When Linda Gray turned in her coaching whistle to instead keep statistics for the William Chrisman High School boys and girls basketball teams, she had no idea she would become the backbone of the Bears statistical crew for more than three decades.
She was an assistant coach on Billie Wilson’s 1981 state championship volleyball team, but Gray was a single mom who needed to make a few bucks more than she earned as an assistant coach.
“With the hours I was working,” she said, chuckling, “I think I was making about 19 cents an hour. They asked me if I would be interested in keeping the scorebook for the basketball teams and I found out I could make about $25 an hour doing that – so, I made the change – but I never, never thought I’d be doing it 36 years.”
While more coaches, players, teachers and administrators have come and gone than Gray can recall, she has been the bedrock of the scorekeepers’ desk for the boys and girls team.
“When a new activities director comes to a school, there are a lot of questions,” said Greg McGhee, who has been at Chrisman the past three years, “but the one question I did not have was, ‘Who keeps our scorebook?’
“Linda has been amazing! Never a mistake, never any questions from the coaches or officials. They trust her and she knows how to do her job. She’s the best. We’re going to miss her.”
When she and her husband Jim, whom she married in 1985, began reminiscing over her 36-year career, they decided she had kept the books for more than 2,200 games.
“That includes some volleyball matches, all the basketball games and some baseball games, when Jim was coaching,” she said. “I’ve also kept books for some Pioneer Ridge, Nowlin and Bridger basketball games, too.
“I love it. I’ve been able to keep stats for all my boys’ games – Greg, Tom, Zach and Andrew – and I’ve been there for all the big Chrisman boys and girls home basketball games.”
While it would be impossible to list a favorite player, coach or team, Gray does recall some memorable moments in the Bears gymnasium.
“I remember when they re-dedicated our gym back in 1999, and that was a special night with all the people who came for the dedication,” she said.
“I love our new boys and girls coaches, Jake (Kates, boys) and Scott (Schaefer). It’s going to be difficult to tell them goodbye. When I think back to the teams, I loved watching our run ’n gun boys basketball teams that John Vickers coached.
“They made it tough for a scorekeeper, bringing in three or four new players every 45 seconds or so, but it was so much fun that it was worth it. They could score some points!”
So why is she leaving the stat crew? Gray has not lost her passion for Chrisman basketball. The chance to move closer to her two grandchildren in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, was too good to pass up.
“Jim and I always went down to Mexico to see Zach and his family, and we just decided we’d move down there to see what it was like,” she said. “If we don’t like it down there, we can always come home.
“But my days of keeping the scorebook are over. I got some flowers and well wishes from a lot of people this season and I can’t tell you what that meant to me. I’ve had a great time and have a lot of great memories I will never forget.”
The only drawback to being the official scorekeeper was obvious for a mom of four players.
“I couldn’t cheer for my kids or our players,” she added. “The hardest thing is being impartial and not yelling from the table. I might have kicked the table a few times, but you will not hear us yell for any team.
“We (longtime clock operator Jill Hatcher) pride ourselves on being very impartial.”