- Paul McBrayer
- Hometown (Last School)
- Lawrenceburg, KY [Kavanaugh School]
- 1927-28, 1928-29, 1929-30
- October 12, 1909
Obituary – PAUL S. MCBRAYER 1909-1999, Lexington Herald-Leader (January 2, 1999) by Rick Bailey
A college basketball coach so beloved that he was honored with annual reunions by former players at two schools, died yesterday at his Lexington home.
Paul S. McBrayer, an All-American at the University of Kentucky in 1930 who became the winningest basketball coach (219 victories) in Eastern Kentucky University history, had been battling pancreatic cancer. He was 89.
Mr. McBrayer was an assistant coach at Kentucky for nine years under Adolph Rupp before entering the Army during World War II.
Former Wildcats who played during those seasons held what was called “the McBrayer Dinner,” usually during UK homecoming weekend activities. The 37th reunion was held last fall.
For the last 12 years, former players from Mr. McBrayer’s 16 seasons at Eastern have gathered each summer at Arlington to reminisce with their coach. The reunion at EKU’s faculty-student-alumni recreation center in Richmond was called “The McBrayer Family.”
Mr. McBrayer had a 219-144 record at Eastern. That included two Ohio Valley Conference titles and two trips to the NCAA Tournament.
Mr. McBrayer took the job at what was then Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College when Rupp didn’t rehire him after his discharge from the service.
“He was bitter at the beginning, but he was forgiving and put it behind him,” said Roy Allison, who played at Eastern from 1951 to 1954. “He said he wouldn’t have had the great bunch of players he had at Eastern, and he wouldn’t have been married to the woman who is now his widow.”
Katie McBrayer survives her husband.
Soon after Mr. McBrayer was diagnosed with cancer early last fall, Allison wrote a letter to former players.
“Katie and Coach were flooded with cards, telephone calls and visits,” Allison said. “He looked at his players as his sons. He didn’t forget you, and he was always willing to help.”
But Mr. McBrayer was tough, Allison remembered.
“He was a strict disciplinarian and a no-nonsense coach. He was able to get the best out of every player. You were afraid of him in one sense, but you were loyal and close, too.”
Jack Adams, who played at Eastern from 1953 to 1956 and lives in Richmond, recalled trying out at Eastern.
“About 20 to 30 of us worked out, and he gave me a scholarship,” Adams said. “I never regretted it.”
Mr. McBrayer was a “father figure,” Adams said. “He was a genuine person, a person to go to and talk about anything.
“I had a similar background. We grew up with hard work, on farms, and we had done a lot of the same things like hunting and fishing.
“The first words I’d say would be honesty and dedication. And we learned discipline from him that carried over into everything we did. I heard him say that players who lettered at Eastern all graduated except one. He stressed the academic part more than athletics.”
Mr. McBrayer was at Eastern during a pivotal time in its basketball history.
The Maroons, as they were known then, won their first 11 games with virtually an all-freshman team, and finished 21-4. Eastern was 70th in the nation among more than 800 schools that season.
The next season, the NCAA classified Eastern as a major college. A year later, the Maroons went 17-4 and were ranked 24th.
As seniors in 1950, the Maroons were 16-6 and missed by five-tenths of a point finishing in the top 10.
In 1988, the basketball facility in Alumni Coliseum was dedicated Paul S. McBrayer Arena.
When Berea College upset Eastern early last season, Berea Coach Roland Wierwille, who played for Mr. McBrayer, pointed to the sign designating McBrayer Arena and later called his former coach.
Wierwille called Mr. McBrayer the man who “took me from nothing and made me something.”
“We lost one of the last of the great ones,” said Don Feltner, who retired as vice president for advancement at Eastern on Thursday. “He demanded the best and got 110 percent. Average players became excellent players.”
Mr. McBrayer, a native of Anderson County, was a star at Kavanaugh High School in Lawrenceburg before going to UK. He played for Coach John Mauer and was UK’s fourth All-American.
Services for Mr. McBrayer were pending. W.R. Milward Mortuary – Southland is in charge of arrangements.