n An assistant for 15 seasons, Mike Gray succeeds the retired Jimmy Dillinger as head coach.
By Gene Phelps
BALDWYN – Michael Gray’s favorite mode of transportation during the fall is a yellow school bus headed to a Baldwyn Bearcats football game.
Gray, 38, has been a passionate passenger since he became a team manager as a fourth grader, played quarterback and defensive back in high school, and while he served as an assistant coach the last 15 seasons.
Next fall, he’ll make his first road trip as the Bearcats’ head coach.
“I remember being a manager when I was a fourth grader and riding the bus to all those games,” said Gray, whose hiring was approved by the school board this week. “All the coaches treated me like a son.
“This really means a lot. I was born and raised here. This is the only placed I’ve ever coached. I feel blessed and I’m excited to continue what we have going.”
Gray replaces the retired Jimmy Dillinger, who directed Baldwyn to the Class 2A state championship this past season, the program’s first.
Baldwyn High principal Ronnie Hill said candidates from inside and outside the program were interviewed and considered, however, Gray’s presentation won him over.
“He gave me his breakdown on what he’d like to continue in program and things he’d like to change,” Hill said. “He had things mapped out. Even if he would have been an outside candidate, I would have selected him.”
Gray credits Dillinger with preparing him the last 10 years to become a head coach.
“When Coach D got here 10 years ago, he turned us loose to be coaches … he let us run with it,” Gray said. “You learned to get organized, because you were in charge.
“We do a good job and we do it together.”
Gray plans to keep the program headed on its current, successful path.
“If it’s not broken, you don’t fix it,” he said. “The tradition here speaks for itself. We’ve always been competitive, had real quality players and coaches, and had great support from the community.
“I know we’re going to work really, really hard to put a quality team on the field year in and year out.”