Pat Kinnison

Tulsa World Report Magnifies OSU Hoops

With speculation that Travis Ford's job is in jeopardy, the Tulsa World reports that Doug Gottlieb and Sean Sutton may be among those interested in the job.

The cover story above the fold on the front page of Wednesday's Tulsa World sports page was one that has been told before, the impact of the declining attendance and season ticket revenues on men's basketball at Oklahoma State. But if you turn to page four, there are two stories that make a much greater impression, a newer impression, and potential impact on the Cowboys coaching situation.

The stories in the newspaper this week, including Oklahoman lead columnist Berry Tramel's front page entry earlier that the hardship of coaching basketball at OSU wasn't going to be Travis Ford's worry much longer, along with constant chatter on sports talk radio is somewhat rivaling buzzards circling over the program and Ford as coach.

It is not new as Ford, the possessor of a very lucrative 10-year contract that is now down to three more years after the end of this season, has been the subject of fans displeasure and desire to have somebody else in charge over at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Going back to December of this season, and whispers even earlier, there is a groundswell movement of Cowboys fans for former point guard, now CBS sports broadcaster Doug Gottlieb.

Now, in his two stories written and appearing in the Tulsa World today, Bill Haisten paints a picture where Cowboy basketball could go "Back to the Future."

The headlines on Haisten's stories are "Sutton Would Support Gottlieb" and "Sutton (Sean) Ready to Take Leap." Longtime, successful, and Hall of Fame nominee head coach Eddie Sutton comes out and supports his former point guard Gottlieb, who has never coached professionally, as a candidate that could get the job done at Oklahoma State.

"I would (endorse the hiring of Gottlieb) and Sean would too," Sutton told Haisten. "Most players who are any good, and if they've played in a good coaching situation, they can coach. I would have no problem in supporting (Doug Gottlieb). I think Sean would feel the same way."

In fairness to Gottlieb, and I know Doug pretty well having roomed with him one summer on the road when he was playing and I was broadcasting games for the Oklahoma Storm of the United States Basketball League. I knew Doug's late father, a basketball coach his entire life who was at one time an assistant for Eddie Sutton. Doug's brother is a highly respected veteran assistant coach at the college level.

Gottlieb is a gym rat that still does well in the broadcasting business because he studies the game and studies the coaches and teams he prepares to broadcast. Coaching is in his blood. Now, it never looks good when your name is out there circulating to succeed a coach that hasn't exactly been jettisoned as of yet. However, when the endorsement comes from a legion of fans that you don't control and then is endorsed by the most popular and second most successful head coach in school history (Mr. Iba's two NCAA championships trumps Sutton's overall record) then it is looked on more favorably.

"Doug is smart," Sutton added in the Tulsa World. "I think he would be a great recruiter. If he is smart enough to get good assistant coaches – guys who are similar to the way he feels – I think he would be all right."

Another former Oklahoma State head coach, who currently has seen his former quarterback eclipse his record as the winningest head coach in football at OSU, Pat Jones, was asked what he thought about the inexperienced Gottlieb as head coach. "Well, I'd like to be an astronaut," Jones quipped.

Last time I checked, NASA has allowed non-astronauts, experts in related or associated professions to go into space, but they travel with experienced and trained space travelers. That is what Jones is talking about and that is where Haisten's second story on page four could come into play.

Sean Sutton has been amazing and highly admirable in soundly defeating the addiction problem that first cost him his dream job as head coach at Oklahoma State. I look at Sean as a hero and I always judge people, when appropriate, not in their finest moment but how they deal with adversity.

Sean looked extreme adversity in the eye and beat it. He is healthier and more energetic than ever and ready to leave ORU and his brother, which has been a good place for him, and conquer a new basketball situation. The story says head coach, but could it also mean assistant and mentor to a younger, less experienced but captivating head coach.

"I'm driven by winning," the younger Sutton told Haisten. "I'm extremely motivated. I don't think I failed as a head coach by any means but I didn't do as well as I would have liked. That has always dug at me a little."

I agree, Sutton deserves another chance and being a head coach is great but so is rebuilding a program that you were partially responsible in building to begin with and that on your watch started a downward spiral. Another chance to right a wrong, so to speak.

One of my radio listeners sent me a text. "Would Holder give (Sean) Sutton a second chance at Oklahoma State?" That's a great question and one I don't know the answer to. Only athletic director Mike Holder and anyone he may have spoke about that topic to would know. However, my guess is if he is willing to take a shot on an inexperienced Doug Gottlieb then adding a second chance for Sean Sutton would not be as extreme as you might think.

Also, for Holder, if he makes a change then one priority needs to be to keep senior guard Phil Forte and Big 12 Freshman of the Year point guard Juwan Evans in Stillwater. Forte will be looking to see if his new senior year has a chance for success and Evans had said he came to Oklahoma State to play for Ford because he was a successful point guard. Last time I checked both Gottlieb (career 7.8 assists per game average) and Sean Sutton were successful point guards as players.  

Now, Ford is still the coach and this story was written because every columnist, writer, fan, and their dog is already discussing the possibilities. If the job does open up then I would look at some of the coaches out there and what happens on the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament as future coaching stars are often revealed. I've already heard the name of Chris Beard, Arkansas-Little Rock's first-year head coach and a former Big 12 assistant (Texas and Texas Tech), come up and there are other up and comers that deserve investigation.

However, the return of Gottlieb and who comes with him would still be the most interesting story.

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