Oklahoma State athletic director and vice-president for athletics Mike Holder has the routine down. Smile a lot, be confident, but don't say too much.
Honestly, I thought the meeting that Holder had Saturday morning with a select group of media that cover Oklahoma State was very productive for both parties. Holder got an excellent read on what was on the media's mind through the questions asked, and he did share some very solid information and even some of the emotion and thought process on his part as he presses on toward hiring another basketball coach at Oklahoma State.
Holder has made a number of coaching hires since becoming athletic director. His best hires are is tough to judge. You might say Josh Holliday with how the baseball program has taken off since the former Cowboys catcher and third baseman returned to coach his alma mater. Tennis coaches Jay Udwadia (men) and Chris Young (women) both have their teams in the top 10 in the country.
Jim Littell was a clear choice to succeed Kurt Budke, and Holder made it and has seen the Cowgirls reach a fourth straight NCAA Tournament. However, the national championships in cross country produced by Dave Smith and the elevation of the track program for both men and women may make Smith the answer as the best hire that Holder has made as he elevated him from an assistant coaching job in one of his early moves as athletic director.
Holder was quick to tell the media that he was not disappointed in his hire of Ford as basketball coach. Ford leaves as the third winningest coach in Oklahoma State basketball history and fans don't want to hear if but his five NCAA Tournament appearances puts him behind only Mr. Iba and Eddie Sutton.
Now, the 10-year contract that Holder rewarded Ford with after that first season when Georgia came calling and wanting to talk to Ford about their job may have been a mistake. But Holder took that head on Saturday morning as well when asked if any donors or boosters had helped with the money to bail OSU out on the settlement that was acknowledged but will not be made public until it is final. Holder said it was his mistake and that he was not the kind of person that looks for others to pay for his mistake.
For those that want to be quick to criticize Holder for that contract or any other money matters in Oklahoma State athletics since he took over, hang on a New York second. Holder's relationship and cultivation of interest with Boone Pickens is what is primarily responsible for putting the Cowboys and Cowgirls on some semblance of equal footing in money and facilities with rivals in the Big 12 and beyond.
Holder has been a huge asset to OSU athletics. While he wasn't totally forth coming about all that is there in hiring a new basketball head coach, I think, as he said, he has learned a lot. I think he has learned not to make a change until he knows what he is changing to.
That is why I think Brad Underwood of Stephen F. Austin has been contacted. I think there is some sort of relationship, a good one, already started. I think Underwood will soon trade in his longtime color of purple for orange. That is just my educated opinion. Holder is also smart enough to know you never show your complete hand until all the calls have been made.