Greg Gay made his reputation in the lower classifications as a girls basketball head coach. He entered hopeless programs, restored hope and built respectability.
He’s not coming into that situation with Class 5A Grapevine. The 14-year veteran has a roster that’s ready to continue the recent run of playoff success. In June, the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District approved Gay, who was previously at Ponder, as its new head coach. Gay is 257-197 with eight postseason appearances.
He succeeds Lindy Slagle, who guided the program for the previous three seasons. Slagle, who became a first-time mother in December, slowed down her schedule to become a girls assistant at Argyle.
Gay, 53, had a brief first meeting with the team late last week. Familiarity will be built when he and the team get together when the 2017-2018 school year begins in August.
“We talked about very high expectations,” Gay said. “I told them that they are going to come and work. I know they will do that. It was a good start.”
You want to amp it up a little bit. You’ve got to pick certain people on the schedule and say, this is where we want to be. So you put extra emphasis on it.
New Grapevine coach Greg Gay on inheriting the rivalry with Colleyville Heritage
Gay spent the previous four seasons at Ponder, located just west of Denton, which went 26-9 in the 2016-2017 season. That completed a turnaround from a 3-24 season before Gay took over. Gay delivered the same kind of results at Bullard. In his second stint, the program began 11-21 and eventually climbed the mountain to 28-6.
“I loved where I had been,” Gay said. “But I wanted a bigger classification job. I felt like I had been successful at the lower levels and wanted to see how it would work here. It’s a great challenge.”
In his career, Gay has featured teams that will push the pace. But when he has the opportunity to use his front court, he will deploy the high-low game. He will have that chance with 6-0 sophomore Dash MacMillan. Rising junior forward Symone Wesley (5-9) isn’t a prototypical front court player. But her athleticism allows her to compensate and play taller.
MacMillan was just learning her way through the varsity game in 2016-2017. Wesley had to balance her club volleyball season with basketball and is expected to continue to do that in 2017-2018.
Gay will stay with a man-to-man defense most of the time. He will use zone depending on the opponent and potential matchup situations.
“You don’t need two posts, because if you have a good athlete you can get them to go high, or maybe pin someone down,” Gay said. “We can run a lot of sets.”
Grapevine is also expected to return rising players in sophomore guard Rylee Hanna, junior guard Samantha Tatum and junior forward Kate Dickson. The 2016-2017 team graduated eight seniors from the 19-11 lineup that lost to Denton Guyer in the area playoffs.
Gay understands the gravity of the rivalry with Colleyville Heritage. The Lady Panthers dropped down to 5A in 2016-2017, swept the season series from the Lady Mustangs and won District 8-5A.
He had a similar run at Bullard when it struggled to beat arch rival Brownsboro. After dropping the first eight meetings, the rivalry turned in Bullard’s favor.
“You want to amp it up a little bit,” Gay said. “You’ve got to pick certain people on the schedule and say, this is where we want to be. So you put extra emphasis on it.”
▪ Grapevine’s 2017-2018 schedule will have a change. Tournaments at Weatherford and Coppell remain. Instead of going to West Texas, the Lady Mustangs will play in the Great East Texas shootout in Brownsboro. It features 32 teams from all classifications.