LA Tech track and field coach Gary Stanley announces retirement
RUSTON — After four decades as a member of the Louisiana Tech Track and Field program, including the last 34 as the head coach, Gary Stanley announced he will be retiring at the end of June.
A legendary coach who has garnered 21 coach of the year honors and led Louisiana Tech to 19 conference championships, Stanley will finish out the 2022 indoor and outdoor seasons before hanging up the coaching spikes.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege, and I’m glad I stayed,” said Stanley. “I had a lot of opportunities to leave Tech. I am really glad I stayed. I owe a lot of success to a lot of folks. Nineteen conference championships. Twenty-one coach of the year honors … that’s all great.
“There are two people who had a lot to do with that. Larry Carmichael was my assistant coach for 21 years. Shawn Jackson was my assistant coach for 17 years. They had a lot to do with what we accomplished here. Those guys were critical.”
Plans are being finalized for honoring Stanley during the Jim Mize Invitational March 19 in Ruston. More details will be publicized in the coming weeks.
Although he has only been associated with Stanley for the past year, Tech Director of Athletics Eric Wood understands the impact he has had on the University and the programs for the past 40 years.
“Forty years is a long time and you don’t remain at one place for four decades without having a positive impact on a lot of young people’s lives,” said Wood. “Gary Stanley’s name will always be synonymous with Louisiana Tech Track and Field. Jim Mize. Jerry Dyes. Gary Stanley. The Mount Rushmore of LA Tech Track and Field coaching.”
Stanley came to Tech after an impressive cross country career at Southeastern Louisiana where he helped lead the program to its only conference championship in school history.
A 1977 graduate of Southeastern Louisiana and a 1985 graduate of Louisiana Tech, Stanley’s own running career included a district title in the mile and winning the New Orleans Cross Country championship while at East Jefferson High School. After one year at Pensacola Junior College, he lettered three years in Hammond.
Other honors include the 1970 New Orleans cross country city champion, 1972 Southern AAU three-mile champion, 1973 Southern AAU one-mile champion, 1975 U.S. Track and Field Federation all-regional cross country and the 1976 LSU Invitational three-mile champion.
“Coach Stanley has been a tremendous leader for the Louisiana Tech track and field programs for the past 34 years, and I am grateful for his dedication to building a championship culture of excellence,” said Associate Head Coach Nadia Alexander-Pompey. “Coach Stanley has had a positive impact on countless student-athletes during his coaching career, both on the track and in preparing champions for life.
“He was my head coach when I attended Tech, and we have stayed in contact as I progressed through my coaching career. I am beyond honored that he brought me back to my alma mater to serve in my current role. He led his program in a first-class manner, never compromised, and humbly shared his faith with everyone who touched his program.”
Stanley remembers vividly arriving in Ruston in 1982.
“I came up here with my pickup truck and a couple of things in the back,” said Stanley. “Living in the (Thomas) Assembly Center at one point as a graduate assistant. I didn’t have anything. I didn’t think I would get the head job. I couldn’t imagine following Jerry Dyes. I cried when he left … hard. I never thought I would be here for 40 years. When you are young you make 5-to-10-year plans. It’s hard to encapsulate 40 years. It’s been an honor and a privilege and I am going to miss it.”
After serving two years as a graduate assistant, he was promoted to full-time assistant coach by Dyes in 1984 and given the reigns of the cross country program. Two years later he led the Bulldogs to the Southland Conference cross country title.
“I’ve had the opportunity to train and compete under Coach Stanley for six years,” said Tech graduate and track and field alum Conner Killian. “I’ve had every opportunity to leave the sport and university after my fourth and fifth years, but kept coming back without any regrets. A big reason why is because of Coach Stanley.
“His passion for the sport and his athletes’ success is unmatched. There’s probably times he wanted us to PR more than we wanted it ourselves. There’s no one else I would have wanted as a coach and will miss seeing him on the track. Coach Stanley is so much more than a coach; he’s family.”
After serving two years as a GA and four years as a full-time assistant, Stanley was promoted to head coach in 1988 and slowly built Tech into a state, conference and regional power during many of his years.
He has coached almost 50 All-Americans in his tenure. Tech’s most dominate stretch under Stanley came in a seven-year stretch where the Lady Techsters Indoor and Outdoor teams claimed 13 out of 14 Western Athletic Conference titles.
“Words can’t express what Gary has meant to me, as a coach, a mentor and friend,” said Jackson, who now coaches at TCU. “From the days of knocking on my dorm room door telling me, ‘I will put your butt back on the Greyhound to Buffalo if you don’t get your stuff together in school’ to strolling into the Thomas Assembly Center with that classic Stanley walk telling me that I was going to be the next assistant coach … and me saying ‘But I’m not ready.’ And him replying, ‘Better get ready because my mind is made up.’
“The support and friendship he showed my family and me will never be forgotten. I can never thank him enough for the opportunity, but more importantly for believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.”
Stanley leaves Tech boasting the longest tenure as a head track and field coach in collegiate history in the state of Louisiana. He also owns the longest tenure of any head coach in any sport in Louisiana Tech history.
“I am very fortunate,” said John Ratcliff, school record holder in the 10,000 meters who ran for Stanley in the 1980s. “I was one of the first athletes coached by Gary Stanley. He took a transplanted kid from Virginia placed in Louisiana and coached me to run fast. Faster than I thought I could go and for that I am grateful.
“However, I’m more grateful for the character that he instilled in me and my fellow student athletes he coached over the years. Records come and go. Life lessons stay. Coached Stanley has been a positive force in more lives than he will ever know.”
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