!Please Note!

You are using an outdated browser that may impact your experience on FCA.org.
Please upgrade to the latest version of Internet Explorer here or download another browser like Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.
Once you upgrade, this notice will no longer appear.

Still Serving

Published on July 14, 2023

This article appears in the Spring 2023 issue of the FCA Donor Publication. The FCA publication is a gift from our FCA staff to all donors giving $50 or more annually. For more information about giving, visit here.

Nanci Gray might have retired in 2019 from her 40-year career as a junior high, high school and college basketball coach in Northeast Mississippi, but she hasn’t stepped back from her involvement in FCA and her desire to share the Gospel with coaches and athletes.

Gray actively encourages Huddles at schools in and around Chickasaw County, Mississippi, where she does a bit of everything from talking to junior high students about their faith to leading Huddles for coaches. It’s a natural extension of a career that started in 1979 as a basketball coach in Houlka, where she attended high school.

In the years that followed, Gray went on to coach in Bruce and Tupelo before a 13-year stint as head women’s basketball coach at Itawamba9459329f-56f1-415f-8d6b-36d54538dc47 Community College, where she was also a player from 1974 to 1976. During her time coaching at the community college, the team won two Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges championships and three National Junior College Athletic Association regional championships while also making three appearances in the NJCAA National Tournament. Gray was inducted into the MACJC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2017, and last October, Itawamba Community College named their basketball court in her honor.

In the Word
Through out her years of coaching, Gray championed FCA in many capacities like taking students to retreats and leading Huddles. She said most of the students from her years of community college coaching would say going to the getaways each spring was the most exciting annual event for the team, that is minus the national tournament appearances.

Gray said through her involvement with FCA, God has taught her the value of studying the Bible.

“You can’t share Him if you don’t know Him, and you know Him through the Scripture,” she said.

“She speaks life into you, and she speaks life over you. She wants the best for everyone.” 
-Robin Porter
Gray often speaks to students about knowing who they are in Christ, finding value in Him, and not being dependent on someone else for their future except Christ alone. Throughout her coaching tenure, Gray mentored many players and coaches including Robin Porter, who served as an assistant coach at Itawamba Community College under her for nine years. Porter then became head coach upon Gray’s retirement.

“She speaks life into you, and she speaks life over you,” Porter said. “She wants the best for everyone.”

Motivated to Mentor
Porter says Gray gave her an important chance after her time playing basketball at Mississippi State, and she is always quick to share a verse or devotion that might apply to something a player or coach is experiencing.

“She saw something in me that fired me up,” Porter said.

Kids are the motivation for Gray’s ministry, and she has a heart to see coaches and athletes deepen their knowledge of both Jesus and His Word. She reaches out to help students who are struggling in life, encouraging them toward the greater promise of knowing Christ.

“I want them to know Jesus,” Gray said of the student-athletes. “I just want them to know who He is and the power of the Holy Spirit. If they can get that and understand how powerful they are when they are indwelled by the Holy Spirit—that can be huge for them.”

A wonderful opportunity
Scott Carter, an FCA Ambassador, said retired coaches have a wonderful opportunity to serve in the ministry because of their established connections and relationships in schools and communities.26066a5d-cb96-4e5c-badb-20206dc86d00 To this end, he said Gray sets an example of how coaches can give back and continue to use their platform to share Christ even after they’ve officially retired from a coaching career.

“Whether she’s up front leading a team, at a coaches Huddle or serving quietly behind the scenes, bringing donuts to a meeting, driving a speaker around town, or counseling a fellow coach, Nanci has exemplified what it looks like to be a servant-leader who uses their coaching platform to point athletes, coaches, and all whom they influence to Jesus,” Carter said.

As Carter prays for God to continue to open doors, grant the ministry favor and provide opportunities to share the Gospel in Northwest Mississippi’s schools, Gray prays alongside him, hopeful that their local community would recognize how fertile the ground is for ministry in public schools.

In addition to serving her local FCA, Gray spends much of her time with her husband Joel and their two children and seven grandchildren. Although retired from her formal role as a basketball coach, she is proving through her words and actions that she has no plans to retire from her role in fulfilling the Great Commission and pursuing God’s promises.


Photos courtesy of Nanci Gray and Itawamba Community College