Saturday morning at 10 a.m. in the Oklahoma State Basketball offices the new head basketball coach of the Cowboys led a brigade down the hall and into the basketball staff conference room. Mike Boynton didn't know many of the people following him. He knew his wife, two young kids, assistant athletic director for communications Gavin Lang, and associate director of communications Stephen Howard, who handles basketball, he knew beat writers John Helsley of The Oklahoman and Mark Cooper of The Tulsa World, probably recognized me from being around a lot, but the other six media members, maybe from bylines or pictures in the newspapers on columns. This is what a new head coach at a major school experiences. There are lots of new people and lots of your stories to tell. For a little over an hour on Saturday morning, his first full day as the new head coach at Oklahoma State, Boynton was telling those stories to a very interested and attentive audience. Our job is now to pass them along to you, which we will do immediately in three big doses.
FYI: We don't know how long the contract is or what the salary is. It did come up.
Bill Haisten: Did you get a five-year contract?
Mike Boynton: Don't know, we have anything on the contract yet?
Gavin Lang: We will have that at the press conference on Monday.
Bill Haisten: Is it a five-year contract?
Gavin Lang: We expect to have that at the press conference on Monday.
Bill Haisten: You already have that.
Gavin Lang: We will handle that at the press conference on Monday.
You can't blame a reporter for trying.
How Did This Happen?
It really starts, at least the immediate process of Mike Boynton becoming the head basketball coach at Oklahoma State, in Nacogdoches, Texas and on the campus of Stephen F. Austin University. Brad Underwood had led the Lumberjacks to three tremendous seasons, three straight Southland Conference championships, a 53-1 record in league play, three straight Southland Conference Coach of the Year awards for Underwood, and capped by a 28-6 season with an NCAA first round upset of West Virginia and a buzzer beater second round loss to Notre Dame.
Underwood is immediately tapped by Oklahoma State to replace Travis Ford as their new head coach. Having come with Underwood from South Carolina, Boynton knows he can follow Underwood to Stillwater, but it makes all the sense in the world for him to stay behind and interview for the SFA head coaching job. Obviously, that didn't happen, so what would make Boynton think he was going to be able to get the job at Oklahoma State?
"There's an element of that, but this still was so different because of the timing of everything," Boynton said mixing the timeline from his first interview to be a head coach and his second that happened just Thursday. "You never know, and last year (at SFA) there wasn't any chance that I didn't think I was going to get the Stephen F. Austin job. You just look at it, from the outside. They'd had the best run they'd ever had in three years and brought more national notoriety than the school had ever had and they have the chance to hire a guy that had been there every step of the way. It seemed fairly natural that they would give that guy a shot, at least a couple of years and see if it didn't work out that way."
Boynton with Underwood to Stillwater and never looked back. Stillwater fit his wife and children, they were happy, and he was happy helping turn this program around this season.
Last Saturday, he was shaking off the hangover of running into a red-hot three-point shooting team in Michigan and losing one of the most exciting games in the NCAA Tournament on the first weekend, 92-91.
"Last Saturday, I'm sitting at my house with my wife and kids getting ready to go to Oklahoma City and having no thought in my mind that I would be the head coach at Oklahoma State," Boynton explained that he wasn't even in attendance at the infamous meeting that took place on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. and that Underwood was only around for three minutes or so in saying good bye.
"It was kind of chaotic," Boynton said in an understatement when asked to describe his Saturday last week. "Ever year since I've been married and this is year... year six this May and every year on the day after the season is over I commit to my wife and kids. Reluctantly, I go sit in a mall parking lot while she goes in and I listen to the kids listen to Wiggles or whatever in the back seat, and I go around and change diapers while she tries on things or whatever.
"That's what I was doing Saturday morning and I get a text message there is a meeting," Boynton continued. "I thought 'that's strange there's a meeting,' and I learned when everybody else did (about Underwood leaving). I had no idea, no clue. Everybody was shocked, pretty strong consensus this was odd."
Asked about the meeting, he further confirmed he wasn't there. He stayed with the plan to take care of the kids and give his wife, Jenny, a dietician by profession, a day to shop and do things for herself.
"I was not going to risk the venom of my wife, that is the one day a year I tell her I have the kids and you go do what you need to," Boynton emphasized.
Now fast forward through a week of comforting players, wondering about future employment, spending time in a town where he admits basketball fans seemed to act like the sun wasn't going to rise again.
"So things happen and you go into the Thursday meeting with the Board (of Regents) and Holder and I'm going to give them my ideas and my vision of the program and see if they think that is good enough for them," Boynton moved on.
The 35-year-old native of Brooklyn, N.Y., that had also coached at South Carolina, Wofford, Coastal Carolina, and as a graduate assistant at Furman was doing this again. If the interview was a three-point attempt or a thread the defense pass for the former point guard then this time he hit it. The three-pointer stripped through the net or the pass found the hands of a willing post or wing that laid the ball in the basket.
"Yes, I thought that I connected," Boynton explained. "I was given the opportunity to speak first, lay out a plan, and tell the room why, why should I at the age of 35, and never been a head coach before, be the head coach at a Big 12 school that has the resources to go out and outbid other schools for coaches. I think I made it very clear to them. The questions that I got (from the panel) I felt prepared for. Again, I think that goes back to the process that I went through last year, and at the end of the day they felt that I was the guy. I feel very confident in my ability to do the job going forward.
"I felt good about it," he continued. "I really did after going through the process last year. To be honest (last year) I felt I was ready for the job. I don't know if I was ready for the interview process, so that gave me an opportunity to grow and I've already thanked the administration there for that. Those are great people down in Nacogdoches, but to be here and Coach Holder believes in me."
Boynton doesn't take his selection lightly, in fact, when asked he said it means a great deal and he is inclined to be the coach here as long as he is wanted. Mind you, those are the emotions of a first-time head coach that is getting the opportunity at a school with tradition and a chance, a chance for very real and big-time success.
"That's the beauty of our profession and how a guy from Brooklyn that nobody knows, kind of goes all over the country chasing the dream of becoming a head coach, and then happened in a way no one could have anticipated, no one could write this," Boynton says almost surprised by it himself. "It doesn't have to be written before for a guy to experience this. I'm thankful to Coach Holder and the Board of Regents for giving me this opportunity. I feel like I'm well prepared for this job."
His primary theme was a simple one, and likely the attribute or attitude that had him favored by the current Oklahoma State players and completely endorsed by graduating seniors Phil Forte and Leyton Hammonds.
"Coaching, in my opinion, is, first and foremost, about leadership," Boynton says giving his guideline away. "Leadership is getting people to believe in things they wouldn't otherwise believe in and that you can inspire people to do things they couldn't do on their own. You can get people to know that you care about them so much that it allows you to push them to a point where they can grow, because growth isn't always easy. If people know you care about them then they will give you a chance to let you show them what you know about what they are trying to do.
"I believe kids don't care how much you know about basketball," Boynton continued. "I can draw up all the plays in the world, but they won't care how many plays I know if I don't care about them as people and their families don't believe I have their best interest at heart. I'd say I was able to convey that (to the selection committee at OSU), and that I've been a leader all my life, as a point guard on every team I've ever played on, on most staffs as an associate head coach or as an outspoken member of the staff, and being very proactive in how I work with our players."
Now the ones wearing orange and black and practicing in Gallagher-Iba Arena are his players. He says he shares the NBA dreams of Jawun Evans and Jeffrey Carroll but wants them to get good, sound advice from people that have their best interests at heart. He wants to be included. If it is in their best interests he wants them back, if not then he plans on recruiting and having the caliber of talent that will win at Oklahoma State.
Some people, especially it seems the people that seem to not know Mike Boynton will dismiss him. He doesn't care, that will just make things easier as he goes about proving that Mike Holder, the Oklahoma State Board of Regents, and the players that endorsed him as a coach were absolutely right.