June 14, 2014

Coahulla Creek assistant takes top job with Murray County girls basketball

Dawn McClary’s basketball career, both playing and coaching, has taken quite a few twists and turns.

The latest one has her in Chatsworth, where she’ll return to the head coaching ranks by leading Murray County High School’s girls program.

McClary became the Lady Indians’ new coach Monday after the Murray County School Board approved her hiring as a full-time teacher earlier this week. She replaces Michael Hill, who resigned at the end of the school year and will teach next year at Gordon Central, where he’ll also be an assistant coach for football.

Hill led the program the past four seasons, guiding the team to a 30-76 record during that time. His best single-season mark was 9-18, which he recorded each of his final two years.

After spending the past two years as an assistant to Coahulla Creek girls basketball head coach Ryan Long — and this spring as the Lady Colts’ head soccer coach — McClary decided it was time once again to run her own basketball program.

“What I’ve learned from being an assistant is I was a better coach,” said McClary, who will work in the exceptional student services, science and physical education departments at Murray County. “I always knew the game and played hard. To sit back and help a younger coach like Ryan learn the Xs and Os, I knew that was my strength. The more I was around it and around the girls again, I felt like I should try one more time.”

Aside from 22 years of coaching experience — in basketball, cross country, soccer and volleyball — McClary was an accomplished player.

She graduated from Tennessee’s Polk County High in 1981, the year the Wild Kittens won the Class A state championship and she was named the classification’s MVP. She signed a scholarship with the University of Alabama at Huntsville, a National Association of Independent Athletics program, and was on the 1983 NAIA national runner-up team. That same year, she also was on the NAIA All-American Team’s second squad.

After two seasons in Huntsville, McClary took a break from basketball when she got married and started a family. In 1987, she returned to the court after signing with Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., and helped the Lady Flames finish second in the National Christian College Athletic Association 1990 national tournament. She spent one season as a graduate assistant at Lee after her playing career ended.

“I thought she was a great fit for our girls and our program,” said Greg Linder, Murray County’s athletic director and boys basketball coach. “She has been successful not only as a player but also a coach. When we interviewed her, she really seemed to have an enthusiasm about coaching our girls. You could tell she was ready to get back into coaching.”

McClary became the University School of Nashville (Tenn.) head coach in 2005. She stayed at the school through 2008, when she married a grain farmer, Jim McClary, and began learning the farming business.

Still, she couldn’t get rid of her coaching past.

“The more I’ve been with it at Coahulla Creek and Ridgeland, the more I knew it was my love,” said McClary, who was an assistant for Ridgeland’s girls basketball program the two years before she moved to Coahulla Creek. “When (the Murray County job) became open, I felt I needed to get back.”

Linder said there were around a dozen applicants for the position. He and Murray County Principal Gina Linder — his wife — conducted the interviews.

After accepting the position, McClary met with the returning Lady Indians on Thursday.

“I am extremely excited. It’s like I’ve been building up for this,” she said. “They seem to be such a great group of girls, and I think it’s a perfect fit.”

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