03/31/06 — It's official - McClary resigns as GHS women's basketball coach

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It's official - McClary resigns as GHS women's basketball coach

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 31, 2006 2:05 PM

"It's time."

The simple, private thought rendered Gladys McClary speechless for a moment.

Was it true?

Was it time for McClary's reign as one of the most-successful women's basketball coaches in Goldsboro High history to end?

Not quite.

McClary silently pondered resigning during last year's eastern regional tournament, but refused to let the thought escape her lips. She didn't wish to become an off-the-court distraction and felt she owed this senior class her undivided attention.

Even when a player quizzed McClary in midseason about possibly resigning, McClary dismissed the question and continued with her halftime talk.

Goldsboro toiled through an 11-14 campaign and won just four contests after Christmas. A demanding work schedule, coaching/teaching the girls and a change in household structure wore McClary down. She hadn't felt that tired or challenged since playing for the Cougars in the early 1980s.

"I was very tough on them many times when they were almost in tears, but I wanted them to understand what it takes to be winners," said McClary. "You have to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, which is giving up yourself for a cause. That's the only thing I wanted to teach them this season."

McClary, honestly, had nothing left to give once the season ended. She met with the team Wednesday afternoon and the players sat in stunned silence as McClary officially announced her resignation. They quizzed her about the new coach and seemed frustrated when she couldn't answer the question. McClary just reminded the players to respect the new coach, work out daily in the offseason and remember what it takes to win.

"I didn't want to leave a lot of room for questions," said McClary. "You have to know when it's time and I knew it was time."

GHS principal Patricia Burden hoped this day would never come. She, too, appeared shocked -- but also understood -- McClary's position.

"I don't even want to think of the idea of replacing her," said GHS principal Patricia Burden. "That's how valuable and loyal she's been to Goldsboro High and the community. It's a hard task when you have someone you want to stay forever, and you have to accept and respect the decision when they want to take another path.

"I am sad she will not be here, but I know we will always have her support."

Not new to the game, but rookies on the coaching scene, Gladys and husband Ronnie took on the daily challenge of teaching the players and learning from their peers. The players became more athletic and their ability level improved each season. The McClarys' knowledge broadened and they adapted the playbook to fit the personnel.

McClary couldn't have asked for a better fit.

The Cougars posted 148 wins and advanced to the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs during six of McClary's seven seasons as head coach. Goldsboro exited as the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference queen with three consecutive regular-season and tournament titles from 2003-05. Those three teams combined for a 42-game win streak in ECC regular-season and tournament play that currently remains intact.

Goldsboro also appeared in three consecutive eastern regionals during 2003-05. The 2004 team lost to Southern Durham in the title game.

"A former player at Goldsboro myself, I understand what it's about and it's been a blessing to be a part of a winning program as a player and then a privilege to coach young players with the same mentality," said McClary. "For them to have the same success, I'm proud to have been a part of that."

Before resigning, McClary and GHS athletics director Randy Jordan discussed getting banners made to recognize the program's accomplishments. She unveiled those banners before an Eastern Plains 2-A Conference game against North Lenoir.

"Our philosophy was to teach a higher level of morals and values, and the essence of integrity and to reinforce rules and guidelines parents had already instilled in their children," said McClary. "You use basketball as a tool to reinforce these things, not even knowing it would take us to high levels of success. Then again, I was not surprised."

McClary, admittedly, never went into coaching to grab the spotlight. She just wanted to give back to the community. She coached her daughters -- Shonda and current Norfolk State standout Brenda. Son Ronnie Jr., who either kept the scorebook or ran the clock, is a junior on the Elizabeth City State football team.

This past season, McClary's mother -- Marie Best -- moved into the house and spent countless evenings watching her daughter coach. One evening, Shonda noticed how lethargic her mom had become.

"She made it clear to me we needed their attention," said McClary. "We have our own family and right now they're in the middle of college, and deciding what direction they want their lives to go in. They deserve our attention.

"My mother needs my attention and spending more time with her is truly a blessing to me."

McClary doesn't plan to participate in selecting her successor. She's leaving that task to Burden and Jordan, who will organize a search committee and begin the application process in the next few weeks.

Burden said she plans to advertise the opening statewide and hopes to have a new coach in place before the calendar school year ends.

"You have to know when it's time and I knew it was time," said McClary. "I think we have finished our assignment and fought a good fight. We have kept the faith and finished this course with no regrets, which is a blessing."