Suffolk native named one of Carolina’s top sports

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 9, 2005

Mike Gainey didn’t get into coaching to win awards. It just sort of happened.

&uot;It was a shock and a surprise,&uot; said the Suffolk native and athletic director of Rocky Mount High School in Rocky Mount, NC, who recently received the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s annual Homer Thompson Memorial Eight Who Make A Difference award. &uot;You’re not in it to gain awards or anything like that. I just love working with kids, and I don’t think about stuff like that.&uot;

He thought a great deal about sports during his time in Suffolk. At John Yeates High School in the early 80s, Gainey helped the school to a Peanut District football title, played basketball and ran track.

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He started college at Ferrum, then moved to East Carolina University, from which he graduated with a degree in communications in 1988. Then he went into teaching and coaching, instructing at Edwards Middle School and helping out the Rocky Mount defensive backs.

&uot;It was a lot like being home,&uot; said Gainey, who got his start coaching in the Suffolk Parks and Recreation basketball league during his high school years.

He moved to Rocky Mount full time in 1997 and took over the basketball team. In 1999, the athletic director left, and Gainey put his hat in the ring. He was hired.

&uot;Everything’s been going since then,&uot; he said. &uot;I just had an ability to be around the kids and try to help with schedules, promote certain things and meet different people in the whole society. It’s been a joy to do. As a basketball coach, you coach your particular sport, and you don’t get to go out and mingle with all the kids. Here, you get to meet them all. I don’t even know how to play all the games, but it’s very interesting to go out and be around the kids.&uot;

In late April, Gainey got a letter in the mail. Unbeknownst to him, school principal Judy Bradshaw had nominated him for the award, and he’d won. It’s given to eight people from across the state who have made a difference in high school sports and the lives of the athletes. On Thursday, Gainey headed to Charlotte to receive the honor.

&uot;It’s nice to have someone pat you on the back and say that you’re doing a good job,&uot; said Gainey a father of two and husband to girls basketball coach Pam, &uot;but it was a big surprise. I want kids to have the same opportunities I did. What I try to get across to athletes is that even if they don’t play sports in college, it’s still important to have the college experience.&uot;