Coach back for 20th season

By Kevin Eckleberry

July 21, 2014

He’s as fired up as he’s ever been.

As Mike Pauley prepares for his 20th season as the LaGrange High head boys’ basketball coach, he’s as eager to get into the gym as he was on his first day on the job.

“I’m probably as energized about what we do now, as much as I have ever been,” Pauley said on Monday at the close of the first day of the Blue Star Basketball Camp, which he has overseen for the past 20 years. “I think the kids have made it that way.”

Pauley, a 1984 graduate of LaGrange High, became the head coach of his alma mater in 1995 after serving as an assistant coach for a few years, and he has remained in that position ever since.

Pauley also had a stretch where he was the head coach of the girls’ team before handing that position over to Jan Jones, who has been the girls’ coach for the past several years.

Pauley, a graduate of Auburn University, said the young people he’s been able to coach over the years have helped keep the job fun.

One of those young people was his son Jake, who played on the 2009-2010 team that finished second in the state.

“We’ve had some really cool kids over the years,” Pauley said. “And we have some good kids now.”

Pauley’s teams have had a lot of success over the years.

His finest team was the 2009-2010 squad that lost one game all season, and that came in the state-championship game against a powerful Columbia squad.

A handful of other teams have made deep runs in the state tournament, and two years ago, the Grangers won a region championship and made it to the second round at state.

Next season’s team appears poised to continue that success.

All of the key players from last season’s team are back, and the Grangers have been a dominant team during their summer schedule.

The Grangers finished with a mediocre 13-14 record last season, but they played in arguably the most difficult region in the state while also playing a challenging non-region schedule, and they were in nearly every game they played.

“We think this team has a chance, if they just finish off a few things, to really compete,” Pauley said.

Pauley, meanwhile, is eager to begin his 20th season at the helm.

He said he received his education specialist degree a few years back, and that served as a great motivator as a teacher and a coach.

“(Assistant coach Mark Veal) and I, and a couple of guys did that. That really got me going,” Pauley said. “My zest for teaching is great.”

Pauley also still enjoys getting out each summer and leading the Blue Star camp, something he has been doing for a couple of decades now.

“I’ve been running the camp since 1992, 1993,” Pauley said. “I love it. It’s a lot of fun.”