Ray Dawson thought he’d spend a few years at Burris coaching the Owls’ boys basketball team. Then he’d be off to a bigger school. That was in the late 1980s, and Dawson hasn’t left Burris.
He’s since transitioned to being the school’s athletic director and is no longer the basketball coach. But Dawson has remained with the Owls for 26 years. His tenure will soon be over, though, as he will be retiring at the end of the school year.
“I thought it would be a steppingstone, honestly, to a bigger basketball job,” he said. “That’s really what I wanted to get back into, head coaching at a larger school. And after I got here, I just didn’t want to leave. There was too many positives here to leave.”
Dawson said one of the best aspects of his tenure was seeing the success of Burris graduates after they left the school.
“When you look at the newspaper headlines, you don’t see many Burris graduates getting in trouble,” Dawson said. “You see them being successful. Obviously, there’s cases where we wish we could have done more, as it is with every school. But the successes and what we’re proud of far outweigh the cases where we wish we could have done more with some students. But I think that’s what I take away, that’s what I’m most proud of.”
Brian Carr has coached for Dawson for more than a decade. He recently finished his first season coaching the Owls’ girls basketball team after serving as the boys basketball coach in the past. Carr said Dawson’s organization is what most impresses him about the athletic director.
Whenever Carr goes into Dawson’s office to ask a question, he seems to be able to quickly pull up a file to find the answer.
Dawson also has an attention to detail, Carr said, that even extends to the type of socks Carr’s players wear.
“There’s a lot of things that people don’t hear about, different rules and different things that he’s implemented over the years that help our school be classy and just his little stamp he’s put on it,” Carr said. “From wearing socks a certain way to wearing jerseys a certain way to all kinds of stuff. So, I don’t know what will happen (without Dawson.) I’m sure somebody will step in and do a great job, too. But he’ll be missed.”
Dawson said his successor will inherit some unique challenges given Burris’ school structure. Students from Burris and Indiana Academy compete together on the Owls’ teams. The school is affiliated with Ball State and uses some of the university’s facilities, making scheduling even more challenging.
“There’s really three entities here that the athletic director has to coordinate,” Dawson said. “Not only in scheduling, but schedules, traveling, when we can have games, when we can’t, where we’re going to have them. So the coordination of three different things is quite different than just an ordinary other school where an athletic director comes in and he knows what he’s got to schedule and so forth.”