High School Sports

All in the family for Rocky Mount basketball coaches Michael and Pam Gainey

Michael Gainey, right, Pam Gainey, next from right, stand with Keyanna Spivey after she scored her 1,000th career point during the Nash Central High School girl's basketball game against Rocky Mount High School High School in Rocky Mount, N.C. on Thursday, January, 2017.
Michael Gainey, right, Pam Gainey, next from right, stand with Keyanna Spivey after she scored her 1,000th career point during the Nash Central High School girl's basketball game against Rocky Mount High School High School in Rocky Mount, N.C. on Thursday, January, 2017. newsobserver.com

Married life the past two decades for Michael and Pam Gainey has been as predictable as a high school basketball schedule. For example, consider last Friday night.

Rocky Mount’s girls and boys basketball teams both advanced to the Big East 3A Conference championship games played as a doubleheader at Southern Nash’s gym. Michael has coached Rocky Mount’s boys 20 years and Pam the Gryphons’ girls for 23.

So on this Friday night – after a day as physical education teachers at Rocky Mount High – they boarded the bus with their respective teams for the trip to Southern Nash.

Michael watched the girls game from a few rows behind the Gryphons’ bench. Then they reversed roles. Rocky Mount’s boys team took the court, and Pam sat a few rows behind the team bench.

Not even raising two children altered their routine.

Michael Jr. played for his father until graduating in 2013. The Gryphons won the 2012 N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A state title his junior year. Their daughter Michelle is a fourth-year varsity senior this season playing for her mother.

“This is what we do on Friday nights,” Pam said. “We love it. We always have our family together, so it’s special.”

The only problem can be the night when one team wins and the other loses.

“That can be delicate, but it’s not that bad,” Pam said. “We’re both coaches, so we can talk about what’s going on with the team. The only real bad thing is when we fight over gym space for the best practice time.”

This has been one of those best of times and worst of times seasons.

Rocky Mount’s girls (19-3, 10-0 Big East) won the Big East regular-season title and have advanced to the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A state playoffs despite a 52-49 upset loss to Nash Central in the tournament final.

But Rocky Mount’s boys (10-12, 4-6) finished with a 55-47 loss to Nash Central despite a tournament run to the final. The Gryphons needed an upset to earn a postseason bid. But that doesn’t mean Michael’s job is done.

“I’ll be sitting behind the girls supporting them and keeping stats,” Michael said. “I keep good stats, too. I get into watching her games, and she gets into mine. We get home and talk about things we saw. It’s a family thing that we love.”

Michael and Pam met as athletes at East Carolina before they married 27 years ago. Michael played on the Pirates’ football team as a tight end and slotback and Pam on the basketball team.

At Rocky Mount, Michael started out as a varsity football assistant coach and freshman boys basketball coach before taking over the varsity boys program. He says Pam is more passionate about basketball, describing her as “talking basketball 24/7. Sometimes I have to say let’s leave it in the gym.”

That difference is reflected in their children’s personalities.

Michael Jr. was the one who loved basketball from an early age. He’s more like his mom.

But Michelle was interested in cheerleading more than basketball until her high school years. That’s similar to her father. He played in his high school’s band until he played football, basketball and ran track his senior year.

“I became a Gryphon,” said Michelle of her basketball evolution. “I wanted to play for the school, and I love the relationship with my teammates.”

Although only one coach Gainey is still working, the family routine continues for the next girls game.

“Rocky Mount has been good to us,” Pam said. “The community and the students and players have supported us.”

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