WEST ISHPEMING, Mich. (WJMN) – Going from the hardwood to the Head Coach, Westwood’s Luke Gray is no stranger to the program.

“When I had the chance to apply for this job it was almost a dream come through and to come back here and try to try to build this program back up because there’s a rich history of basketball at Westwood,” Luke Gray, Head Coach of Westwood Basketball said.

Gray was one of the senior leaders when the 2015/2016 Patriots team made a Cinderella run in the MHSAA Class C Tournament. A full-circle moment for him and his players.

“When I was a player, this senior class now were all sixth graders and they were there at a regional final game sitting courtside and wanting pictures with the players then,” Gray said. “So it’s funny to see that transformation and just how basketball continues to grow in this community.”

Taking over for legendary Coach Scott Syrjala, Gray says he’s learned how to build an all-around historic program from the best of the best.

“I’ve had a lot of good leaders, mold me in my life and I want to give credit to them,” Gray said. “Coach Syrjala, Coach Hewitt, Coach Irv Dieterle who was the one that built up this Westwood program a long time ago. He’s still around he stops in and it’s fun to talk to them and see what their opinion is. I’ve had great leaders and I feel like I want to be able to be one of those leaders for the younger generation, and that’s been my biggest goal and what motivates me to keep going. “

Even coaching the Bench, Gray’s goals still remained the same since he suited up in the red, white, and blue. After his time on the hardwood, Gray served as an Assistant Coach for five years before taking the head spot in 2021.

“We haven’t won a conference in I think it’s 18 years now and very few districts in there too and to be able to pull up to win a district at a regional as a player and come back as an assistant coach and get another district and now this year where the goal is we’re trying to compete in every game and see if we can have a chance to position ourselves to possibly win a conference because the last year that we won one that was when these kids were born who’s the year they are born, so it’s special for them.”

Coach Gray says being a young coach comes with some benefits, but also new experiences.

“Being a young coach and having the coach in the conference against Dan Waterman and Bucky Johnson and those guys who have been doing it for a really long time and they’ve coached some really great players and had some really good teams,” Gray said. “I see a lot of things for the first time but I’m hungry as a young coach to try to get better and figure those things out. So it’s good.”

Currently sitting at 6-1 on the season, the Patriots are off to a hot start and are looking to keep that momentum going.

“The biggest thing is that they’re hungry and they want to get better,” Gray said. “I think as the season goes on, we’re going to continue to get better and hopefully be able to develop some new things but at the same time it’s it’s we want to make the community proud.”