NEW MADISON, Ohio (WKBN) – For OHSAA D IV state champion girls’ basketball coach Brad Gray, his journey began in Wellsville.

Gray, a 1995 graduate of Wellsville High School, coached his Tri-Village Patriots girls’ basketball team to their first state title on Saturday when they defeated Toledo Christian 52-50. The Patriots finished 30-0 this season.

The Tri-Village School District is located in New Madison, Ohio. New Madison is a village that is about 45 minutes away from Dayton and about an hour and a half away from Columbus.

In addition to being the girls’ basketball head coach, Gray is also a junior/senior high school physical education teacher and the athletic director for the school district.

The longtime coach reflected on his past, saying that his coaches helped play a huge part in who he is as a coach.

Gray mentioned that current Wellsville High School boys’ basketball coach David “Bug” Thompson was one of the many influential coaches he had growing up. Thompson was an assistant coach during Gray’s time in high school.

“He was a huge impact on me. I had him very early in my career as a young kid. He stayed involved throughout then as an assistant throughout my time as a high school player,” Gray said.

When Gray graduated from Wellsville, he went to Ohio State University, where he joined a group of guys that practiced against the Ohio State women’s basketball team. It was at Ohio State where he also met his wife Brooke, who was a Tri-Village graduate.

When he was a juvenile probation officer for the Tri-Village school district, Gray became friends with Larry Faulkner, who at that time was the boys’ basketball coach. Brooke and Faulkner’s daughter were best friends. Gray’s brother ended up marrying Faulkner’s daughter. This was a link for Gray becoming an assistant with the boys’ basketball team.

Gray was an assistant for the boys’ team for several years. He claimed that at first, he didn’t want anything to do with the girls’ program, even though former Tri-Village Athletic Director Jim Maples encouraged him to take the job.

“I told him when he first approached me I had no desire to coach girls’ basketball. I was 100 percent in on the boys, and I wanted to be a whole boys’ head basketball coach, but he kind of kept working on me. The more we talked about it, the more intrigued I was becoming,” Gray said.

Gray then noticed two players that were in middle school at the time: his wife’s niece, Shaye Thomas, and his wife’s cousin, Kayla Linkous.

Gray had attended games to watch the girls and he realized that they were going to be going through the program. In 2006, he decided to become the head girls’ basketball coach and coach his family members.

“I was going to have to kind of wait until they got there for a few years, but I knew once they got there, we had a chance to be pretty good,” he said.

In his 17 years as head coach, Gray has been in the regional final 11 times. This season, he finally reached the mountaintop and won a state title. Gray said that he believes his team succeeded at the highest level in Ohio high school basketball because he allowed the girls to be themselves and have fun. 

“This is the loosest group of kids I’ve ever had. But you know part of that is, I think I allow them to be loose, and I don’t know that I would have allowed that in years past. I mean, heck, they had music on. They’re dancing. They’re doing all this stuff, having all this fun right before we’re getting ready to go playing a state championship game,” he said.

He said he is less high-strung and more relaxed than he used to be.

“I was way more relaxed this year than I’ve ever been. I mean, there’s no question about that. Everybody who’s been around our program has known me for a long time. That’s one of the first things they would probably say is that I was way more relaxed this year,” Gray said.

Gray said that the biggest key to the team’s success is that the players’ parents buy into his coaching style.

“We’re allowed to coach kids down here pretty hard, and we’re allowed to have an expectation level, and we’re allowed to hold kids to that expectation level without a whole lot of pushback. The buy-in that we have from parents down here to me is the biggest key,” Gray said.

The Patriots were led by three girls who plan to play at the college level next year. The runner-up for Miss Ohio Basketball, Rylee Sagester, has committed to Marshall University in West Virginia. Morgan Hunt has committed to Thomas More University in Kentucky. Torie Richards is undecided at this time, but Gray said that she is likely to play collegiately.

Next season, the Patriots will be led by a player whose family is from Wellsville. Bella Black will be a senior next year. Gray said Bella’s mom Annette, as well as Annette’s parents, used to live in Wellsville.

Gray’s alma mater learned about Gray’s accomplishments and gave him a gift. On Friday, Gray received a bouquet of flowers from the students and staff of Wellsville High School. Gray is thankful for all of the community support.

Bouquet of of flowers sent to Brad Gray after his State Basketball Championship win
Courtesy: Brad Gray

“There are so many people there that I still have so much love for and appreciation for. For them to remember a guy who graduated in 1995, and doesn’t get back very often, and still support me as one of their own is very humbling,” he said.

Gray is not looking forward to next season quite yet. He wants to be in the moment.

“We’ve been knocking on the door and been right there, and to finally kind of bust through the door and make it happen feels really good. So we’re going to soak it in and enjoy it,” Gray said.