At the time, Hilma Crawford wasn’t sure some of the last words from a former coach would ring true.
But Gary Saunders, who passed away in 2017 from pancreatic cancer, had an influence on Crawford, the 1985 Blanchester High School graduate returning to the varsity coaching ranks.
Crawford is the new girls varsity basketball coach at Clinton-Massie. He has coached youth and high school football for a number of years as well as track/field and boys and girls basketball at various levels. He began his coaching career in 1985 and has coached 31 teams the past 31 years.
Saunders, who coached Crawford in football and baseball at BHS, was dealing with cancer when Crawford visited. They talked several times after that and Saunders told Crawford if he had the itch to coach again at the high school level, don’t pass it up.
“Gary was always my mentor,” Crawford said. “Kids always responded to him but kids knew when it was time to get busy.”
A self-proclaimed coaching hoarder, Crawford has notes dating back to 1986 when he started scouting for BHS coaches Darrell Hollingsworth and Phil Blankenship.
“I learned so much from them,” he said. “I keep things. I’m always trying to learn.”
Crawford coached the current CMHS seniors when they were eighth graders, so he is familiar with the personnel. Last year, Massie had so few girls there was only a varsity team.
On the first night of open gym during the Crawford era, 18 players attended.
“That felt good and there were six others who said they wanted to be there but couldn’t,” said Crawford.
Crawford said he has Mary Moyer and Jason Phipps as assistant coaches. He said his staff is second to none.
“We’re going to be tough on them but we’re going to have fun,” said Crawford. “I think I can add something to it. I have a staff that’s committed and players that are committed.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @wnjsports