was talking to him about the basketball job. You get to a point where you’re not sure that you can be as committed as you know you have to be and I wouldn’t take this job any place else but at Lafayette. There is no place else I could be this committed to. I am at Lafayette. It’s where I want to be. There is a little selfishness on my part, too, because Lafayette is a great place, great school, great athletics department, great people that I love and a community I love. I’m in the school I want to be in. This is where my kids go to school. You want it to be the best and certainly they would want somebody that would help accomplish those goals. I think I have the insight and the experience. My strengths as an athletic director are, as a person, I think I’m a great problem solver and I have vision for the future. Right now it’s important for Lafayette to have that.
Davis: How much has the two years being back in the district helped you get to this point? Is there a true familiarity of what you’re doing now because of these last two years working inside the district?
Drewrey: I think two years in the system gives you a chance to observe and certainly get to to know people better and the people that are working here. Lafayette is lucky, they have a great coaching staff. The biggest advantage is it gives a chance to observe and recognize some strengths and at the same time recognize some things that Lafayette is struggling with. Some of it are things they can’t do anything about. My philosophy has always been you may not can solve every problem, but you can always make it better. Sometimes it’s just a matter of not taking no for an answer. Sometimes you have to will yourself through bad times or bad situations.
Davis: You were always praised by people and former coaches I’ve talked to in Water Valley for your ability to be visible. Is that what you want to be here, a visible, active AD?
Drewrey: No doubt. I will be very visible. The coaches won’t be surprised if I’m at practice or if they look up and see me coming at any time. I want to know what’s going on. I don’t want to be asked questions I don’t know the answer to. I think it’s important. This is not a job that you can do and not be hands on. I’m not saying I’m going to coach for anybody or do anybody’s job.
Davis: It’s not a job you can do from the comfort of your office, right?
Drewrey: No. You can’t do it from your office. The best thing I can say is you always have to be aware of what’s going on. In my opinion, the way I’ve always done it, is I want to have a relationship with every coach. I want them to feel comfortable telling me what they want. It’s my job to not always get them what they want, but what they need to be successful. I always say a wish list.
Davis: It’s tough to fill that wish list isn’t it?
Drewrey: That’s not your job. That’s not my job. I’ve always felt like every coach should have three lists. What do I need to be successful? What would I like to have? And what do I wish I had? In my opinion, it’s the school’s job to provide what they need to be successful if they can. If not, then it’s my job to help them figure how they can get what they need. Whether that’s through the booster club or fund raisers. I’ve hauled ice at Ole Miss with 70 football players for a fundraiser. I’ve made homemade ice cream and sold it at the Watermelon Carnival. You do whatever you have to do to be successful. At the same time, you can’t expect the school to give you everything you wish you had because that’s never going to happen. There are only a few schools in the state that get their wish list filled. Most of the time you don’t even get what you want to have.
Davis: To me you have hit a home run with John Sherman as the new girls basketball coach. Talk about that, the reasoning behind his hire. Why was he the right guy?
Drewrey: It’s a lot deeper than just going out and hiring a great basketball coach. And we did hire a great basketball coach. He’s a great person. That comes right along with it. There are a lot of great basketball coaches that you wouldn’t want to be around your kid. I’ve got two daughters that have worked for Sherman at his business (Sno Biz). He is the kind of person I want my kids around and that comes in there when you’re hiring coaches.
Davis: You literally have seen both sides to John Sherman haven’t you?
Drewrey: Oh yeah, but the other part is the knowledge of the game. We’re definitely in the basketball business. No doubt about it. We’ve got good coaches that are in place, but he can be a tremendous mentor with his knowledge of basketball and how to handle the situations. He’s replacing a great one in Coach (Amy) Sutton. He can replace that void, which was going to be hard to do. He can also fill the other void – she did a great job working with other coaches. The other thing, moving forward, I know how Coach Sherman has always worked with the other coaches in other sports, sharing athletes. That’s something that’s becoming more and more important at Lafayette.
Davis: It’s almost a must now to share athletes isn’t it?
Drewrey: Yes and it’s important to hire somebody with his experience and knowledge and his knowledge of what it takes to be successful. I don’t want to brag on him too much, but that group of coaches that were at Oxford 20 years ago kind of set the standard around here on how to work together as a group and share athletes and all of them be successful. They were kind of role models for everybody but me because I was already there before they were. From the outside looking in, if you looked at that group of coaches, Roger Smith and Johnny (Hill) and Sherman and Jeff Nelson that were all at Oxford, they did a tremendous job of sharing athletes and built a foundation that they’ve continued over there. I’ve seen Sherman in action and he knows how to get that done without fighting with the other coaches. It all goes back to what’s fair. What’s fair is what’s doing best for the kids. He’s a fair guy.
Davis: Later this year, meaning when we get back into school and the fall, the MHSAA is going to come back out with their enrollment numbers. There is a belief that Lafayette will be 5A. I guess what are your thoughts on it just going into this year. You don’t know, but what are you expecting in the future here?
Drewrey: You don’t know, but eventually it’s going to happen. Lafayette is a growing school district and that’s another thing I considered that made me even more interested in this job and that’s going through the growth process. At some point in time, we’re going to move from being one of the larger 4A schools to one of the smallest 5A schools. The expectations won’t change as far as being able to compete.
Davis: The goal will still be championships then?
Drewrey: Right. I’ve lived through that, I’ve coached through that. Every year we ever made the football playoffs at Water Valley, we were the smallest 3A school in the state that made the playoffs every year I was there. We were a game away twice from playing for the state championship. If you look at the playoff system the way it is, it’s easier now than when it was five divisions because people are closer together in every classification. But it’s still the folks at the top of the classifications that have, in the past, with the exceptions of South Panola and Water Valley, that have been successful and the ones that weren’t were at the bottom.
Davis: So you like the challenge that you’re going to be facing from that aspect?
Drewrey: Yes, but I think it takes some planning. It takes some cooperation between the coaches and you got to really push your good athletes to participate in more than one or two sports. The only way you’re going to be successful is your athletes have to play every sport. If you miss two or three athletes, you miss the playoffs.
Davis: What do you do between now and the start of school? Is there a certain 100-day plan or a certain month-to-month plan you do?
Drewrey: Short term is easy. You meet with all the head coaches and discuss direction and what they think are their biggest needs and talk about those three lists I mentioned earlier. I get to know the coaches, let them get to know me. I want them to be aware I’m going to be there for them. I’m going to help them be successful. And talk about expectations. I don’t come in without high expectations of all of them. That doesn’t always mean wins and losses. This is a business where wins and losses affect your job, but there are other things that have to play into it. You can’t judge those type of things by sitting in your office and not being visible and not being involved. That’s the work ethic and building the program from the ground up. I want a huge emphasis on the junior high programs. I do know this from experience, if you find a coach that’s not really concerned about their junior high program, they’re not planning on being here long or any place long. If his biggest concern isn’t what is happening in his seventh- and eighth-grade programs, he’s planning on having another job before he gets to high school.”