By TERRELL LESTER
Editor at Large
SPORTSMAN: J.V. Haney in 2013 before a taping of “Sportscene” on Cox.
GTR Newspapers photos
He’s a small-town guy who charmed the big city.
He was merely a name who coached high school sports before he became the face of Oklahoma high school athletics.
Through his appearances on radio and television, J.V. Haney became the state’s most significant voice of high school sports.
No one has led a more spirited, more credible charge for high school sports than J.V. Haney.
From the late 1980s through the early 2000s, Haney spread the gospel of Oklahoma high school sports from his pulpit that was Cox cable television. Through football season, basketball season and an assortment of lesser-recognized seasons, Haney provided the passion and the commentary for television audiences statewide.
Recently reaching his 82nd year, Haney has slowed his once-frenetic pace. Still, though, he maintains his visibility on Cox with weekly shows featuring Cascia Hall and Tulsa Public Schools. He contributes to the radio coverage of University of Tulsa football and is available for fill-in duty on the Cox weekly high school football and basketball assignments.
He has been a commercial pitchman for a wide range of enterprises, from bakeries to orthopedic specialists to retirement homes.
He is in demand. He is knowledgeable. He is sincere. He is down-home likeable.
He answers calls from coaches seeking his wisdom.
He moves easily among the movers and shakers of industry and education.
He is a public relations original, ready with a handshake, a quip, a garrulous disposition.
Over the years, he has been an amateur inventor and a professional baseball player, obtaining a patent for a rebounding machine and kicking around the minor league as a catcher.
Seldom does a year go by that he is not inducted into a hall of fame.
Seldom does a month go by that he is not saluted or singled out for his work or his volunteer support.
Seldom does a day go by that he is not invited to address a group or emcee a banquet.
J.V. Haney is a professional personality.
And all he ever wanted to do was coach. When his high school basketball coach at Big Cabin was drafted during the Korean War, J.V. Haney the student was tabbed to take over the vacant post until a replacement coach could be found.
J.V. was never a big man, not as far as height goes. His Christian name, Jerome Vance, was cut down to J.V. to better fit his stature. But whether he went by J.V., Jerome Vance, or Puddin’, as his pals at Big Cabin colorfully nicknamed him, he was, and still is, more widely known as “Coach.”
He launched a 30-year coaching journey in 1956, coaching boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball at Adair High School. Eventually, he moved on to tiny Hughes High School, then Owasso, and then Seminole before landing in Tulsa in 1966 as an assistant basketball coach to the renowned Bill Allen.
Haney coached all sports. Football and golf, baseball and basketball.
At Owasso in 1965, he attracted his first statewide attention, coaching basketball, earning Coach of the Year honors from the Tulsa World, and coaching in the first girls All-State game in Lindsay.
He sandwiched two stints at Webster around a six-year run at Edison. In his second tour at Webster, from 1976 through 1986, he coached boys basketball, served as director of athletics, and initiated and coached the girls basketball program.
Along the way, he rose to the top of his profession, being elected president of the Oklahoma Coaches Association. In the summer of 2003, he received his profession’s highest honor, induction into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
It is this experience, this reputation, this respect that is invested in his commentary of high school sports. No one is more closely identified with Oklahoma high school athletics than J.V. Haney.
He retired from coaching in 1986, but never retired from promoting sports and the student-athletes who play those sports.
He suffered a heart attack in 1984, but never lost his appetite for high school athletics.
He has been a consultant for Tulsa Public Schools, Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association and the Oklahoma Coaches Association. He sits on college committees and community focus groups. He takes leadership roles in an array of fund-raising activities.
He has worked as director for state basketball tournaments and All-State games. He has worked as director for the Tournament of Champions and for Oklahoma junior college state tournaments.
Gil Cloud, Director of Athletics for Tulsa Public Schools, has worked with Haney in various capacities since 1976. He calls Haney “a living icon of Tulsa Public Schools.”
Haney, he said, “is very professional, very precise in how to do things.”
Responding to Haney’s promotion of high school athletics, Cloud said, “He has always had kids at the very forefront of his focus.”
Haney’s energy level, in his eighth decade, remains uncommonly high.
His spontaneous delivery on air, his insight into coaching and athletes, his knowledge of Oklahoma history, combine to make him a natural as a commentator.
He is unaffected by celebrity. He is true to his Big Cabin roots. He is honest, hard-working, competitive. He might be retired, but one would never know it by tracking his schedule and commitments.
He began doing a scores-and-highlights radio show in Tulsa in the late 1980s. He teamed with Bill Land to kick off the sports-talk format locally in 1990. He has provided radio and television commentary for Oral Roberts University and the University of Tulsa.
College coaches routinely seek his counsel on game theories and high school athletes. He is never at a loss for words, never short on answers.
Because Cox offers a goodly lineup of reruns of all its high school-based programming, it might seem to the casual viewer that J.V. Haney is on camera, behind a microphone seven days a week.
That might not be a stretch.
There is no slowdown for J.V. Haney.
There are more high school events, more high school athletes, more high school coaches to talk about. And for J.V. Haney, that’s a big thing.