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Thursday, May 5, 2016

McVay steps down as Clay City coach

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Grant McVay cuts down the nets following Clay City's sectional championship.
There are coaches who have had longer tenures at schools and there are coaches who have won more championships, but none have left a bigger impression on a program than Grant McVay.

Through nine years at the helm of the Clay City Eels, McVay has instilled more than just X's and O's on a dry erase board. He built a program that every parent and player could be proud to be a part of each season. A coach highly respected amongst his peers, McVay's passion for teaching the game of basketball certainly can't be matched except maybe by the desire to return home.

While Clay City has left an indelible mark upon McVay, this week he made final the decision to resign from the position as head boys' basketball coach with the Eels so that he can spend a little more time at home.

"The decision to step down after this year was pretty clear-cut mentally, but still very difficult to go through emotionally," McVay said. "I have prayed about the future and have tried to follow my gut feelings. There have been a few different opportunities arise in the last year or two, but my heart was committed to Clay City."

McVay moved back to Parke County two years ago and had some opportunities to coach closer to home, but he felt that there was a chance for something special in the 2008-09 basketball season.

"It felt like I was supposed to be at Clay City through this senior group, and my heart really wouldn't let me do anything else," McVay said. "I didn't think it would be fair to our seniors nor would it be fair to me if I left after last season. It's not that someone else couldn't have come in and done a great job with this group. It's more that we had really started something that we needed to finish."

And finish the Eels did as a group of six seniors helped lead the Clay City Eels to the program's first sectional championship since 1976.

"On a personal level, winning the sectional championship was a cumulative achievement encompassing nine years of work," McVay said. "That championship was for all the players who graduated having put in a lot of time and effort, but didn't win a sectional. Winning the sectional was for our assistant coaches, administrators, as well as for my family. All have sacrificed a lot as well over the past nine years."

However, most importantly for a senior class that included Braxton Griffith, Levi Seymour, Will Kennedy, Kyler Rhodes, Orry Heffner and Jordan Defore, they've left a legacy behind and a photo on the wall of a historic gym.

"All six played all four years for us, and they deserved all the success they achieved," McVay said. "When I speak of the sectional being an honor for our past players as well, it's not that I am trying to take anything away from this group. Words can't do justice to the pride and appreciation I have for this group of seniors."

McVay thought back to some of his favorite memories while coaching at Clay City and included his first varsity win back in 2000 and his final win that garnered the sectional championship against Shakamak. McVay also mentioned the 2003 Greene County Championship and pointed out the Eels only sang the school song publicly twice during his tenure, once after the Greene County title and again, following the sectional championship.

Not all of the memories took place within the high school walls however as he fondly remembered alumna, Elliott Booe's, game-winning free throws for the Indiana State Sycamores. And if there was any doubt about how important a part of McVay's life that his players are, they were also ushers at his wedding. McVay also pointed out his former players' academic achievements as high points of his time in Clay City with Whitney Ames graduating as valedictorian and a number of players graduating from college.

As is the case at many single A high schools, Clay City doesn't have a football program, which allows many of the winter's basketball players to condition together in the fall.

"I'll always have great memories of conditioning in the fall," McVay said. "Not having football at Clay City has allowed us to have a lot of our kids in our strength and conditioning program during the fall. I'll really miss the excitement and optimism that grows each fall as the season gets closer. I'll always fondly remember 'The Coal Mine' and all the kids who really bought into our weight program."

McVay, his staff and his players spent plenty of long hours in one of Indiana's unique gymnasium. Clay City's sunken floor makes for a special atmosphere and one that McVay will always cherish.

"I loved playing at Clay City when I was in high school, and I remember thinking how cool the gym atmosphere was when I came back here to scout while serving as an assistant at Monrovia," McVay said.

After interviewing and receiving the head coaching position at Clay City, McVay reflected on how special being the head coach really was with the Eels.

"After being hired in the summer of 2000, there were nights when I would sit in the dark on the top row of the bleachers and just staring down at the court in awe of the fact that I was now the coach at Clay City," McVay said.

"In short, the Clay City gym has been a lot more than just a building where I've worked," McVay added. "The gym, and the coach's office, has been a second home and a friend. I will miss both."

To a person, it would be hard to find a player who hasn't been affected positively from his time with McVay's program. Playing basketball at Clay City is often more about just playing the game, but about learning a maturity that goes along with wearing the uniform. McVay was very big on representing the school and the town in a positive way and that was reflected by his players on the court.

In short, McVay is a coach that simply did things the right way and for that, he's earned a lot of respect that is well deserved. But, as was typically the case, McVay deflected the spotlight for the team's accomplishments while he was there and wanted to mention those that helped him along the way.

"I do want to thank everyone for their support and part in making the past nine years such a positive, memorable experience," McVay said.

"I've recited lines from Hoosiers more than once during practices and games, so I will steal from Norman Dale one more time. To our former players: "I love you guys."