NORMAN – Mike Stoops misses some things about being a head coach.
He's like the rest of us. “I'd rather give orders than take them,” Stoops said with a smile.
It's good to have him back. Seems like old times. Same bluntness. Same honesty. Same passion.
A little hardened and a little humbled by eight years in the desert, trying to turn University of Arizona football into something it's never been, but now Stoops has returned to the campus where he'll have to take orders, but only from big brother Bob.
“This was my first choice,” Mike Stoops said about finding another job after ‘Zona fired him last autumn. “To me, this is a place that's very special. This is a place where you can win championships.”
Can and have. Mike Stoops coordinated the Sooners' 2000 national championship defense and now is commissioned to do the same, starting with the 2012 season, which starts Friday when the Sooners report.
OU fans clamored for his return. And Stoops was glad to be back.
“I never felt that stable at Arizona,” Stoops said. “I hung in there and fought the good fight. Even through our success, I never felt at ease.”
Stoops had his moments. The Wildcats were 8-5 in both 2008 and 2009, then got off to a 7-1 start and reached No. 13 in the AP poll. But ‘Zona lost its final five games of that season, then five of its first six games of 2011, and Stoops was fired, with an overall record of 41-50.
“A hard eight years,” Stoops said. “Really, really hard.”
Arizona's facilities fell behind most of the Pac-10's. Stoops compared them to a Mountain West school.
Arizona had some success under Larry Smith and Dick Tomey in the ‘80s and ‘90s. But it hasn't made a Rose Bowl in its 34 years in the Pac-10/12; ‘Zona's last outright conference title came in the Border Conference, in 1941.
“It's a tough place,” Stoops said. “Life wasn't getting any easier. At Oklahoma, I never felt that way.”
And so he wanted to come back, and Bob Stoops did something he hadn't done in 13 years in Soonerville. He fired a coach (Willie Martinez) and was prepared to demote another (Brent Venables, before he left for Clemson).
“I've got obviously a lot of faith in him … when we've worked together, it's been pretty positive,” Bob Stoops said.
That's at Iowa as players, at Kansas State as colleagues and at OU.
“Coming back was an interesting scenario,” Mike Stoops said of melding with Venables, his old pal from K-State and OU days, who took over as the Sooner defensive chief in 2004 when Mike Stoops went to Arizona. “It was a tense time for everybody, trying to find the dynamics, putting things back together the way it was is very difficult.
“First and foremost, what was best for Oklahoma? What was best for keeping the continuity? We were hopeful they would be able to stay together. That wasn't possible for whatever reason why.”
But the Brothers Stoops are reunited, and Mike is glad to be back.
“Programs that are stable are hard to find,” he said. “That's one reason I chose Oklahoma.”
Stable, the Sooners are. But Mike Stoops knows his mission is not to maintain stability. It's to restore championship defense.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.