Our series started with Part 1 and How Did This Happen? Here we have Part 2 and Who is Mike Boynton? Then, we will finish up today with Part 3 and Here Are Some Things You Want to Know.
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.
Who Is Mike Boynton?
I love this. You know the old Cat Steven's song The Cat's in the Cradle, to me it is a very sad song about a father that never had time for his son as his son was growing up and just wanting to be like his father. The song transitions to the father growing older as the son grows up and doesn't have time for his father. That isn't going to be a problem for new Oklahoma State head basketball coach Mike Boynton. I think those of us that sat around for an hour probing and asking questions to learn who he is clearly found out that Boynton is a father's son.
"I always looked at basketball different, like I was going to coach," Boynton said. "My dad used to take me to the gym on weekends at six a.m. in the morning because that is when the old men went to the gym."
Boynton went it seems willingly, to spend time with his dad, a hard working man that took care of his family. Boynton has three older sisters and one that is younger. He had a younger brother for one day back in 1987, Mike was five-years-old when his mother gave birth to a boy, but he never left the hospital dying of respiratory complications according to Boynton.
"I had a lot of brilliant teammates (over the years) that became like brothers," Boynton added,
He grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., his neighborhood was Bedford Stuyvesant, Bed-Stuy for short, a little Brooklyn neighborhood of 153,000 people.
Boynton insinuated his cell phone on Friday felt like all of them were trying to contact him as he was getting pounded pretty good after the news came out. He needed to go home and get a suit for the photos that needed to be taken. He had a limited time at that point of people to call. Dad was right there on top.
"Very close to my dad, still very close to my dad," Boynton confirmed. "In fact, I still, and I feel bad about saying this, haven't talked to my mom, but my dad is the megaphone, so I had to leave here about 15 minutes to get a suit and I said to myself, 'I'm going to call dad, this thing will be viral.' I called dad and he didn't know. He was working and he works for FedEx, drives trucks, drops packages off. I've got 90 seconds because he's a talker. That's how I opened (the conversation) 'I've got 90 seconds but I want you to know that I was just named the head basketball coach at Oklahoma State.' I don't think he wanted to talk to me anymore as much as he wanted to spread the news. He is just screaming and I can't hear anything. I just said, 'that's my 90 seconds and I've got to go.' It was awesome, it was great."
Boynton promised that he was going to talk to mom later on Saturday.
As documented in part one, this is a family man as he was doing just that, being a husband and a father last Saturday not anticipating his boss was going to take off less than 24 hours after the season ended for Illinois.
That may be a big part of why many of the Cowboys players migrated through Boynton's office much of this week and why the players had him as the guy they endorsed for the job. Basketball and basketball players have always been important to him. This is a young man that has sacrificed to make basketball an important part of his life.
"I played my eighth grade year at a school in Harlem and I took a train and a bus everyday to and from school to play in a very competitive middle school with some very good players that have gone on to have great success in several areas," Boynton explained. "It was part of what prepared me for this because it gave me not an arrogance, but a confidence that I played against the best guys everyday and there is no other place that can make you tough like New York City can. I was a pretty good point guard and I was probably better in high school than I was in college. I was an okay college player. Mark Jackson (former NBA star) was a pretty good point guard at my high school. I did break a few of his assists records, but I probably played with a little more talent (around me) than he did."
Boynton points to Underwood, current South Carolina coach Frank Martin as influences on his coaching career He also talks of the coach that recruited him to South Carolina in Eddie Fogler and the coach he primarily played for with the Gamecocks in Dave Odom as influences and other coaches he worked for like Buzz Peterson and Michael Young. When it comes to someone that had, perhaps the deepest influence, it goes back to high school and his coach at Bishop Loughlin, Bob Leckie.
"You come to work every single day and you do your job to the very best of your ability," Boynton said when asked what he learned most from the 13-time Brooklyn Coach of the Year that later went on to coach at his college alma mater of St. Peter's leading them to the MAAC Championship Game before leaving. "Coach Leckie was a really hard coach to play for because he was extremely demanding, especially for high school. He taught me how to think the game through the lens of a coach as a high school player. People now ask about my lack of experience as a head coach. It goes back to leadership for me and Coach Leckie will tell you he never had to worry about if he had to miss practice. Sometimes as a high school coach you have another job and in an extreme circumstance you might have to miss practice. He never worried about that because I could run practice as a 15-year-old, 16-year-old, and if you guys want his number I will pass that along."
Boynton did, and Coach Leckie answered all the way up in Brooklyn.
"You've got to be able to trust your point guard because he is an extension of you out there on the court. In certain circumstances I could easily trust Michael to start practice and even run it all," Leckie said admitting that he has owned a bar and restaurant and that even though he's retired from basketball several times, "it keeps drawing me back in. I tell people I keep coaching so I can keep the bar and restaurant open."
Leckie passed on some advice earlier in the day to his former player, who had called to tell his coach the news.
"I told him to stay away from social media," Leckie said. "There are always going to be people for you and against you. Keep from reading all that and keep your nose to the grindstone and keep working."
Unfortunately, the old coach's wish can't be kept. Boynton knows he has to keep on social media because that's where all of his players are, where recruits are. Except this week they were in his office and he was ready.
"My first and foremost job is to be here for those kids," Boynton confirmed. "That didn't change even though I was kind of uncertain about my own immediate future. My message to those kids and several of them were coming by the office wanting to know if I knew anything and I really didn't have any answers for them. My message to them was go to class, go to class and stay on top of your academics. This thing will sort itself out and then we'll go for there. Then the bigger part of my message was that this is a great foundation here and the bigger thing you guys can do is stick together and have each other's backs. If you splinter off then you'll all get information from guys somewhere else and they will tell you what they think is best for you, when the best thing for you is to stick together."
Sticking together, something it appears Boynton is very good at.
Family, team, and now Oklahoma State.
Yes, Coach Leckie is right about that fan aspect of social media. Here is how it is running. Fans and people that don't know Mike Boynton don't seem impressed or feel he will get the job done. However, those people that do, like Coach Leckie and the Cowboy players feel really good about the new coach.