Coffee with Corey: Love, Community, & Basketball

By Corey Poole

It’s a double shot of Corey for this week’s article as I sat down to interview Corey Gipson, the 10th men’s basketball head coach in the 110-year history of Northwestern State University.

Corey grew up in a basketball family, but while most kids dreamed of becoming a famous NBA player, Corey was focused on becoming a coach. He remembers paying attention to people in positions of authority, especially the coaches around him.

“I used sports as an outlet to continue to grow,” he shared. Looking back, Corey actually chose the profession that’s harder to attain. While there’s around 400 roster spots in the NBA, there’s around 360 head coach spots available for Division 1.

“I feel like basketball has always been in me,” Corey explained. “Sports are the one thing that brings everyone together.”

Sure he’s played lots of other sports, but as a young man with an old soul, Corey knew basketball was what he was the best at. His mindset isn’t any different now. He’s just in a different zip code, in a different stage of life.

“To this day I see myself as a life coach,” Corey said. “My agenda has remained the same. To love and empower people. You’d be surprised how much you can impact people in a short amount of time just by spreading a little love.”

As a senior in high school, Corey was the leading scorer in the state of Missouri, averaging 30.9 points in game. He was also player of the year and a Mr. Show-Me Basketball nominee.

Everyone thought he was crazy when he turned down Division 1 offers to play basketball at Three Rivers Community College. It was legendary coach Gene Bess that drew him there. As a kid, Corey attended all of Bess’ basketball camps. Bess even coached several of Corey’s family members in high school, so Corey heard stories of how Bess holds everyone accountable and how he’s impacted lives.

“Coaching is a gift to empower players,” said Corey. “To become something you thought you could never become.”

Recruited by Austin Peay State University, Corey played for Coach Dave Loos, whose personality matched that of Gene Bess.

“This made the transition easier because I was already accustomed to the mindset,” Corey explained.

He went to the NCAA Tournament his first year and was 16-0 in conference play his second year, which was unheard of. When he was done playing, Corey was offered to be a graduate assistant on Loos’ staff.

Corey finished college with a masters in public health and went to work at a few other places. However, he soon received a call from Loos to coach on his staff at Austin Peay. Three years after returning to work at his alma mater, he became the associate head coach at Missouri State University. After seven years at MSU, Corey took a 4 am call from an unknown number that turned out to be a firm behind a national search for the next head coach for men’s basketball at NSU.

“One thing led to another and after much prayer, my wife told me she was at peace with this next step,” said Corey. “We knew nothing about Natchitoches, so coming here was a real spiritual decision.”

It helped that Natchitoches is almost identical to the town Corey grew up in, in the bootheel of Missouri. In his spare time, Corey finds balance with his family and his wife, his backbone. He also enjoys fishing and hunting deer, rabbit, squirrel and coon. His other passion is working on old cars, which he grew up doing with his father. He currently drives a 1987 Caballero.

Embracing the small town that’s far from the beaten path, Corey’s number one agenda was to serve the community. The players on the roster and the whole staff have already completed over 70 hours of community service since June.

“It’s a must,” Corey said. “If we don’t know how to serve other people, then we’re not teaching life. It can’t be just about winning the game.”

When it comes to the game, Corey said there’s expectations to have success on the wood, but no one on Earth has higher expectations on us than ourselves. So instills a few philosophies into his coaching to help empower his players. The first is that you have to love yourself. The second is that you have to be able to serve others and have unconditional love for other people. The third is that you have to be able to postpone immediate gratification for the betterment of all people involved.

How does this mindset translate to the wood? You have to serve each other and love each other before you get to the wood. Corey feels his guys have already won, but the season starts Nov. 7 at Texas Tech, which had the number one defense in the country last year. It’s a good opportunity for the Demons to experience this level of competition.

To sum it all up, Corey said, “There’s a constant drive to get people to understand that if you just work hard in life, love yourself, love other people, and postpone instant gratification, good things in life will come to you.”