By Chris Trujillo For the Weekly Herald
EDMONDS — After posting one of his best seasons last year, North Seattle Community College men’s basketball coach Kyle Gray found himself without a team.
Budget cuts forced the Seattle Community Colleges system to eliminate the North Seattle basketball program. But fortunately for Gray, Edmonds Community College had a team but no coach.
The Tritons released third-year coach Sean Higgins following a dismal 2011-12 season, which saw the Tritons finish near the bottom of the division with a 3-13 league record and 3-21 overall. During Higgins’ tenure, the Tritons finished 13-35 in league play and 18-53 overall.
“We made a decision to change coaches after last season,” Edmonds CC Athletic Director Clay Blackwood said. “His (Higgins) program just wasn’t going in the direction that we thought it should’ve been going, so we decided to make some changes. We were very lucky that Kyle became available.”
Blackwood, who received nearly 40 resumes from coaches across the nation, posted the job on March 12 and Gray accepted the position in early April. But in the end, the decision to hire Gray turned out to be a no-brainer.
“We had a wide range of resumes, all with excellent candidates,” Blackwood said. “But the fact that Kyle had so much experience with NWAACC (Northwest Athletic Association of Community of Colleges), that really played a big part in my eyes. After we reduced the list to three, we just knew Kyle was the best fit for our program. We received so much praise about him during the hiring process, so that made the decision less difficult to make. Everyone I talked to just kept telling me what a great hire he was. So we are thrilled to have Kyle and we believe he will re-energize our program, which has definitely seen better days.”
The Tritons have struggled mightily over the last six seasons. They’ve won just 40 of 144 games during that span and finished in the bottom of the league four times. Over the last two seasons, the Tritons won just six of 26 league games and eight of 40 games overall. Also in that time period, the Tritons have never had a winning season. Their best finish came during the 2007-08 season when they finished 8-8, 11-15.
“They brought me in to change the atmosphere around here,” Gray said. “And that’s what we, as a coaching staff, are going to do. And our expectations are high – not for the future, but for now, for this season. Our goal is not to just compete, but to make the playoffs, and I know we have the talent.”
As for Gray, who graduated from the University of Washington in 2005 and received his master’s degree in physical education from Seattle Pacific University in 2010, he took the North Seattle Storm to within one game of the playoffs in a tough North division last season. The team finished 9-7 and 14-12. Other than a disastrous 2007-08 season where the Storm lost every league game and finished 3-24 overall, Gray has kept the Storm competitive and in the playoff picture for four of the last eight seasons.
Despite the change in scenery, which is nearly unnoticeable, Gray shouldn’t miss a beat come November when the team begins the 2012-13 season. He brought his coaching staff from North Seattle and five players, two of whom were starters last year for the Storm.
“We are bringing together a couple of different groups,” Gray said. “And that was the first thing we addressed when we got here. We have our guys from last year and the guys who played here at Edmonds. So far I have been so impressed with the way they’ve come together. We’re very excited to get this season started.”
Gray was born in Seattle and graduated from Ballard High School in 1997 where he played both basketball and baseball. His first shot at coaching came as an assistant at Ballard High for three seasons. The North Seattle gig was Gray’s first head coaching job. Gray is the PE teacher at Viewlands Elementary School in Seattle.