Garner boys basketball coach Eddie Gray has thought about retirement many times through the years, but he’s always pushed those feelings aside for one more season.
But not anymore.
This season is officially his last, he confirmed after Garner won the David West bracket title at the John Wall Holiday Invitational on Saturday.
When asked if this was his final game in the Holiday Invitational, he answered the question as only Gray can.
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“Unless I see a burning bush,” he said, an allusion to the Biblical story when God tells Moses to go back to Egypt. “I’ve done it for 40-some years, I’ve coached some form of basketball for 39, I still want to stay in the classroom – but it’s time.”
Gray graduated from Garner in 1970 and hasn’t taught anywhere else.
He was hired as Garner’s head boys basketball coach in 1989.
He’s won more than 500 games, amassing a 518-200 overall record (72.2 winning percentage), including 16 conference championships and one state title. His former players include All-NBA star (and bracket namesake) David West, NCAA Final Four MVP Donald Williams and international player James Mays.
After winning the Holiday Invitational title on Saturday, his players lifted him on their shoulders. His players, already sensing this was his last run, said after the semifinals that they wanted to win the bracket for him.
“Sometimes, what you see on the court with me, I give kind of a different impression with the relationship I try to build with these kids, both on the court and in the classroom,” Gray said. “We’re a close-knit group, so that meant a lot to me.”