In a room resonating with echoes of shared triumphs and cherished memories, a gathering of friends, colleagues, students, teammates, and family came together to pay homage and rejoice in the legacy of the esteemed former Warner Pacific Basketball Coach, Gary Bays.
Arriving at then-Warner Pacific College in 1976, Gary assumed the role of Men’s Basketball Coach during a pivotal time of rebuilding the program. Concluding his inaugural season with a challenging 0-25 record, he faced fear and uncertainty about his future. However, Warner Pacific’s President at the time, Dr. E. Joe Gilliam, offered unwavering support – not only affirming Coach Bay’s ability to transform the team, but presenting him with a $1,000 bonus he never forgot. Dr. Joe declared, “God has called you here,” providing Coach Bays the strength to persevere.
Coach Bays became an influential figure both on and off the court during his tenure at Warner Pacific. He organized basketball camps, granting inner-city youth opportunities for higher education through sports. Among those inspired was Cardale Tademy ’84, who played a pivotal role in coordinating this special celebration. Reflecting on his time under Coach Bays, Cardale remarked, “I came to Warner Pacific to play basketball, but I left as a man with a purpose in my life. Coach Bays was an excellent role model, demonstrating love for God, family, and care for us athletes. He taught us valuable life lessons beyond the basketball court.”
Under Coach Bays’ guidance, the men’s basketball team achieved victory in the 1983 NCAA Regional Basketball Championship. Though Coach Bays moved on from Warner Pacific in 1988, his enduring legacy touched the hearts of many, culminating in his recognition as Coach Emeritus during a 2009 men’s basketball reunion.
The inception of a foundation took root in Cardale’s heart during a challenging period in 2016. Recognizing life’s brevity, he, along with teammates and friends including Dwight Kimberly, Laurie Fernandez, Karen Woods, and Frederick Douglas, established the “Boots on the Ground, We See You Now” foundation in 2021.
At the celebratory event, the group bestowed upon Coach Bays the prestigious “Boots on the Ground, We See You Now” award, acknowledging his exceptional courage, character, commitment, dedication, passion, and love for serving others. Overwhelmed with emotion, Coach Bays expressed gratitude, stating, “I look around this room and see all of you—players, coaches, friends. I don’t know how anyone could be more blessed than I am.”
Cardale also used the gathering opportunity to recognize a few other special people in WPU history as well. In a surprise tribute, Dwight Kimberly and Michael Conley, former professors at Warner Pacific, were acknowledged for their humble yet profound impact on every student they encountered. Cardale emphasized, “They were excellent teachers, motivators, and lifelong friends.”
Acknowledging the collaborative effort required to host the event, Cardale expressed gratitude to the team of Dwight Kimberly, Laurie Fernandez, Frederick Douglas, Michael Conley, and Karen Woods. Reflecting on Coach Bays’ influence, he declared, “Coach Bays had a significant impact on their lives too, and we will all be friends for the rest of our lives.”
In parting, Cardale imparted words of wisdom to current WPU students, urging them to embrace the entire college experience, connect with professors as fellow human beings, and engage in various activities to catalyze transformative change. He reflected, “I would’ve missed out on so much if I only focused on sports.”