By Brandon Speck
BALDWYN – Jason McKay is crazy … when it comes to Baldwyn Bearcats basketball.
The coach turns red, leaps up and down, intently looks around the gym as his team waits to take the floor, with a crazed Sid Vicious style-gaze that seems to be taking account of everyone in attendance.
He answers questions only after a concentrated pause.
He’s calculated and gladly admits it.
“He’s fiery, intense, um …” said senior Romaro Crump.
“Want me to leave, Ro? So you can really tell the truth,” McKay said, then laughed.
Labeling McKay’s coaching style takes multiple adjectives. His preparation is impeccable, likely down to the type of detergent Friday’s opponent Heidelberg uses to wash jerseys.
His team can be described with one word, successful. For the fourth time in five seasons, the former Bearcats state championship point guard is leading his team to the MHSAA Class 2A state tournament.
He does it with a love for all things Baldwyn, with assistants Raymond Craven and Lance Wesson, instilling in his players his to-the-core belief that Baldwyn basketball is a different kind of special. His love for his school spills over.
“There is no way that is a charge. There is no way that is a charge. There is no way that is a charge,” he repeated to an official this season at Aberdeen, trip after trip the official made down the floor.
His son, and starting point guard Conner, jokes that Jason even passionately approaches mundane chores around the house.
Fans love to heckle him, the redness, the glare, the intensity with which he argues his points.
“It makes it more fun, knowing everybody is against you,” said Conner, a sophomore.
His players feed off it. And they keep coming back, a common occurrence and testament to McKay for former players to be waiting at locker room doors.
“I’m very, very fortunate to be able to coach kids who buy in to what we’re doing,” McKay said. “I would hope the biggest thing the players would say about me is, ‘He cared a lot more about us as people than as a player.’”
McKay turns blood-red on the sideline, sometimes going head-on at an official, sometimes giving scheming motivation in a timeout, sometimes from a sheer outpouring of emotion, like when Conner hit a layup and drew the foul at a critical late moment Friday against Coahoma AHS. Jason went berserk, leaping and pointing, before stopping just in time for his blood pressure to lower to stable levels.
A year ago, Baldwyn had just won its first state championship in 26 years and McKay was already looking at potential playoff opponents.
“We can tell you right now what division we catch next year in the playoffs,” he said.
Strategic. And a little crazy. But Baldwyn is crazy about McKay and he makes sure they’re all crazy about basketball.