Gallagher column: A basketball proposal that was gym dandy

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 7, 2012

Mike Gurley has spent his entire life in a gymnasium. As a coach. As a player. As a spectator.
As the dean of Rowan County basketball coaches, West Rowan’s Gurley has won over 400 games. We’ve written about Mike Gurley the motivator, Mike Gurley the jokester, Mike Gurley the three-time state champion.
What else is there to write about this guy?
How about, “Mike Gurley, the romantic?”
One thing you’ll learn about coaches in any sport, they’re a passionate bunch. Gurley proved on Friday, Dec. 23 how true the old saying, “Once a coach, always a coach” really is.
He was going to propose marriage to Annette Hipp and he was going to do it in his comfort zone: the West Rowan gym.

First, Gurley had to come up with a gameplan.
Across the hall from his classroom is band director Daniel Trivette, who is an accomplished musician. Trivette said he’d get three band students, along with his wife, Michelle, also a talented musician, to set up in the dark gym and play whatever tune Gurley chose.
“I thought about Van Morrison or Elvis Costello or some kind of modern Dirty Dancing,” Gurley mused. “But I thought about the advice my brother gave me a long time ago. When in doubt, go with the Beatles.”
“And I Love Her” would be the song.
H.A. Hoffman was tabbed as the vocalist. Andrew Langford and Richard Kyles agreed to play the bass and guitar.
“We were like a little house band over in the corner,” smiled Trivette. “I was stoked.”
So were Trivette’s performers. It was as if Gurley had drawn up a play for them to win the game.
“I’ve never been asked to sing for anything,” Hoffman said. “I was excited about it.”
“I’ve never played for a proposal before,” Langford said.
“I felt really special,” Kyles added.
There were blue and red floodlights flashing, along with a table at midcourt. On the table was a flower and a photo of the two lovebirds.
Trivette’s wife brought a tablecloth, thank goodness.
“Being single, I don’t have a tablecloth,” Gurley sheepishly admitted. “I use that to wipe my mouth or wash my car.”

But how would he get Annette into the gym without her becoming suspicious?
Gurley told Annette, a kindergarten teacher at Cleveland Elementary, they were going out for supper with friends to the Stag ‘n’ Doe restaurant.
Upon leaving, he’d make up some story about having to stop by the gym and put the uniforms in the dryer.
She said OK, she’d delay their date to help him with the uniforms.
Now, that’s love.
Gurley went to the restaurant’s bathroom and texted Trivette, saying they’d be there in five minutes. It was crunch time and like 423 times on the court, Gurley was confident that his gameplan was going to produce winning results in the clutch.
When he opened the gym doors, the music began. Hoffman started singing.
A love like ours
Could never die
As long as I
Have you near me
Gurley threw his coat down and looked at a stunned Annette, asking, “May I have this dance?”
Gurley will be the first to admit he’ll never be on Dancing with the Stars.
“But I knew the X’s and O’s of this play,” the coach said. “I had to get her to halfcourt. I led her that way, which is evidence I have no dancing skills.”
By that time, it didn’t matter.
“I wanted to cry,” Annette said, “but I was too happy and excited.”
And then, Gurley went down to one knee.
“I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me.”
Annette put both hands on her cheeks and replied quietly. Out of the darkness came the booming voice of Mike Gurley.
“She said yes!”
Hoffman, Trivette and the “house band” clapped.
“It was a ‘Thank God thing’ that I didn’t do this for nothing,” Hoffman laughed.
“This,” Gurley announced, “is my fourth championship.”

Annette had another surprise awaiting her once they left the gym. There were about 20 people back at the house wanting to celebrate with the future Mrs. Gurley.
Gurley has been congratulated many times since. It’s obvious how he feels. When he comes out before a game, he always kisses Annette and grabs her grandson Brantley, all of 18 months old. He holds the future Falcon during player introductions and while joking with referees.
Brantley might as well get used to this setting. If you’re a part of Gurley’s life, you’re going to be in a gym.
Gurley always comes out before the third quarter and kisses Annette again for good luck.
Bright are the stars that shine
Dark is the sky
I know this love of mine
Will never die
And I love her.”
After the game, Annette’s always in the hallway by the locker rooms waiting, along with her teacher’s assistant Stacey Moore and Gurley’s dad, Bob, as he deals with the media.

Now, the next gameplan is saying “I do.” Son Hayden will be the best man.
Gameday, uh, I mean, the wedding, will be Saturday, Nov. 3.
The site for the reception is a no-brainer.
Mike Gurley is a coach. Annette Hipp is a future coach’s wife.
It will be at the West Rowan gym.
Do you think that’s neat?
I do.

Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or