Hendrix College basketball coach Thad McCracken and Conway High School basketball coach Brian “Salty” Longing have been presented with the fourth annual Raymond Bright Awards for the 2019-20 school year.
The awards, sponsored by Centennial Bank, are presented each year to both a college coach and a high school coach in the City of Conway.
The award is named in honor of Raymond Bright, who was one of the most successful and revered coaches in Conway’s history and impacted many lives through his dedication.
A native of Hope, Bright served in the Navy during World War II. He then graduated from Arkansas State Teachers College, now the University of Central Arkansas.
Bright began his coaching career at Conway Junior High School in 1949 then continued at Conway High coaching football and track from 1951 to 1958. His Wampus Cats won three track & field state championships.
Bright moved across town to UCA to coach track from 1959 to 1965 and then football from 1965 to 1971. His teams won multiple AIC titles in both sports.
Bright passed away in 2008 at age 85. He is a member of the Wampus Cat Sports Hall of Fame, the UCA Sports Hall of Fame, the Arkansas Track & Field Hall of Fame, and the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
McCracken led the Warriors to a 16-11 record and a runner-up finish in Southern Athletic Association conference. The Warriors hosted their very first SAA conference tournament game and made the semifinals the tournament. McCracken was named SAA Coach of the Year.
McCracken said of the distinction, “I cannot thank the members of the committee enough for this incredible award.
I am very familiar with Coach Raymond Bright‘s many accomplishments from my conversations with Coach Cliff Garrison, so to receive this in his name is truly an honor.
Any Coach of the Year Award is driven by that particular team’s success. We had a special group of guys this year and it was an absolute pleasure to coach and be around them every single day.
I consider this their award and I can’t think of a more deserving group!”
In his third year as head coach at Conway High, Longing led his alma mater to a 21-8 record and the 6A state championship. It was the program’s first state title since 2010.
Said Longing, “I am truly honored and humbled for being the recipient of this year’s Raymond Bright Coach of the Year Award.
This award would not be possible without the efforts of our assistant Nick Harrell and a historic run by an amazing group of Wampus Cat basketball players.
Coach Bright is a revered and respected coach that represented everything that is good about our profession. This is a tremendous honor.”
Coach Bright’s widow, Doretta Bright, will present the awards to each honoree.
Both coaches do things the right way. It is not surprising at all that both heaped praise on their teams in accepting this award.
Both men are the kind of coaches, and people, who would make Raymond Bright proud.