On The Street: After Total Loss, Joe and Cindy Keough Plan to Reopen Wranglers BBQ
TEMPORARILY CLOSED: Joe and Cindy Keough, long-time owners of Wranglers BBQ at 7915 E. 71st St., recently suffered a fire at their restaurant and are temporarily closed. Cindy is concerned for her customers. She says, “I miss my customers! They are family and friends. I love sharing in their lives.” The Keoghs hope to reopen soon.
BY TERRELL LESTER
Joe Keough can’t remember the last time he and wife Cindy took a vacation. Four years? Five years? More? Together, they have operated Wranglers B-B-Q for 26 years. They close on Sundays. They work six days a week. Or, until mid-April they did, anyway. That’s when an early-morning fire on April 12 gutted the little eatery at 7915 E. 71st St. “A total loss,” Joe Keough said, sizing up the interior. The outside, he said, is “structurally sound.”
Joe and Cindy are not so solid. In a flash, Cindy said, she and her husband lost a business and two incomes. They have been forced into taking time off from their livelihood, their lifeline, for the first time in their 30 years of marriage. Theirs has been a marriage of 12-hour workdays, within a 400-square-foot kitchen operation. “Oh, we might have taken two little vacations,” Joe said, after some thought. “Extended weekends, really.” But “vacation” is not a word Joe Keough wants to hear, or use, at this time. He still is locked in a workaday world, working every day in an attempt to reopen the drive-through barbecue and burger operation that is a local landmark.
Insurance representatives. Contractors. Code inspectors. Joe Keough is meeting daily, hourly, with individuals and agencies that hold the key to his future. The tension that tightens the muscles in his face suggests that the stress he experiences during such meetings rises to a much higher level than when he leans over a flat grill during an August afternoon lunch rush.
The Keoughs, who once operated the food trailer Mustache Joe’s at the Tulsa State Fair, are intent on reopening their silver storefront on the northwest quadrant of 71st Street and Memorial Drive. To that end, neighbor, good friend and customer Susan McCoy established a Wranglers B-B-Q benefit fund with Bank of Oklahoma in Tulsa as a way of complementing the Keoughs’ insurance coverage.
Through the years, the Keoughs have built similar endearing and enduring relationships with customers, and offers of help and support have emerged daily since the fire. That should come as no surprise, considering Cindy Keough herself. “Sixty percent of the (Wranglers’ customers) don’t know who I am,” Joe said, with a smile. “But everybody, everybody who drives through, knows Cindy. “She talks to everyone. Knows 80 percent of them by name. She always takes time to visit with the customers.
“She is the face of the store,” Joe said. And what a captivating face it is. She is a once-in-a-lifetime beauty. Her red hair, brilliant eyes, illuminating smile come together in a spectacle of uncommon artistry. She is a one-time international ballerina. Her charm is irresistible, her grace extraordinary. She is the perfect teammate for Joe, a food-industry workaholic.
He traces his restaurant heritage back to the dawning of the 1960s, when Big Mike’s Hamburger Palace was a cornerstone of the Mike Samara empire. From those early days, Joe moved quickly, and often, along the serpentine roads that cut through the world of food-and-drink service. He managed the most memorable of Tulsa showplaces. He directed the operations of Las Vegas dining rooms. He built restaurants on wheels.
Before he and Cindy settled into the constant day-to-day schedule of operating Wranglers, the road had been Joe Keough’s most consistent residence.
He says that the unexplained fire of April 12 is but a speed bump in that road.
Joe and Cindy Keough have vowed to clear that obstacle, vowed to continue their epicurean journey and put an end to this unscheduled vacation.
By mid-May, Joe said, their new and updated itinerary should be finalized.
April 27, 2015On The Street: Hall of Fame to Induct Three Athletes
Sweet-shooting Steve Bontrager will be one of three individuals to be inducted into the Oral Roberts University Athletics Hall of Fame Saturday night, January 24. Bontrager will be joined by Jessica Kellogg (women’s soccer) and Pamela Ontiveros (women’s golf) in the 2015 class, to be presented at halftime of ORU’s basketball game with South Dakota State at 7 p.m. in the Mabee Center.
Bontrager, who played for Coach Ken Hayes from 1979 through 1981, holds multiple records for shooting accuracy. Bontrager is the school’s career record-holder for free-throw percentage: .880 (103-117). In 1980-81, he converted 73 of 81 free-throw attempts, a percentage of .901. As a senior in 1980-81, Bontrager led in scoring with a 16.3 average, earning a spot on the All-Midwestern Collegiate Conference second-team.
A native of Iowa City, Iowa, the 6-1 Bontrager later played three years for Athletes in Action and four years in the English National Basketball League. In the 1990s, he coached the Tulsa Zone and Tulsa Fastbreakers professional teams. He is in his eighth season as color analyst for the Rogers State University basketball program.
Kellogg (2002-05) is the second women’s soccer player to be honored. In 2004, she was the Mid-Continent Conference Offensive Player of the Year. She was a four-time All-Mid-Continent selection, including three first-team honors. She holds school and conference records for career goals (48), points (114) and game-winning goals (17).
Ontiveros (2004-08) was the 2005 Mid-Continent Conference Newcomer of the Year and went on to win the 2007 individual conference championship, earning Golfer of the Year honors. She earned first team all-conference honors all four years and in 2007 became the first individual from to qualify for the Championship. She holds the school’s lowest single-season scoring average (74.4) and is the first women’s golfer inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Jan. 22, 2015
On The Street: Turning Back the Pages of Time
The Rogues Five will be turning back the pages of time Friday night, January 16, in Sand Springs. I.J. Ganem and the group were among Tulsa’s hottest rock and pop acts of the 1960s.
On January 16, the original members of the Rogues Five will celebrate a 50-year reunion at the Sandite Billiards & Grill, 7822 Parkway Blvd. Although the five musicians eventually went separate ways, while they were members of the Rogues Five they left a memorable impression on the regional music scene, covering hits of the day and showcasing headliner talent on original material.
Ganem, on rhythm guitar and vocals, will share the spotlight with Randy Ess (vocals, lead guitar), Jamie Oldaker (drums), Phillip Wilson (keyboard) and Bard Coats (vocals, bass).
Admission is free for the 8:30 p.m. show, but all donations will benefit the Sand Springs Cultural and Historical Museum.
Four of the five members are from Sand Springs.
In 1966, the Rogues Five had a Top 10 single, “Too Good For Love,” on local radio charts, and soon the group was opening for such acts as Jim Morrison and the Doors, the Dave Clark Five and Leon Russell. Ganem’s son Morgan came up with the idea for the reunion and will join the original five for a few songs. It was a golden anniversary event, and a conclusion for the ages. What a way to bring in the new year. The Tournament of Champions, Oklahoma’s premier high school basketball invitational tournament sponsored by Tulsa Public Schools, celebrated its 50th edition during the Christmas holiday break, winding up on New Year’s Eve.
Jan. 16, 2015
On The Street:On The Street: A Night of Golden Hoops
It barely beat the arrival of 2015. It clearly beat all other championship games of the previous half-century.
Tulsa’s Memorial High School, host of the tournament when it made its debut in January 1966, captured the 50th boys championship on the final night of 2014, defeating Owasso, 93-88, in three overtimes. Seven times the championship game had required extra minutes. Twice, championship games have extended into two overtimes. Never had a championship game carried over into three overtimes. Memorial and Owasso made sure the golden anniversary championship game would go down in history.
Memorial’s 6-foot-8 A.J. Cockrell scored 34 points and collected 22 rebounds in an electrifying showdown with Owasso’s 6-foot-5 Shake Milton. Milton finished with 33 points, and led all tournament scorers with 125 for three games.
The game did not conclude until somewhere around 11:30 p.m. and both teams were just filing out of the Mabee Center toward their buses as the celebratory countdown toward midnight was relentlessly moving forward.
Preceding the boys classic, the girls championship game also was registering on the historic scale. It took a four-minute extra period before Tulsa East Central could subdue Muskogee, 66-62. Theirs was only the second overtime championship game in the 16-year history of girls competition.
East Central coach Samy Mack, who had played at Edison, rang up his fourth team championship, twice as many as any other coach in the girls record book. Eight games, beginning at 9 a.m. and running right up toward midnight, proved a scintillating way to close out a year for any basketball fan. Over three days, in a span of 56 hours, 24 games were played and decided, some in overtime, some in regulation, all in a holiday tradition.
Jan. 9, 2015
On The Street: More Applause for Don White
The applause for Tulsa’s inimitable Don White, since the release of the Eric Clapton homage to J.J. Cale, has been resounding.
Nothing new there. Tulsa has embraced the virtuoso stylings of the singer-songwriter for more than 40 years. Maybe 50. Few vocalists in a city rich in musical history have the tone, the pitch, the phrasing, just the downright marvelous voice, of Don White.
The rest of the country now is receiving a goodly dose of the talent that Don White has honed and polished in the clubs and honky tonks of Tulsa and northeast Oklahoma. Don is featured on the recently released album from Clapton, “The Breeze: An Appreciation of J.J. Cale.”
Dedicated to the Tulsa icon who died in 2013, and named for his 1972 single “Call Me the Breeze,” the album grew out of the days surrounding Cale’s funeral in California.
Don was one of a number of Tulsa musicians attending the funeral, along with Clapton, who had recorded the Grammy-winning album “”Road to Escondido” with Cale in 2003.
During an impromptu get-together at the legendary McCabe’s Guitar Shop, Don and Eric were introduced for the first time. Don was singing Cale’s “Sensitive Kind” and caught the ear of Clapton.
Longtime followers, and fans, of Don White have wondered what Clapton’s initial thoughts, and degree of awe, must have been upon hearing the Tulsan’s sonorous sounds for the first time.
Later, as Clapton was pulling together his idea for a tribute album, he asked White to record “Sensitive Kind.”. White has long included the song in his sets around Tulsa. White also lent his voice to two other tracks on the 16-song CD. Leading up to the album’s release in July, the national newspaper Today made mention of Don White’s contributions.
Critic Edna Gundersen wrote: “Tom Petty, Mark Knopfler and Don White do Cale justice. John Mayer and Willie Nelson fall short.” The album, according to the newspaper, was the second-best selling disc of the week immediately after its debut.
Clapton has long held Cale in the highest regard. Clapton, virtually an honorary Tulsan due to his relationship with our local musicians, has called Cale a key figure in rock history. A number of Tulsans have played and toured with Clapton over the years.
Joining White on the Clapton tribute album were other Tulsa musicians Jimmy Karstein, David Teegarden, Jamie Oldaker, Jim Keltner, Jimmy Markham and Walt Richmond.
Dec. 12, 2014
On The Street: Tournament of Champions Lineup
The high school basketball Tournament of Champions tips off for the 50th time on Monday, Dec. 29, at two locations in Tulsa. The eight-team boys bracket will play four games beginning at 4 p.m. in the opening round at Memorial’s new Veterans Arena.
The first four games are being held at Memorial, where the tournament began in 1966.
Second-round and championship-round games the next two days will be moved to the Mabee Center, on the campus of Oral Roberts University, site of the last three tournaments.
While the boys are competing at Memorial on Dec. 29, the girls field will take over the Mabee Center.
Tulsa Public Schools is the sponsor of the tournament that brings together the best small schools and the best large schools in Oklahoma, a veritable David vs. Goliath showcase.
In reaching its golden anniversary in 2014, it must be pointed out that there were two tournaments staged in the 1989 calendar year. That was the year that the T of C moved from a January date to the Christmas holidays.
In 2011, the boys Tournament of Champions joined forces with another Tulsa Public Schools tournament, the girls Oklahoma’s Best. Combined under one umbrella, the Tournament of Champions has strengthened its position as the premier regular-season high school basketball event in the state.
Tournament pairings are not seeded. First-round games feature large-school teams (classes 6A and 5A) against teams from the smaller classifications (4A and below).
Six of the eight playoff classifications are represented in the girls and boys brackets.
Admission is $8 per four-game sessions. During the second and third rounds of the tournament, two sessions are scheduled each day. All-session passes (good for all three rounds) are $30 and may be purchased on-line until Dec. 27 through the Mabee Center web site.
Monday, Dec. 29
At Memorial High School
Game 1, 4 p.m. – Edmond Santa Fe (6A) vs. Lookeba-Sickles (B)
Game 2, 5:30 p.m. – Victory Christian (4A) vs. Tahlequah Sequoyah (3A)
Game 3, 7 p.m. – Owasso (6A) vs. Glencoe (A)
Game 4, 8:30 p.m. – Tulsa Memorial (5A) vs. Atoka (3A)
Tuesday, Dec. 30
At Mabee Center
9 a.m. – Game 2 loser vs. Game 3 loser
Noon – Game 1 loser vs. Game 4 loser
4 p.m. – Game 1 winner vs. Game 4 winner
7 p.m. – Game 2 winner vs. Game 3 winner
Wednesday, Dec. 31
At Mabee Center
10:30 a.m. – Seventh place
1:30 p.m. – Fifth place
5:30 p.m. – Third place
8:30 p.m. – Championship
Monday, Dec. 29
At Mabee Center
Game 1, 4 p.m. – Tulsa East Central (5A) vs. Adair (3A)
Game 2, 5:30 p.m. – Southmoore (6A) vs. Preston (2A)
Game 3, 7 p.m. – Tulsa Washington (6A) vs. Sterling (A)
Game 4, 8:30 p.m. – Muskogee (6A) vs. Fort Gibson (4A)
Tuesday, Dec. 30
At Mabee Center
10:30 a.m. – Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser
1:30 p.m. – Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser
5:30 p.m. – Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner
8:30 p.m. – Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner
Wednesday, Dec. 31
At Mabee Center
9 a.m. – Seventh place
Noon – Fifth place
4 p.m. – Third place
7 p.m. – Championship
Dec. 12, 2014
On The Street: Shopping for Dinosaurs or Avatars?
I couldn’t beat them. I joined them.
I tried to avoid the Christmas decorations going up along most shop-heavy thoroughfares by taking the backroads. Tried to avoid October Christmas commercials on television and in major retail outlets by changing channels and changing shopping habits. Alas, to no avail.
Christmas is coming and no amount of head-in-the-sand contortions on my part can, or will, slow it. I couldn’t beat the folks at The Commercialization of Christmas Project. There were too many of ’em. United. Consolidated.
I was standing alone.
I had been fighting the good fight. Leading the resistance. Holding tight to tradition. Halloween. Followed by Thanksgiving. Followed by Winter Solstice. Then, Christmas. Not Christmas first. But I weakened in the face of the all-out assault from the folks at The Commercialization of Christmas Project. That’s because temptation arrived on my doorstep. Actually, in the mailbox, but close enough.
I was blindsided. I yielded to the siren call of a catalog. Not just any catalog. Hammacher Schlemmer. “America’s Longest Running Catalog.” Says so on the Christmas-red cover. Right above the next line: “Offering the Best, the Only and the Unexpected for 166 years.” With inviting, even seductive, prose such as that, who could resist?
Not me. I couldn’t beat the two-months-till-Christmas merchandising minions. I joined them. Until … Until I thumbed through to page 13. “The Life Size Tyrannosaurus Skeleton.” How terrific would that look under the Christmas tree? In the middle of my Lionel train village. But read the fine print. “Spanning 40’ from tail to snout, this is the life-size replica fossil skeleton of Stan, a Tyrannosaur first unearthed in South Dakota’s Black Hills in 1992.” Forty feet in length. Fifteen feet tall. Weighs in at 1,500 pounds. Museum quality. “Please call … for details,” the description read. Then came the price tag: $100,000. Oops. A hundred grand? And I was just ready to pick up the phone before I reached that line.
Maybe that’s why I don’t shop in October. Or November. I could wait for the after-Christmas sale. So, I kept “shopping,” flipping pages almost covertly, lest I be detected by members of the Don’t Shop Till December 23 Brigade. Not one ad stopped my search. Nor prompted me to reach for the plastic card in my wallet. Until … Until I hit page 81.
“The Celebrity Robotic Avatar.” Perfect. Just the gift for the person who has everything. An ex-wife? “The only robot admitted to the Screen Actors Guild, this is the adult-sized robotic avatar that has appeared in movies, television programs, and music videos,” the advertising spiel goes. “His head, torso, and multi-jointed arms can be operated independently or in limitless combinations to create graceful, lifelike motions.”
And, since the description referred to this robot in the male context, maybe it, or he, would be a potential football-watching, beer-fetching companion on the weekends?
I mean, it, or he, stands 6-foot tall. Weight’s a little heavy for some couches, 600 pounds. But even that was not the official turnoff. The bold type. At the bottom of the text box: $345,000. What? Hey, I wasn’t planning to send this guy to college. Just thought he might make a fun conversation-starter for the holidays. Or maybe make a good sounding board for my rants about the commercialization of Christmas.
I think that’s enough Christmas shopping for a while. However, there does arise a practical question from all this. How did I get on the list to receive this catalog?
Nov. 14, 2014
On The Street: A Salute to Tulsa’s Music History
If Cain’s Ballroom is hailed as the birthplace of Western Swing, it certainly was viewed as the midwife to old-time rock ‘n’ roll Saturday night. For the capacity crowd in syncopated attendance, time stood still. From the opening words of Tulsa radio legend Scooter Segraves to the closing jam by Tulsa rock and blues pioneers, Cain’s was the vehicle that transported a crowd back in time.
Back to the Big 10 Ballroom. Back to , The Big 97. Back to the Casa Del. Back to the Rose Room. Back to the Fondalite. Back to the birth of rock ‘n’ roll.
The Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame put Tulsa music, Tulsa musicians, Tulsa memories right smack in the spotlight, for what could best be described as a “once-in-a-lifetime musical experience.” One by one, two by two, personalities and icons turned back the ages and inducted five Tulsa music makers — Lowell Fulson, Elvin Bishop, Jim Keltner, Chuck Blackwell and J.J. Cale — into the Hall of Fame.
It might be too late to make such a comment, but this was a night not to be missed.
Sol Bayouth of Tulsa, who has been an integral part of the music scene for a half-century as a fan, a promoter, an entrepreneur, operator and all-round raconteur, said flat-out: “This was the greatest night in Tulsa musical history.”
Lest we repeat, or begin to sound like a scratched 45, suffice to say that it was, indeed, a great night in Tulsa musical history.
With the images, if not the ghosts, of Bob Wills and Johnnie Lee Wills smiling down from the walls of the venerable honky-tonk, five new larger-than-life musicians were etching their names into the solid-gold tableau of Oklahoma’s euphonious legacy.
Fulson, whose guitar and voice propelled him into blues prominence, was the first to be inducted. Fulson, born in Tulsa, died in 1999 at the age of 77. Accepting Fulson’s award was a cousin, Ronnie Wilson, whose own musical career was punctuated by his co-founding of The Gap Band.
Singer Ray D. Rowe led an all-star salute to Fulson, with a backing ensemble that included guitarist Steve Hickerson, drummers Jamie Oldaker and David Teegarden, and keyboardist Walt Richmond.
Bishop, the gravel-voiced blues guitarist who lived in Tulsa for six of his formative years, was second to be inducted. He showed off just about every guitar lick in his bag as he frolicked through four numbers that had the house totally in tune and in a collective harmonious trance. His repartee, on a level with his fretwork, was captivating and engaging. He was backed by bassists Gary Gilmore and Casey Van Beek, Oldaker, Richmond, guitarist Charles Tuberville and harmonica-player Jimmy Markham.
The drummers Blackwell and Keltner were introduced by yet another drum notable, Jim Kartstein.The three revisited some six decades of playing Tulsa bars and international stages. Joined by a rotating band of widely recognized talent, including Gilmore, guitarists Don Preston and Jimmy Byfield, keyboardist Larry Bell and saxophonist Johnny Williams, Blackwell and Keltner turned the Cain’s stage into an ethereal rendering of musical mythology.
Williams set the finger-snapping mood by kicking off with “Honky Tonk” and the band slipped right in with him, setting off what would be a three-song explosion of rock, blues, rockabilly and rhythm. Then came the induction of J.J. Cale, known as Johnny while he was attending Tulsa’s Central High School in the 1950s. He was remembered through an animated series of anecdotes and gems by two longtime bandmates and Tulsa treasures Karstein and Gilmore. The award to Cale, who died in 2013 at the age of 74, was accepted by his widow, Christine Lakeland, and his sister, Joan Somers.
For the next hour, a prized collection of Cale’s friends and collaborators jammed and rocked and shuffled in a fitting tribute to a musical giant. Guitar master Tommy Crook launched the set before giving way to a parade of musicians who quickly and deftly built on that early momentum to create a driving and pulsating force.
There was Teegarden’s former partner, Skip (Van Winkle) Knape on organ, Mrs. Cale (Christine Lakeland) on vocals and guitar, Rocky Frisco on keyboard, Larry Bell on organ and vocals, Bill Kenner on mandolin, and all the aforementioned headliners. They played it hot, they played it cool, they played it straight, they played it old school.
Don White reproduced his featured offering from the recently released album “The Breeze: An Appreciation of J.J. Cale” from Eric Clapton & Friends, “Sensitive Kind.” Included in the playlist of Cale-penned staples were “Crazy Mama,” “Magnolia,” and “After Midnight.” White led the stage full of talent, more than a dozen strong, right into the closing number, “Clyde,” that was part encore, part jam, part party, part eulogy and all Johnny Cale.
If the night appeared to have reached a crescendo with the spotlight on Cale, there was also a similar peak early on with the arrival on stage of four absolutely great men of the stick: Oldaker, Karstein, Blackwell and Keltner.
For drum aficionados — and what rock fan is not? — this was euphoric. They put the night in an indelible groove.
After 3 ½ hours of celebrating Tulsa’s musical roots and its musical heritage, few in the crowd was ready to leave. Certainly, the musicians were, seemingly, just getting warmed up.
As all good things must come to an end, so did the 14th edition of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
It was a night to be remembered.
Nov. 4, 2014
On The Street: Basketball Reaches a Golden Milestone
Can it really be 50 years? A half-century?
Basketball at Oral Roberts University is indeed reaching the golden milestone.
Seems like only yesterday. Coach Bill White. The Fieldhouse, aka the round house. Carl Hardaway. The junior college dominated freshman schedule of 1965-66. Oral Roberts himself.
Today, it’s an all-together different ballgame. Coach Scott Sutton. The Mabee Center, aka the best basketball facility up and down the highway. Korey Billbury. Eight-hundred sixty-six career program wins, and counting.
Basketball, the campus signature sport, is just about to tip off.
Sutton, beginning his 16th season as the head coach of the Golden Eagles, was his typical gracious and accommodating self recently as he and his players mingled with the media before an afternoon practice on the floor of the Mabee Center. He was smiling broadly as he talked about the start of another season. “I love this time of year,” he was saying. It’s a love affair that has endured through 44 basketball seasons. He can’t remember a year without basketball.
He was born in the off-season when his father, Eddie, was coaching at Creighton University. He grew up watching seasons unfold while his father coached at Kentucky and at Oklahoma State. He watched more seasons unfold while he was playing for his father at Oklahoma State.
In 1995, Scott experienced his first season as a coach, as he worked as an administrative assistant under head coach Bill Self. After three more seasons, Scott was moved into the head-coaching position, succeeding Barry Hinson. Scott Sutton has opened every new season since 1999 on the sideline of the Mabee Center. He has seen so many new seasons that he now ranks as the winningest basketball coach in school history with 287 victories. With 13 consecutive winning seasons, it is conceivable that he could surpass 300 victories by February.
The Golden Eagles, with four starters back from a 17-16 team, have an imposing yet attractive schedule before embarking on their second Summit League journey in January.
had been a Summit League member for 15 years before moving to the Southland Conference for the 2012-13, 2013-14 seasons. “It’s always exciting to start a new season,” Sutton said. “And some years are more exciting than others. “But this year is exciting.”
It was exciting, too, back in 1965 when Bill White and his collection of freshmen defeated Oklahoma Christian College’s junior varsity for very first win. White, who stayed on the job for four seasons, carved out a 16-10 record that year against an assortment of opponents such as Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and Cerritos (Calif.) Junior College.
has come a long way since then. Eight men have held the head coaching spot between White and Sutton. Sutton, who presided over program wins Nos. 600, 700 and 800, has accumulated more victories than any other coach. Ken Trickey is second with 214.
Oct. 31, 2014
On The Street: Players Support Area Youth
There’s a new player in the charitable fundraising game. Well, actually, more than a single player. It’s more of a team. Some three-dozen or so former National Football League players, all with Oklahoma ties, have teamed up for a good cause and a good time.
The Kickoff Charity Golf Classic Aug. 24-25 was the group’s inaugural event. It was an auspicious debut. Steve August, former University of Tulsa star, is president of the Oklahoma chapter of the Former Players Association. With his connections and his dedication, August has pushed his organization to the forefront of unselfish giving.
The group, including former stars from the University of Tulsa, the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, hosted a dinner at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa one night and a golf tournament at the adjoining golf course the next day.
The Cherokee Nation, with Principal Chief Bill John Baker, was the presenting sponsor for the two-day gala.
All proceeds, according to August, from the dinner and tournament have been committed to the athletics departments of the Tulsa Public Schools and the Oklahoma City Public Schools.
Most notable among the fundraising events of the Kickoff Classic was an after-dinner auction that included four major framed autographed items.
A game photo from 1979 focusing on a run by OU’s Billy Sims and a failed tackle attempt by Iowa’s Bob Stoops — and signed by each — fetched $800.
Three exhibits, each featuring a photograph and signatures of all-time football greats from each of the participating universities, drew winning bids ranging from $450 to $750.
Each of the universities was represented by a head-turning lineup of former stars. A native of Pennsylvania who became an All-American offensive lineman at TU, August was a 1977 first-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks. He spent 7 ½ seasons in Seattle before retiring as a Pittsburgh Steeler during his eighth year as a pro.
“We hope to continue this tradition of giving back to the youth of Oklahoma … in the years to come,” he said.Oct. 24, 2014
On The Street: TU Hoops: Happy New Year
It was only October. Still football time. Halloween days away. Yet around the University of Tulsa campus, and particularly in the corridors of the Reynolds Center, there were sounds of “Happy New Year.” No confetti, though. No noise makers. No balloons. Not even a Dixieland combo. But certainly, there was a festive mood. A celebratory mood. Handshakes and backslaps all around. Smiles wall to wall.
A new year was dawning. Let there be basketball.
At TU, that is cause for celebration. Especially as this old year, this year of 2014, slowly, slowly, painfully slowly, crawls to the finish line. Basketball came roaring in on October 23, on the shoulders of Frank Haith, like a springtime wind. And with it came a season of new hope. A new beginning. A new year.
One could hear the faint sounds of “Auld Lang Syne” floating over from the direction of Chapman Stadium. Fare thee well, old friend football. Been nice to know you. But basketball has arrived. Just in the nick of time. We were just about to lose all sporting hope. Football was rapidly, sadly, becoming yesterday’s news.
Hail the arrival of Frank Haith. Let the games begin.
Haith welcomed the media into his office and opened the doors into his first days of practice with his Golden Hurricane hoopsters. A friendly and well-spoken ambassador for the sport and the school, Haith is the face and the voice of this new year celebration.
He moved in from Missouri to take over a program now charged with breathing new life into a campus in the wake of a football season on a resuscitator. Casually and confidently, this coach who will have a celebration of his own November 3 when he turns 49 has all the prerequisites. He easily conveys the feeling of well-being in his new environment.
As he chatted up members of the media, he was relaxed and convivial. He called several by name. He looked each square in the eye. He smiled. He laughed a little. He used words like “excited” and “fresh” and “new.”
He described his basketball, TU basketball, as being “up tempo” with a “movement offense.” He talked about creating a team that would be “competitive” and “aggressive.” He talked about playing to his team’s strengths, “and our strengths are our speed and our quickness.” He talked about the past, TU’s basketball past, and addressed warmly the “15 tournaments” and “the proud tradition.”
He talked at length about a new conference (the American Athletic Conference), the new opponents showing up in the Reynolds Center, his own new beginnings in this his 11th year as a head coach. He gave a glimpse into his coaching manual, into his book of life, when he offered: “To have a great team, your players have got to see your heart, and you’ve got to see their heart.” We got to see inside the TU basketball program. We saw signs that proclaimed, “Happy New Year.”
Oct. 17, 2014
On The Street: A Larry Coker Reunion
When the Roadrunners motored into Stillwater for a September football game with the Oklahoma State Cowboys, there was something of a convivial reunion centering on the visiting head coach, Larry Coker.
Coker has long been a popular Oklahoma sporting figure. Much of that came into focus when he and his team arrived at Boone Pickens Stadium. He was greeted warmly by dozens of well-wishers from his Oklahoma past.
It was in Fairfax, just a couple of counties away, that Coker launched a coaching career that would take him to the collegiate mountaintop. He coached Fairfax to back-to-back Class B high school state championships (1975, ’76) before moving up to Claremore High School in 1977. From there, he went directly to the University of Tulsa, under John Cooper, and eventually served as offensive coordinator at TU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. After a two-year stint at Ohio State, he moved to the University of Miami (Fla.), again as offensive coordinator, before being elevated to the top job in 2001.
In his first year as head coach at Miami, Coker won the national championship with a 12-0 record. The man who hired him at Claremore caught up with Coker in Stillwater in September and reminisced about the coach’s formative years. “I was telling the fans that when Larry won the championship at the University of Miami, that his last head coaching job was at Claremore High School,” retired superintendent Bill Salwaechter said. “And I got him for $4,600.”
Salwaechter talks often and fondly about the coach he calls “one of the most humble people I’ve ever met in my life.” His favorite illustration of Coker’s kindness and fairness occurred while the two were attending a junior high football game in Claremore. “A coach from a neighboring community came by,” Salwaechter recalled. The unnamed coach was telling Coker about his bad week. He had just kicked off two players from his high school team. “What for?” Coker inquired. “Smoking,” the other coach replied.
When the coach departed, Coker turned to Salwaechter and said: “You don’t kick them off. You help them quit.” Salwaechter said, “That’s the story I use to explain the kind of man Larry Coker is.” “If there is such a thing as a perfect gentleman, it’s Larry Coker,” Salwaechter said.
Coker is one of three high-ranking members of the athletics department with Oklahoma ties. Coker was born in Okemah and attended Northeastern State. The men’s head basketball coach is Brooks Thompson, who played under Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State. The director of athletics is Lynn (Sooter) Hickey, a product of Welch in Craig County where her father, Ken, is a retired hall of fame high school basketball coach.
Oct. 10, 2014
On The Street: Facing Mantle a Career Killer
Former University of Tulsa football coach F.A. Dry was an all-around athlete as a Fairland, Oklahoma, schoolboy. He played basketball, baseball and football before accepting a scholarship to play football for Oklahoma A&M in the early 1950s.
A contemporary and rival of Dry while at Fairland was another all-purpose athlete from nearby, Mickey Mantle of Commerce. Fairland and Commerce were members of the Lucky Seven Conference in the 1940s.
Dry recently talked about facing Mantle in all sports. “He was a great athlete,” Dry said by telephone from his Fort Worth home. “He discouraged my pitching career,” Dry said, smiling at the memory. He recalled a game in 1948, played at Fairland, in which Dry faced the opponent who would make his debut with the New York Yankees three years later. “He hit two home runs off me, one of them all the way out into Highway 60 (which runs through Fairland),” Dry said. “The next time up, I said, ‘OK, buddy.’ So, I threw (around him). I threw behind him. I threw inside. I threw outside. “He walked. He wasn’t going to hit any more off me.”
Once Mantle reached the Yankees, he started discouraging the pitching careers of several major leaguers.
Oct. 3, 2014