Many former athletes end up getting into coaching at some point.
Most of them don’t do it as soon as a pair of ex-Gridley Bulldogs have.
Quinn Spring and Sam Cota were part of one of the best teams in Gridley history: The 2015-16 squad, which went 24-6 and won the CIF Northern Section Division 4 championship, making it to the CIF state tournament before bowing out to Liberty Ranch in a first-round contest, 76-65.
Oh, and that team also won the first GIBT contest in 15 years for the Bulldogs, with a 59-48 victory over Campolindo in Saturday’s seventh-place game.
Two years later, both Spring and Cota are still leaving their mark on Gridley basketball – from the bench.
Spring and Cota have served as assistant coaches under second-year Gridley head coach Chay Dake for each of the past two seasons.
And both former Bulldogs are having a blast.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Cota said earlier this week as the No. 2 Bulldogs prepared for their CIF Division V playoff opener against No. 15 Brookside Christian.
Spring agreed. “It’s great being around this group of guys,” he said.
Several of this season’s Bulldog seniors, including guard Brian Wilkerson and forward Tyler Little, were members of that 2015-16 team.
Is it hard coaching players who aren’t much younger than you?
Not really, Spring and Cota said.
“You can relate to them,” Cota said. “Even the guys who were freshmen when we were seniors, Gridley being a small school, you get to know them.”
During practice, Cota and Spring help run drills, watch for things to work on, and are more than welcome to offer their thoughts during the post-practice breakdown.
During games, they might chart shots or rebounds, or keep track of time outs.
All of it is appreciated greatly by Dake.
“It’s great to have these guys around,” Dake said. “They make me a better coach. I’m always looking to get better.”
The two former players have provided a nice complement to Dake and top assistant David Tull, Dake said.
Both Spring and Cota have moved on to college: Spring is at Butte College, majoring in liberal studies, and dabbled in baseball there before an injury forced him to end his athletic career.
Cota, meanwhile, grayshirted this year at Yuba College and hopes to play there next season.