Liberal High School icon Tony Dubray dies at age 89

Marilyn (left) and Tony Dubray were married for 63 years. Tony Dubray, who served as coach and principal at Liberal High School for 30 years before retiring in 1990, died on Sunday morning at age 89. COURTESY | Gina Dubray Dodson

Former Liberal High School girls basketball coach Daryl Dodson admits there was some pressure to win the Tony Dubray Classic with Tony Dubray sitting beside him on the bench.

"A lot of times, assistant coaches will just be quiet," Dodson said. "We were in the championship game of the Tony Dubray Classic. We were ahead by one point with less than three seconds to go. I remember a girl was going to the free throw line, and he comes in and says, 'Have her miss it.' I looked at him; I wouldn't have thought of that. He goes, 'Have her miss it. ... There's no way they can get the ball down the floor and throw it up and make it in three seconds.'"

The strategy worked, and the Bulldogs celebrated their victory and tournament championship.

The play came up again near the end of the school year.

Said Dodson: "The girl who had to miss the free throw later on during the athletic banquet said, 'The hardest thing they ever asked me to do was miss a free throw. I just wanted to make sure I hit the rim.'"

Dubray, who was a coach before becoming principal for 27 years at Liberal, died on Sunday morning at age 89.

"He was a good fellow," Dodson said. "A lot of people liked him."

"He was an icon around here for all those years he was here," Liberal Superintendent Bill Harvey said. "When girls sports were starting to take off (in the mid-1970s), Tony was very instrumental in getting all those programs started here in the high school. He got the girls basketball program started and coached it a few years. And then when we had an opportunity to expand our tournament from just a boys tournament, when Jasper decided to not have its tournament in the late ’80s, he decided to bring the tournament to Liberal and make it a boys and a girls tournament."

And soon, that tournament carried his name.

"When I first started here in 1990 is when they named the tournament after him," Harvey said. "He retired in ’90, and shortly after his retirement, they named it the Tony Dubray Classic."

Dodson, now girls basketball coach and athletics director at Bronaugh, is also Dubray's son-in-law. They spent two years together, and there aren't many coaches who have their father-in-law as an assistant.

"It was fun to be able to do that with him," Dodson said. "He was a successful coach during his tenure. I do remember ... he always tried to calm me down more than anything. The year that he helped, we made it to the final eight (in 2000). He came up and said, 'Try not to get upset with the kids tonight. It's such an important ballgame. Stay with them and do everything you can to win the ballgame.' I remember that because he told me that before we even got on the bus."

Dodson won a total of six Dubray tournament titles β€” three as boys coach at Bronaugh and three as girls coach at Liberal. And there were family ties to his Bronaugh crowns.

"My first year at Bronaugh, we played Liberal in the finals, and Liberal upset us in overtime," Dodson said. "Then the next year, they named it the Tony Dubray Classic, and we won it the next three years. I told some people, 'I think we had a little (advantage). I was dating his daughter (Gina)."

Harvey, a 1982 Liberal graduate, knew Dubray outside of school.

"We considered him a family friend too," Harvey said. "He and his wife (Marilyn) and my parents were real good friends. They all worked together at the school, and we did everything together. I always considered Tony probably more as a friend than as my principal back in those days. And it wasn't just me. He was that way with a lot of people."

The Tony Dubray Classic has become one of the area's best midseason tournaments for small schools.

"With what he started, the Tony Dubray Classic has been a great thing," Harvey said. "I think it will continue to be a great thing, and we're appreciative of everything he got going for us. He laid the groundwork for us to have a successful event every year."


Services for Tony Dubray will be held at 11 a.m. today at the Bedene Funeral Home in Arma, Kansas. Memorials can be made to the Liberal R-2 School Tony Dubray Classic or the Compassus Hospice.