In one word Brent Gaylor summed up his reason for taking the job as Lipan Indians basketball coach.
“Growing up in Graham, I played Lipan. I know the rich tradition they have here,” said Gaylor, who settled into the area with his family recently and was in town to coach his first youth camp in Lipan.
“As a coach, that’s what you want to be around. I’ve got three kids of my own, and that’s what I want them to be around.”
Gaylor, 35, is no stranger to winning. In high school he played for his father, Lonnie Gaylor, who coached at Graham 17 seasons.
As a junior he led his dad’s team to the Class 3A state finals.
“I’ve known since junior high I wanted to be a coach,” said Gaylor. “It’s the family business. My mom’s a teacher, and my dad’s a coach. It’s all I’ve been around.
“I loved every bit of playing for my dad, but it wasn’t easy. It took me awhile to realize he was holding me to a higher standard.”
And today Gaylor still coaches to that higher standard. After two seasons as an assistant at Cedar Hill, he spent the next nine at Class 2A Childress before coming to Lipan, compiling a 219-85 record.
Gaylor has never had a losing record as a head coach, with his squad going 28-5, winning district, and reaching the second round of the playoffs last season.
In 2011-12 his Childress team set a school record by going 31-5 and reaching the regional semifinals. They broke the previous record of 30-6 set the season before when they reached the third round.
Twice in the past three seasons Childress won its district, no small feat considering the district counterparts. In fact, just reaching the postseason out of that league was quite an accomplishment.
“We’ve always been with Idalou and Bushland,” said Gaylor. “But if you did make the playoffs, you were ready.”
And they were ready.
Six times in nine seasons he led Childress to the playoffs, reaching the regional semifinals twice, the third round twice, and the second round twice.
Also, in one of his two seasons as an assistant coach at Cedar Hill, the Longhorns reached the 5A state championship game.
“I’m hoping the third time’s a charm,” Gaylor said with a grin.
Lipan has certainly enjoyed its share of success at the state level. The Indians last won state in 2005, the second in school history to go with their 1994 title. They’ve been to the big dance many times, the most recent being in 2009 under former coach Cody Chandler.
Chandler, who led the Indians to the 1994 title as a player, is now the head coach at Paradise.
The man who coached Lipan to its two state championships, Tommy Bleeker, is still around and is a big supporter of the program. He’s also a friend of Gaylor’s.
“I’ve known Tommy since I was a kid. He and my dad have known each other forever,” said Gaylor.
“I remember seeing him at the state tournament in his boots and blue jeans.”
In fact, Gaylor said the memory of Bleeker prompted him to wear boots to his job interview, prompting his wife to say, “You’ll fit right in with these on.”
And indeed he does.
Gaylor sees Lipan as a good choice for more reasons than basketball. He likes the tightness of the small community, and he likes being a lot closer to a couple of his favorite things.
“It’s an hour and a half from every Mavericks game and an hour from every Rangers game I want to take my son to,” he said.
Gaylor and his wife Wendy have three children, 4-year-old Sydni, 5-year-old Court and 7-year-old Hannah.
Wendy will coach golf at Lipan. Brent will also be the head tennis coach and assist in cross country and track.
Having two daughters, Gaylor said the combined success of both the boys and girls teams at Lipan was also attractive.
“That was a big draw. There’s few programs like that where the boys and girls are both successful on such a large scale,” he said. “And I really like Amber (Branson). She’s a terrific coach.”
He’s also looking forward to having his entire team show up for the first practice for a change. Often at Childress several of his players were still in football when basketball season started.
“When I took the job at Childress, it was straight football,” he said. “I started Little Dribblers, and for a bunch of those kids the first time they played basketball was in the seventh grade.”
Gaylor changed that culture.
“I would always go up there when they’d practice and show them what we would do in high school, and by the time they got to high school it was second nature to them,” he said.
“Getting them into the gym, getting them playing, that’s the key. That’s been the way they do things here for a long time.”