The St. Louis community lost an iconic figure last weekend when Rich Gray passed away last Friday at the age of 65.
Rich was a tour de force in every aspect of St. Louis, pla PUBLIC SAFETY in and simple. He was a tremendous basketball coach, a fantastic businessman, a civic leader, a military veteran, a media trendsetter and so much more. Rich Gray had the golden touch with everything he involved himself in because of his vision, leadership and ability to handle people of all ages and from all walks of life. Rich changed the game in St. Louis on so many levels.
Rich Gray’s accomplishments are way too many to list here in just one column, so I’ll just hit you with a few highlights from the sports perspective.
*He is well known as the founder of the St. Louis Eagles Basketball Club, which is one of the top grassroots basketball organizations in the country. As a coach, he guided the Eagles to multiple national championships while helping legions of young men and women earn collegiate scholarships.
*He represented his country as a coach for USA Basketball in helping a couple of youth teams win gold medals in international competition.
*He is the father of all-sports talk radio when he started KASP in the early 1990’s.
*He was the president of the St. Louis Gateway Sports Foundation, an organization what was founded by his late father, Earl Wilson Jr.
On a personal note, this man meant everything to me as a teacher, mentor and big brother figure in my professional life. Rich Gray is the one man who is largely responsible for my career in radio. When I first met him nearly 30 years ago, I was a young sports writer who was following Rich, who was than an assistant coach at Cardinal Ritter College Prep as well as the coach of this fledging AAU program called the St. Louis Eagles.
Rich was the sales director at KMOX radio at the time and he took a liking to my work as a sportswriter, so he tried to get me to come over and do the weekend high school report on KMOX’s “Sports on a Sunday Morning.”
Things didn’t work out on that end as KMOX went in another direction, but Rich told me not to worry about a thing. Soon after, he left KMOX to take over the leadership at KGLD-1380, but his vision was always to start the all-sports talk format in St. Louis. A short time later, KASP was born and all-sports talk was “on and poppin’” in the St. Louis area.
Rich started me off with a high school sports segment on its morning drive talk show that was hosted by my friends Mike Claiborne and Bob Ramsey. Soon, he had me hosting my own high school show on Saturday mornings and a weekly two-hour basketball show. He also put me on the post-game show for the Saint Louis University men’s basketball games, which were on KASP at the time. That led to my career as the Billikens’ radio color analyst, in which I have just completed by 28th season.
The funny thing about all this was that I never saw myself as a radio or television guy. I fancied myself as a writer and not much else. Rich saw something different in me that I didn’t see in myself. He had so much confidence in me that I couldn’t do anything but succeed. I didn’t want to disappoint him.
That was the true gift of Rich Gray as a man and as a visionary. He was so special because he had that magic touch with people. It didn’t matter if it was a group of high school All-American basketball players, a group of seasoned media professionals or a bunch of grade school girls’ basketball players. Everyone responded to his positive and confident form of leadership.
We all love you and will miss you Rich Gray. You will never be forgotten.