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May 10, 2022

Marquise Gray: MSU Basketball Great & Flint Beecher Coach

Marquise Gray: MSU Basketball Great & Flint Beecher Coach

Marquise Gray, a former Michigan State Spartan great and basketball coach at Flint Beecher. Gray talks about Flint's basketball culture and his road to success.


Marquise Gray, the former Michigan State Spartan, is now the head basketball coach at Flint Beecher High School. Marquise Gray has excelled at every level of his sport, including coaching and professional basketball. Gray played at Michigan State from 2005-to 09.

Marquise Gray has blazed a remarkable trail in basketball. He is currently Acting as Athletic Director, head basketball coach, and teacher for the Beecher Community Schools. His Flintstone values of grit, hard work, and excellence set him apart. Marquise Gray learned his values from his dad, great coaches, and the parents in his childhood neighborhood in Beecher.

Marquise Gray represents that part of Flint's athletic legacy that makes the area unique. In returning to Beecher High School, Marquise wanted to pay back his community for all it had given him. Gray grew up in the Flint area, learning the game from college and professional basketball players in pick-up games. He is deeply committed to the Beecher Community near Flint.  

During his time at Beecher, Marquis has been part of winning four Michigan high school basketball titles, three of them in a row!

Gray played at Michigan State from 2005-09, reaching the NCAA national championship game as a senior against North Carolina. He played for Hall of Fame Basketball coach Tom Izzo.

Marquise has a spectacular high school career at Beecher High School, playing for a state championship. In high school, he earned All-State honors and was part of the Detroit Free Press Dream Team. His basketball career continued after graduating with a degree in social work at Michigan State University.  

Marquise signed as a free agent with the Detroit Pistons, then played for seven years internationally in Isreal, Japan, Turkey, Mexico, and Poland. Basketball took him around the world.

Upon his retirement from professional basketball, he decided that he wanted to work in a job that helped young people. He held a position with the Boys and Girls Club in Flint. Then he became involved in coaching and teaching at Beecher High School.  

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Transcript

Transcript of Interview with Marquise Gray, Head Coach, Flint Beecher High School

April 22, 2022

This transcript is generated using speech recognition software and human transcribers. and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before using it as a reference or source.

00:00:10 Arthur A. Busch

Hello, this is Arthur Bush. You're listening to Radio Free Flint. Thanks for joining us.

My guest today is Marquise Gray, a former Michigan State University star and a professional basketball player. During his time at Michigan State, he followed in the footsteps of the Flintstones 2000. He has a string of successes in basketball, and now he is extending that success to working with kids in the Flint community.

During our interview, he mentions that he sees himself in each of these boys.

Marquise Gray is a winner in the game of basketball, and he is a winner in the game of life. I'm honored to have Marquise Gray as my guest.

I have with me today the pride of Flint and Beecher.

Marquise, welcome Marquise

00:00:59 Marquise Gray

How are you doing, man? Thanks for having me on.

00:01:01 Arthur A. Busch

I'm doing good. It's an honor to see you again. I haven't seen you in many years.

00:01:05 Marquise Gray

Many years, many years.

00:01:07 Arthur A. Busch

And we've both moved on to other things.

Tell us a little about what it was like to play for Tom Izzo at Michigan State University.

00:01:16 Marquise Gray

You know, I get that question a lot. The thing that comes to mind when acting, though, is when you learn how to be mentally tough, and not just in basketball, but a coach taught life lessons and still teaches life lessons.

He teaches how to fight through the adversity he teaches about.

So, the things that will happen after basketball and those lessons carry you throughout your life. So, I was lucky and fortunate to play for, you know, a Hall of Famer culture like that to still be able to eat from the seeds he planted as an 18-year-old kid, almost being 42. Being 40 now and being able to find strength and encouragement through those lessons, I learned, learned from.

00:01:59 Arthur A. Busch

You had a successful high school career at Beecher, and your high school career included some terrific honors. Uh, you were player of the year in class C. According to the AP, you were whatever the dream team was for the Detroit Free Press

I always wondered, don't they ever have a dream team basketball game where they pick all these people and say, hey, when you guys want to play down here in the gym?

00:02:28 Marquise Gray

No, they started it. Two or three years after I graduated. But during my era, they did not.

They did not do that then. You just got nominated on the team.

What's funny about my high school basketball career that many people don't realize is that I had two people see my size and stature now, and they just automatically assume I've always been like that.

I am the youngest of six boys, two of whom I grew up with. The older hop, but in the household. And so, I was a little man. I had to fight for everything that I got. And so, I carried that mentality onto the court.

00:03:01 Arthur A. Busch

You were scrappy.

00:03:03 Marquise Gray

Yep, Yep.

00:03:04 Arthur A. Busch

Now with Flint, Beecher, did you play for the legendary Moses Lacey?

00:03:10 Marquise Gray

I played for Moses Lacey and his brother Solomon Lacey with the coach. But Moses Lacey was at every practice we turned that were more inclined to listen to him than we were cooked. So, there are so many things I can say about Mr. Lacey.

One of the main things is just him embodying what a lot of us kids needed at that time, and some tough love and fathers did.

00:03:32 Arthur A. Busch

Now there is another guy at Beecher. I wondered if you could comment on him. Was Joe Franklin?

00:03:38 Marquise Gray

Joelle Franklin, wow.

00:03:40 Arthur A. Busch

There's a Beecher legend for you.

00:03:42 Marquise Gray

Our Beecher lessons are the Franklin family and the Franklin brothers, but coach Frank and I remember being the 7th grader and one of my very first introductions to him. He always used to carry around like before the Games. I used to see him give the players power brick powder. He would put it in their hands.

He also was a ref at that time when The Little League Program on Beecher was still going on. So here at one of my games, he also coached one of my older brothers, so we were in the game, and he is a referee, and he made a call I did not like. I did not yell or scream or do anything better. I pat him on his behind and said good call, and he gave me a technical foul, so that was my first introduction. The whole story.

00:04:27 Arthur A. Busch

Do not mess with it. Do not mess with the referee.

00:04:28 Marquise Gray

So yeah, yeah.

00:04:31 Arthur A. Busch

And he is a big, tall guy too.

00:04:33 Marquise Gray

Yep, he was man, you know, Moses Lacey, coach Franklin, the Franklin brothers. Another name, people forget Larry Foster. Those guys embodied what it meant to give back to the community. There would be Vera Rison and Joyce Jackson.

All those people made it possible for a kid like me without that Little League program out here in Beecher.

Many of us would have been doing who God knows, but every Saturday morning, from 9:00 AM to about 3:00 PM, the gym was filled with curiosity.

We had dreams and aspirations of being the next one to put on the Beecher jersey and make some noise. And so, you know, that's kind of why I do what I do because that is the cloth that I am that I'm cut from.

00:05:22 Arthur A. Busch

You probably didn't see this at your age, but you know Mr. Kirkland came whenever they came.

Grover Kirkland from Northwestern and some of the others. I'm trying to think of the guy's last name who was getting money for summer programs for the kids. Yeah, Earl Jordan, a legend, and Flint.

00:05:42 Marquise Gray

A legend.

00:05:44 Arthur A. Busch

I claimed that many boys would have never made it to big-time college basketball without his influence.

Not without the and just that, just to extend it.

00:05:54 Marquise Gray

You know, coached every player that ever done anything with basketball.

From that, maybe starting the ending of my era came through Coach Iman's FA program Flint Affiliation.

00:06:07 Arthur A. Busch

I was gonna ask you about that.

The AAU teams, Mr. Franklin, and others called Coach Kirkland, who I worked with for many years, trying to get him some money for his programs in the summer. Months well before all this. We had good players from Flint but grew big because we put money into it at the County Board of Commissioners. We would get money for these programs.

I am a basketball junkie, and I practiced law with Duncan Beetle for almost 11 years, so you know he is a basketball Junkie. I would not have been able to return to the office, so I did not vote for that money.

I represented a good part of Mt Morris Township, nearly the whole Township, I think back to those days, and I think of that investment, and I wonder why we do not keep that up.

MARQUISE AND HIS FAMILY

Let me ask you some other questions, your father, was he a basketball coach?

00:07:01 Marquise Gray

No, my father was not a basketball coach. My family is originally in Mississippi. I'm not Mississippi Memphis, Memphis, you know, down South Alabama. My father, my father worked. My work ethic came from my father. I saw him wake up early and come in late. I saw him do things he did not necessarily want to do, but I had a family to take care of, so you know he did what he had to do.

My father was the workhorse, tough, kindest, most intelligent man I ever met.

My father was named Joseph Washington Junior, but my dad. I mean, just the character I learned about hard work. I learned how to have good character, but then I also learned the definition of love, and my father would give you the shirt off his back.

I also learned from him, though, the value of taking care of yourself. My father probably died early because he did not care for himself or his health-wise. Doctors' visits, no exercise, not eating right, you know? So, I learned that too.

But no, my dad was a workhorse and did not play the radio. So, as I said, I am the youngest of 6 boys.

00:08:07 Arthur A. Busch

He did. He did not play the radio.

00:08:09 Marquise Gray

He didn't play. I am the youngest of six. That means that he did not play around. He didn't have any.

00:08:15 Arthur A. Busch

Oh, I see.

00:08:17 Marquise Gray

So, I'm the youngest of six. His first set of three boys, but by the time he got to me, he had no patience. He said something once if it was not done, then it was hell to pay the cap.

00:08:29 Arthur A. Busch

He had a lot. He had a lot of practice up to that point.

00:08:32 Marquise Gray

Yeah, yes, he did. So, I made sure that you know that that was the I always said. It is two people that I feared.

One was my father, and the other was the good Lord above.

00:08:42 Arthur A. Busch

Now, did any of your brothers play basketball?

00:08:45 Marquise Gray

Yep, the 4th one. Courtney Gray played at Beecher as well. He was on those 97-98, those teams, and then my other brother who played next to him.

He was on the state championship team or the state. The state runner-up team in the year 2000 with Brandon Stewart, Joe Brown, and David. My brother Kenan Gray. Those guys, so those two played before me here at Beecher.

All of us wanted the same number. Coming to Beecher and playing in the program then was like a rite of passage.  It was like a brotherhood, a secret society, a sacred brotherhood to play behind my brothers.

Kenan, who's next to me? He was a senior when I was a freshman. At that time, we had three programs. We had the freshman program, the JV program, and the Varsity program. Well, at the end of the year, they would bring the best freshman and JV players up to varsity. So I got to play with my brother in some tournament.

00:09:47 Arthur A. Busch

What does Beecher mean to you, Marquise Gray?

00:09:49 Marquise Gray

It means everything. Probably the reason why I do what I do and why I came back. I said this before. Other entities hold this community.

I was the kid that would run around the neighborhood, and everybody knew me, and everybody loved me, and I would be at your house by the time you got from work, and I'll be in your refrigerator and eating and sitting on your couch as if I lived there.

But the whole community accepted me at that time. It was kids being kids with no technology.

No Windows, Cell phone with no Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any of that stuff. It was kids outside playing. So, if we're at my house and you live across the street, you're at my house.

The same rules that you know I abide by, you abide by, and vice versa. And so, when it was dinner time at my house, you were at my house.

You ate if it was dinner time and I was at your house. I ate, and so it was a close-knit community.

You know it means everything to me because in each and every one of these kids, I see myself.

00:10:47 Arthur A. Busch

It still is a close-knit community.

00:10:48 Marquise Gray

Oh yes. Yes, it is, it's. In a very close-knit community, we make sure that we take care of ourselves.

00:10:55 Arthur A. Busch

And some great people have worked there, as you said. Larry Foster, Franklin, and many good coaches, including Mr. Lacey, one of my favorites. Anyway, he's right up there with Jack Pratt in my mind as one of the best coaches.

But let me go on from there.

You hung around Beecher for a long time but went to Michigan State. A wonderful place to go to college.

00:11:20 Marquise Gray

Yeah, it was. It won't.

00:11:22 Arthur A. Busch

I know that because that's also where I went. I taught there, actually, Marquise Gray,  from 1979 until 1982.

00:11:34 Marquise Gray

Oh wow.

Marquise Gray: Becoming a Michigan State University Spartan

00:11:35 Arthur A. Busch

In the School of Business. So you went off the Michigan State. Tom Izzo recruited you. I take it.

00:11:41 Marquise Gray

Yes, so the first. So let me put it in for backtrack and put it in perspective a little bit.

When I came on the scene in 2003, guys from here from Flint had just won the national championship, and the year before that, the four guys went to a final four.

Antonio Smith team cleaves those feeders, and Charlie Bell once I became one of the guys that were, you know, looked at as potentially the next start from here as far as basketball, those guys and then so those guys won in 2000 and 2001.

The National Gatorade Player of the Year, Kelvin Tolbert, went to Michigan State. So 2001, 2002 is when I like breakout years for me when I kind of separated myself from my peers and my competition as far as basketball, and I was the next guy to like to be in line the Flint pipeline to go there.

For me, it was a no-brainer.

00:12:38 Arthur A. Busch

You were a Flintstone.

00:12:40 Marquise Gray

Yep, a no-brainer. I just watched three guys who I hang out with, and with those guys when they would come home in the summer, they would hate this will be playing that.

They would come to pick me up and you in the gym with us. You don't have a choice. You're going to the gym with us, OK, after that.

00:12:56 Arthur A. Busch

You don't have. A choice when Mateen Cleaves tells you to get your *** to the gym.

00:12:59 Marquise Gray

You know you don't have. You don't have a choice. I loved it because it was like a brotherhood, not just myself. So I was the youngest in there, but so those four guys in there.

Antonio Smith. And Lores, so those guys. Then you got Kelvin Tolbert to bird in the gym with us, and people forget his name, but you got that training there. You got Deontay Harvey, and you got Cory Hightower in the gym.

00:13:26 Arthur A. Busch

Matt Trannon was a beast.

00:13:28 Marquise Gray

He was a beast, a beast. You got him in the gym. You got William Hatcher in the gym. You got Gregory Burke. I'm the youngest of all those guys, but they embrace it. And so, what happened was.

00:13:38 Arthur A. Busch

Is there a style? Is there a style of Flint basketball?

00:13:42 Marquise Gray

Yeah, oh no.

00:13:42 Arthur A. Busch

Go ahead with your story. I'm sorry. I interrupt

00:13:45 Marquise Gray

The style is gritty. Corey, Mateen Cleaves used to be in those runs, but as I said, I'm the youngest and all that. Those guys were already off and on to college. I'm the next guy that's coming up.

Those guys embraced me. They took me in. We used to play the game. Every game was like game seven of the finals.

00:14:02 Arthur A. Busch

Yeah, what you did was make it to the finals.

00:14:06 Marquise Gray

Yep, we did.

00:14:08 Arthur A. Busch

What about that one?

00:14:08 Marquise Gray

Uh, man.

00:14:10 Marquise Gray

It was an unforgettable time because it's kind of like a storybook. Kind of a thing where the fight, you have a final four in your backyard, right? You are playing at Michigan State, the final fours in Detroit the year this is 2009 final four teams was US, North Carolina, UConn and Villanova who played against UConn and that first semi the semifinals. That's so they have.

AJ Price, Kemba Walker ashamed to be. God rest his soul stamp. Stanley Roberts, we were locked and loaded that game and went out.

Literally, we kicked their *** and then. Yeah, who were your teammates?

Gorton Suton, Travis Walton, Kalin Lucas, Chris Allen.  Draymond Green. We called him day to day.

Monroe Raymar Morgan, Corey, and Lucius were on that team, too, so we had a solid group of guys and

00:15:12 Arthur A. Busch

Was Draymond Green like Mateen cleaves?

Did he tell everybody what to do?

00:15:14 Marquise Gray

No, no, Day Day was nothing like he is now. But we saw that potential in him. It's just we were seniors.

We were a little older but what they did do was what they did was an X Factor because he could pass it.

Same stuff he does now. Pass it, and he could dribble it. He could set the office up.

His shot wasn't as good as it is now, but he could hit an open shot, and he was a mismatch problem because people forget Draymond was a little chubby, pudgy, pudgy guy he looked like he cooked. He looked like he couldn't move, but he could close.

00:15:51 Marquise Gray

He could move. Yep, he could move, and then you know, Yep, he was a handful. He knew how to use his body. Crafty, always around the ball.

00:16:01 Arthur A. Busch

Yeah, you guys weren't successful against North Carolina. Sort of the same story, different year. Uh, but you went on and had quite an experience. I interviewed a while back Marty Embry I don't know but.

00:16:16 Marquise Gray

Yep, I know Marty.

00:16:16 Arthur A. Busch

Uh, Flint Central star, who you sort of took after and followed in his footsteps in some ways, because you went and traveled, tell us what happened.

00:16:24 Marquise Gray

Yeah, in a lot of games.

00:16:29 Arthur A. Busch

After that championship game and you went off to see the world.

00:16:30 Marquise Gray

So, before I went off to see the world, though, I was a few. with the Pistons, so in 2009 I played summer league training camp with Detroit, and then when I got cut from Detroit went abroad.

So, I traveled first stop with Israel, then from Israel, I went to Turkey, and then from Turkey, I went to Poland. And then Poland to Mexico and then Mexico back to Turkey.

And then Turkey to Japan and then struck two seasons.

Two years in Japan, and then I ended last ditch when I retired in Turkey, so I travel, and I loved every minute of it.

00:17:07 Arthur A. Busch

To be clear, you were playing professional basketball in these curious countries?

00:17:10 Marquise Gray

Look special about various countries.

00:17:13 Arthur A. Busch

And we are running short of time, but I would like to ask you a couple of other questions. You later got involved in working with troubled youth. Yeah, so my degree from Michigan State is in social services.

00:17:31 Marquise Gray

So, when I first retired, I was a supervisor and counselor for the Boys and Girls Club. I started to get into, you know, social services kind of that way. But then I saw a need around at different schools and stuff.

And so, I kind of got involved in the school system. And you know, that is where I have been ever since.

00:17:45 Arthur A. Busch

And you came back. To Beecher, at one point, as an assistant coach under was it, coach Williams.

00:17:52 Marquise Gray

Yep, my grades go to my buildings. I got back.

So how did that happen?

Coach Williams always used to invite me to practice telling me to come. When I was home from playing overseas or like in the summertime so, and when I retired, he would tell me, you know, come to practice, man. At first, I fought him on it because I had just gotten done playing basketball.

I wanted to be me. I am about to relax and do what normal people do, you know, I went the first time; he did not have to say anything.

It was my natural inclination to teach, and he allowed me to have the floor.

And then so for about this was at the beginning of the season. For three weeks straight, I was at every practice. It was the day before the game. He threw me a shirt and said, " We wear black slacks, " I looked at the shirt.

I am like, why did you tell me this? He said dude; you are a coach. He said you have been at every practice and doing instruction, breakdown drills, and all that stuff. You are a coach, dude.

And I thought about it. Like, man, I never really looked at it like That was in 2015, and I have been hooked ever since.

00:19:05 Arthur A. Busch

Now you became the head coach but not before your teams won several state championships.

Yep, yeah, we won.

00:19:05 Arthur A. Busch

How many in a row did they win?

00:19:06 Marquise Gray

We won three back-to-back we want we've repeated, and then we won again in 2017, and then in 2021, we won it again. And then this year I became the head coach, and I was a part of, you know, those teams but.

00:19:21 Arthur A. Busch

Now, when did you become the head coach?

00:19:24 Marquise Gray

This year 2022.

00:19:25 Arthur A. Busch

OK, so.

00:19:26 Marquise Gray

Yes, this was my first-year head coach, but I have been coaching since I have been coaching with this program. Been with our program since 2015.

00:19:34 Arthur A. Busch

Alright, Marquise Gray, I will have to interview you twice because we are out of time here, but I want to ask you one last question.

00:19:39 Marquise Gray

Go ahead.

00:19:39 Arthur A. Busch

We'll end on this. I will end on this one. What was it like after all those years playing in the Breslin? Walk back into the Breslin with these teams as often as you did. What was it like to go back to the place where you grew up as a man?

00:19:57 Marquise Gray

It was like a homecoming, and what made it even better was I was doing it with kids from the same community who grew up. How I grew up and then also I kind of our team. The teams that I was a part of.

We left a legacy. We got two final Fours 2 Big 10 Championships and the national championship appearance.

Every time I go back, I look up at the in the rafters and in the banners, and you see those. I mean, in the rafters, you see those banners, and it is an amazing feeling, and I can tell those guys stories about those teams and how we persevered and how we got over, and it translates, you know, onto the court and to them.

00:20:36 Arthur A. Busch

Marquise, you have a great story. You have an amazing life story, and you are an amazing person.

00:20:39 Marquise Gray

Yeah, I appreciate it.

00:20:40 Arthur A. Busch

You are an amazing young man.

00:20:41 Marquise Gray

I appreciate it.

00:20:42 Arthur A. Busch

I remember attending a luncheon With Judge Beagle. And I said to him, after that was over, that this guy would do some wonderful things in his life.

00:20:53 Marquise Gray

I appreciate it, man. Appreciate your support.

00:20:55 Arthur A. Busch

I'm honored you would take a few minutes to talk to me on my podcast.

00:21:01 Marquise Gray

Thank you for having me.

00:21:01 Arthur A. Busch

And I wish you all the best with your Beecher Buccaneers, and I hope I can get a game in or two this year before I head back to Saint Pete.

00:21:10 Marquise Gray

You let me know.

00:21:11 Marquise Gray

Whenever you, whenever you want to come, and I got you covered.

00:21:14 Arthur A. Busch

Thank you for joining me, Marquise Gray.