Truth be told, Gary Cook never has and never will seek the limelight.
However, after being named by the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association as the inaugural winner of the Point Guard College Transformational Coach Award, the limelight found him.
Cook, synonymous with North Decatur High School since becoming the head boys’ basketball coach for the 1987-88 season, was nominated for the award by current Chargers head coach, Kyle Nobbe.
“(Coach) has had a major impact on the lives of many of his former players,” Nobbe said of his mentor. “His impact is easily seen as many former players have returned in support of the Chargers via coaching or as consistent fans.”
The award, the brainchild of former Forest Park and Shelbyville coach, Tom Beach, is the first honoring coaches that have been in, out and back into coaching on separate occasions. Cook already had been recognized by the IBCA with an Administrative Award.
“I feel very flattered that Kyle did this,” Cook said. “It’s funny, because (Kyle) asked me a few questions during the basketball season, then I totally forgot about it. I’m flattered by this, at the same time knowing there have been many people that have contributed to what we have done here over the years.”
A Rushville native, Cook started his coaching career at Danville High School, and after three years at Eastern Greene – the last of which spawned a 16-6 record and a conference championship – returned “home.”
His first team at North Decatur finished 14-9 and won the Greensburg Sectional. Cook later coached in two additional sectional championship games, the last coming in 2000 when Batesville edged the Chargers 41-40 for the title. He retired from coaching after the 2002-03 season.
Cook had donned several hats during a career in Decatur County that has spanned four decades. The last three years Cook was the varsity head coach, he also served as assistant principal and athletic director. He then became principal, a position he retired from at end of the 2014-15 school year.
However, he was lured back into the athletic arena the following fall, and has not only served as athletic director but as the seventh grade boys’ basketball coach.
“Like everything else, things have just seemed to fall in place for me,” said Cook, who with wife Debbie has three children (Bryce, Melanie (Jason) Spears and Katy (Mike) Ogden. “I have been blessed with having a very forgiving family, and I owe a great deal to the people in this community.”
In returning to the sidelines as seventh grade coach, Cook can complete a trifecta of sorts. He coached his son, Bryce, and his son-in-law, Jason Spears. If Cook continues in his coaching role next season, he will have the opportunity to coach his grandson, Blake (Spears).
Nobbe says his friend is doing just what comes naturally.
“As we all know in our community, these individuals had the honor to learn from Cook,” Nobbe said.
In his numerous speeches to outgoing senior classes, Cook typically concluded his remarks by reminding students to “never let anyone outwork you.”
Cook has followed that directive to the letter.
“It’s just part of my DNA,” Cook said of his years of service. “Really, the things I have done are just things that I would do on a daily basis.
“It comes naturally for me because that’s the way I was taught by my parents.”
That is precisely why Nobbe nominated Cook for the award.
“His dedication is second to none,” Nobbe said. “His support – on and off the court, throughout the hallways and community – have made him a fixture of leadership and integrity.”