(This article was written in April 2010 before Coach Ivan McGlone was inducted into the Dawahares/Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame. We pray for Ivan’s family on his passing).
In the middle of next month, Russell football coach Ivan McGlone will take his place in the Dawahares/Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame.
It seems fitting that one of those who will take part in the ceremony is Grady Walter, Ivan’s longtime assistant coach who retired from teaching and coaching in 2003.
Ivan and Grady are more than coaching acquaintances. They are friends. Best friends. Like family kind of friends.
The Hall of Fame inductees are given medallions that are placed around the neck and Ivan asked Grady for an assist. There couldn’t be a better choice.
“I said ‘I don’t have to talk, do I?’” Grady asked Ivan before accepting the request.
Ivan assured him he didn’t; he probably hopes he doesn’t have to say anything either.
That’s the Ivan way.
McGlone deserves the recognition, that’s for sure. He’s an icon in northeastern Kentucky for the amazing job he’s done since coming to Russell in 1976.
Some thought he wasn’t going to be there long, figuring him to be an “interim coach” until somebody more suitable arrived. But he’s the longest interim coach you’ll find anywhere, having coached the Red Devils for the past 36 seasons.
Nobody stays around that long unless they a) know how to win; b) know how to use assistants; c) don’t make enemies.
Walter said he’s not surprised his good buddy is still coaching.
“It’s part of his persona,” he said. “He loves coaching football and being around the kids.”
Ivan and Grady have been around for each other’s triumphs and tragedies, in football and life. They’ve laughed together and they’ve cried together.
And they sure did win a lot of games together.
Grady Walter was the first assistant coach to sign on with McGlone in ‘74.
“He interviewed me for the job and I was in limbo,” Grady remembered. “Sue (his wife) had some surgical problems over the summer and I told him I had to take care of her first.”
Turned out, Sue did fine, so Grady accepted the position. The two became fast friends, as did their families. It was as if they each had two families.
Grady looks back on his time with Ivan fondly. That included the 1978 state championship season. He retired two years prior to the Red Devils winning it again in 2005 and finishing runner-up in 2006.
But it includes every other season, too. The easygoing McGlone is someone you want to be around.
“He’s not changed one bit,” Grady said. “Everybody likes him. He doesn’t make (coaching) enemies because he never runs the score up. He’s an open book if you want to trade films.”
When Grady was coaching, he lived in Ashland so his boys attended school in Ashland. Dwight, his youngest son, was a member of the Tomcats’ 1990 state championship football team.
The friendly family feud was nothing for Grady, who was one of four siblings who went to Catlettsburg while three others went to Ashland schools. Two of his brothers, Dick and Jack, actually played against each other.
Grady Walter said his experience with Dwight was always a good one.
“We always had Thursday night meal together,” he said. “Sue wanted us home. His senior year, when they were playing Greenup County, I remember him saying to me ‘We’ll beat them 40 points.’ I told him you better watch saying things like that.’’
It turned out the Musketeers stunned the Tomcats in Putnam Stadium, handing the ‘90 team their only loss that season.
But overall, it was a season to remember for the Tomcats and Dwight Walter was going to be part of it.
Ivan “fired” Grady as the coach on Fridays that season, telling him “to scout Ashland.” He didn’t want his friend to miss his son’s senior season.
“He told me to coach through the week and scout Ashland on Friday nights,” Grady said.
But a tragic accident took the life of Russell assistant Jim Tardy in September. That sent the Red Devil family reeling and Grady returned to the sideline for the rest of the season. Tardy was like a son to McGlone and close to everybody on the staff. It was a difficult time.
“He was the first real assistant to come in 1977,” Grady recalled. “The three of us hit it off real good. Tardy coached the guards and centers, I coached the backs and Ivan walked around.”
Grady chuckles at himself. “Don’t tell me I said that.”
In the last game of the regular season, Ashland and Russell played on Senior Night in Putnam Stadium. Grady, decked out in Russell coaching attire, went over to be with his son and wife prior to pregame ceremonies for the seniors.
“Somebody from the stands yelled ‘Who’s that SOB in the Russell jacket?’ I was so mad, I couldn’t hardly see straight,” he said.
Ashland won easily, ending a difficult season for the Red Devils.
But Grady was able to watch his son’s senior year of playoff games that eventually resulted in a state championship.
Bittersweet would be how he would best describe 1990.
“Ivan supported Dwight while Sue and Gloria (Ivan’s wife) are great friends,” Grady said. “Our families are real close. We’re real close.”
You get close from coaching together for 29 years. You’re often in the same foxhole, riding the same buses, dealing with the same player or parent issues.
Most relationships, coaching or otherwise, don’t last nearly that long. That’s why it seems fitting to me that Grady Walter play a part in Ivan McGlone’s statewide honor next month.
After all, few have been teammates longer.