CORRECTION: A previous version of this article erred in naming the location of where Brad Crawford previously coached. He was pulled from retirement after coaching in Van, Texas.
New Melissa High School tennis coach Brad Crawford, 58, thought he was retired — until an offer that looked too good to pass up presented itself.
“I coached in Van for 19 years and retired three years ago,” Crawford said by phone from his home near Lindale, Texas. “Then I got this opportunity to come back and coach a few more years. My friend Kenneth Wooten is the principal at Melissa High School and my friend Keith Murphy is (MISD) superintendent. … It was just one of those deals where things seemed to really fall into place. I love Kenneth and Keith both. Kenneth was my assistant principal and Keith was my principal at Van for a number of years, and they were just dear friends.”
Crawford said Wooten called him to see if knew of anyone who might be interested in the Melissa post.
“He said Anna and Princeton had both hired full-time tennis people and built nice tennis facilities and that Melissa had competed real well with them until this past year. … I hung up the phone and I asked my wife, 'What do you think if I told Kenneth I'd come and do it for a few years?' She said, 'Are you crazy? You've been retired for three years!'”
Crawford played basketball in high school and college, attending Deer Park High School near Houston and graduating from Lon Morris College in Jacksonville, Texas, in 1979.
“I'd played tennis, but I never had any professional instruction or anything,” he said.
After coaching in Tyler for six years at the junior high level, he and wife Debbie decided to move to a smaller district to finish raising their children.
At Van, Crawford initially only taught. His good friend there was head coach of varsity tennis and when his assistant moved on, Crawford offered to help out.
“I told him, 'Look, I don't know how to coach tennis, but I know how to coach kids,” he said. “'I'll be your assistant, I'll fill out paperwork and I'll drive the bus.'”
After two years of doing that, his friend retired.
“The AD called me in and said, 'Well, I guess that makes you the tennis coach now.' … My son was a sophomore in high school at the time. He had gotten into playing, so I said OK. I was going to be there for my son anyway, so I'll do this for three or four years. My son and his doubles partner were the No. 2 doubles team in the state their senior year (2002). I coached until 2014, so I did it another 12 years after he graduated.”
Crawford recalled that he and Wooten's wife, Julie Wooten, taught next door to each other at Van High School for about six years.
“She's just one of my best friends,” he said. “I called her and I said, 'Julie, don't you lie to me. Things are too good. I don't want to get into a situation where I'm going to be fighting kids and fighting parents.' She said, 'Brad, I've taught for 18 years and I've never enjoyed teaching anyplace more than I have in Melissa.'”
Debbie Crawford is a retired educator and the current president of the Hawkins, Texas, Chamber of Commerce. She'll stay in East Texas for a time to conclude her commitments there. Crawford said he'll have an apartment in McKinney for now.
“Brad Crawford is a quality teacher, coach and person,” Murphy said. “I am so very pleased with not only the hiring of Coach Crawford but also the other high quality staff members we are adding at the high school and across the district.”
“He's a great addition to Melissa and will be great for our tennis teams,” Melissa boys athletic director Seth Stinton said. “He's very passionate about tennis and has a great vision for the tennis program.”
Crawford said he appreciates tennis as a lifetime sport and adds, “I'm not a great technical tennis coach. I'm good with kids and I think the thing that I'll bring to the table more than anything is being able to get kids excited about learning to play tennis — and being in a good atmosphere of teamwork. I try to make sure that the kids know that I'm about sportsmanship and I'm about character-development. If we do well at those things, then the tennis matches that we win are the gravy on top.”
“We're definitely East Texas folks,” Crawford said, “but this Melissa opportunity was just something that kind of fell in my lap and I felt like that it was a door that God opened up for me and I just wanted to take advantage of it.”