Particularly in small towns like Cadiz, that’s a fairly common story. I, however, can’t imagine anyone using the word “common” to describe Mike Wright.
Coach Wright grew up in Cadiz, graduated Trigg County High School in the 1970s, went on to Western Kentucky University and made his way home as a teacher and coach. At the end of this school year, he’ll leave his middle school classroom for the last time. He’s already wrapped up his nearly-three-decade career leading Trigg’s cross country program and prowling the basketball sidelines.
While he intends to continue writing his Cadiz Record column and I’m sure will continue to regail us with memories of games, players and coaches past, I’m going to use this space to bring you the memories others hold of Coach Wright.
And in fashion with his style of extending deserving stories across multiple columns, I expect this one to take me more than one week.
On Monday, I got in touch with a few folks who shared some of their memories of playing for and coaching with Wright.
Christy (Samsil) Oliver
Christy is a 1992 TCHS grad and was a key member of the Lady Wildcats’ 5th District Championship in 1990.
“One thing that sticks out in my mind now is that he was passionate and made us buy into what he believed,” Oliver said. “No matter what our differences were, when that whistle blew in a practice or a game, we were a team, we were a unit. That’s something I don’t see a lot of now from top to bottom. Players, coaches, parents – it was a full buy-in. The talent was there, but he showed us how to get there.”
For at least one season, buying in meant comprising the majority of Wright’s cross country team.
“Imagine girls at 5-foot-11, some of us on the plus side, being his cross country team,” Oliver said. “That’s pre-planning, because that was probably my eighth grade year. He could see what was there and that he had to maybe reshape it.”
Oliver said Wright’s expectations for his players sometimes went as high as “the 150 percent level, but never lower than 100 percent.”
And, Oliver said, Wright personified that same level of effort, even when his wardrobe wasn’t prepared for it.
“He was mad about a bad foul call, and he was jumping up and down, and his pants split wide open,” Oliver said. “He coached the rest of the game with a sweatshirt tied around his waist.”
Cummins, a former TCHS principal and teacher, was a girls basketball assistant under Wright in 1985 and considers him among his best long-time friends.
“Enthusiasm is a word that doesn’t come close to describing what Mike coached with,” Cummins said. “We had a great time together, and I think that’s part of why we’re such good friends today.”
Cummins said only a few could approach Wright’s attention to detail and focus in practice to give his team a better chance to win. Off the court, though, was sometimes a different story.
“Our first game that season was at Bowling Green,” Cummins said. “I was at home getting ready, and he came in and said, ‘Coach, you ever drove a bus before?’ I had just started teaching. The bus they had for us was a straight-shift, and he couldn’t drive it. He tossed the keys to me and said, ‘I guess you’ll have to drive.’”
Cummins said Wright also has a knack for inspiring others to take part in things they might not otherwise do.
“When you’re around Coach Wright, you’ve got to be involved in things he likes to do, but he makes it easy because he’s so enthusiastic about everything he does,” Cummins said.
More to come. I encourage others from Wright’s past to contact me with your stories.
Justin McGill is general manager of The Cadiz Record and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.