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New Marble Falls basketball coach has vision of contending for district title

JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF

MARBLE FALLS — Though the Marble Falls Independent School District board of trustees did not approve his hire until May 19, that didn’t stop new head boys basketball coach Paul Gammage from running practices.

He has been commuting between Leander Rouse, where he was an assistant coach, and Marble Falls for three weeks.

“I’m coming up on my sixth workout,” he said.

Gammage is leaving a program that finished third in the District 25-4A race the past two seasons and was the runner-up in 2011-2012 to take over a Marble Falls team that went 2-34 during the same time frame.

“At Rouse, we were pretty successful, but we weren’t when I got there,” he said.

He noted that during one game, the Raiders gave up 128 points.

“I learned what it’s like to be around a program that’s taken its lumps,” he said. “One year, we barely won 15 games. The following year, we won 26 games and reached the second round of the playoffs.”

Gammage, a Dripping Springs graduate, has a vision to make the Mustangs contenders for the district crown.

“It’s about establishing a culture and a set of standards and establishing it early,” he said. “You have to find a silver lining in everything we do. The kids have already seen that.”

He pointed out an incident that happened during a workout earlier in the day May 19.

One of the Mustangs lost focus and looked the other way during a drill. So his teammates let him know that wasn’t acceptable.

Gammage said he called the players together and told them it’s OK to hold each other accountable but was concerned with the tone and words that were used.

“As a leader, you need to get people’s attention,” he said. “Get their focus if someone is being lazy and not carrying out their assignment. But there’s no reason for you guys to take that tone.”

That might be the only incident Gammage has needed to address, he said, because the other workouts have been to his liking.

There’s been an emphasis on fundamentals, and he indicated the workouts aren’t designed for the faint of heart. The coach said he likes the effort and the intensity in attacking every drill.

“I have seen nothing to make me think these kids will quit,” he said. “Kids responded extremely well. It’s taking a role I’ve asked them to, it’s a matter of getting them all on the same page and getting them to communicate well with each other and not focus on the past.”

Gammage credits a number of coaches for his success starting with Poe Shelton, the former athletic director and Dripping Springs boys head basketball he played for during the 1990s.

Then he coached at Hays Consolidated and worked for Shelton’s brother, athletic director Bob Shelton, and boys head basketball coach Doug Agnew.

Gammage said he was grateful to Ingram Tom Moore head coach Vance Millican for giving him an opportunity that allowed him to learn what it takes to build a program that’s one win away from the state tournament.

The newest Mustang said he looks forward to picking the brain of former Marble Falls head coach Larry Berkman thanks to a tip from Berkman’s former assistant coach Clint Baty, now the head coach at Lake Travis. Baty took over the Marble Falls program from Berkman when he retired a decade ago.

Because of coaching at Rouse, Gammage said he knows what it takes to beat Leander, Georgetown East View, Leander Vandegrift and other district opponents.

“They have some really good coaches and really good players,” he said. “I have that mindset that 2-34 is done. It’s about how much we hated losing that number of games. When January and February come around, we’re going to be competitive.”

jfierro@thepicayune.com