Clark County hoops patriarch has seen and done it all in the sport

Published 1:30 pm Wednesday, February 8, 2023

At a Tuesday night basketball game in GRC Arena, one gentleman could be seen talking to a member of George Rogers Clark’s boys’ basketball team in the stands, but he was there to watch his granddaughter play for the Lady Cards – one of many basketball players he has watched through the years.

Larry Gay, the grandfather of senior girls basketball player Trinity Gay, has been connected to George Rogers Clark basketball for over half a century.

“We were regional champions [in] 1968 and 1969,” he said. “We lost in the quarterfinals to Breathitt County my junior year, and we lost to Maytown my senior year in the quarterfinals.”

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After graduating, Gay’s basketball playing days were far from over.

The 6’6” forward made his way to Florida State University where – in 1972 – he played on a team that finished as national runner-up against an undefeated UCLA basketball team.

Fifty years later, the 1972 Seminoles remain the team that has gone farthest in school history, defeating the Eastern Kentucky Colonels, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Kentucky Wildcats, and North Carolina Tar Heels.

Interestingly enough, Eastern Kentucky’s Head Coach at the time was Guy Strong.

Strong would later have an illustrious coaching career at George Rogers Clark High School, while Gay’s high school teammate – Bobby Newell – was also a team member.

“It was probably the toughest game we played up until the Final Four game,” Gay said. “I’ve spent a lot of time with Guy. Eastern was one of the final schools on my recruiting list.”

Gay’s career after playing started back in Tallahassee as an assistant coach for Florida State.

After being on the sideline of the Seminoles from 1974-1978, Gay moved to the University of Georgia for 11 seasons from 1978 until 1989.

Like his playing days, Gay spent those years working with head coach Hugh Durham.

Gay, who at one point was named one of the top ten recruiters nationally by Sports Illustrated, worked with players at the University of Georgia that included Vern Fleming and Basketball Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins.

The 1983 Bulldog team reached the Final Four – still the best finish in school history – and beat Michael Jordan’s North Carolina Tar Heels.

Gay would later work at the University of Louisville for seven years under two-time NCAA Championship-winning head coach Denny Crum, and also had stints at the University of Nebraska and the University of Colorado.

However, he is far from the only family member representing Winchester in basketball.

His son, Dwaine Gay, played at LaGrange College in Georgia and later at in-state Union College at Barboursville.

Afterward, Dwaine Gay got into coaching, which he’s been doing for approximately 30 years.

Most recently, he helped lead the Robert D. Campbell Junior High School boys’ basketball team to a 27-1 record and finish as both Bluegrass Conference Southern Division Champions and Bluegrass Conference Tournament Champions.

“I’m really proud,” Gay said. “He does a really good job. He’s a people person and cares about kids.”

Gay has also watched as his granddaughter Trinity Gay – in the starting lineup for the Lady Cards – was recently recognized during Senior Night at George Rogers Clark High School.

“She’s really worked hard to become the player she is, a really good shooter who works hard,” Gay said. “I’m proud of her as a player, but I’m still granddad.”

His grandson, eighth-grader Montez Gay, will also look to add to the family history in Winchester.

For Gay, who, like anyone, has seen his ups and downs as a coach, seeing himself back in Winchester might not have always seemed likely.

However, despite multiple travels, the thought was always close.

“My heart’s at GRC,” he said. “I tell people all the time that if I can turn the clock back in my life, I’d go back to my senior year at GRC. The times were really good. We had a really good team, [and] a lot of fun…I’ve always tried to stay in contact with people in Winchester.”