Remy Boswell's mother didn't have a job, and the two of them didn't have any place to sleep. They ended up in their 1997 Plymouth mini-van in the dark corner of a parking lot in Bethany, bundled up in blankets to stay warm.
"It was scary,” said Remy, a senior basketball player at Capitol Hill.
It was in rough times such as these, however, that Remy and his mother knew who they could count on: Capitol Hill basketball coach Donny Tuley.
"Coach Tuley has always helped us out — finding an apartment … buying us stuff, if we needed it. He always fed, took care of us,” Remy said. "If you need something, he's always there. Always.”
Tuley was the reason Remy wound up at Capitol Hill in the first place. With no dad around, Judy Boswell insisted on searching for a father figure for Remy in high school basketball.
She found Tuley.
For 27 years, Tuley has been that father figure and coach for the entire Capitol Hill boys basketball program. Tuley's teams have won 442 games, made 10 state tournaments and one state championship game. He's maintained the Redskins' only consistent sports program during decades of decline.
But Tuley's resume on the court pales in comparison to what he has done off it. Ask any player, past or present, and they'll likely echo Remy.
Tuley helped them stay in class. He provided discipline and order to their lives. He picked them up and dropped them off after practice. Tuley provided food or a place to sleep, or he found a college opportunity.
With his strict, in-your-face coaching style and emphasis on academics, Tuley has given them all these things and so much more.
"He's a one-of-a-kind coach,” senior forward Craig Woodside said. "He doesn't just coach you in basketball, he coaches you in life. He wants his players to succeed off the court.”
When Tuley launched a nearly unintelligible tirade toward Woodside during the Port City Tournament championship game in Catoosa on Saturday, Woodside's quick response of "My fault, my fault, my fault,” might have seemed rather ordinary. What you don't see, however, is the amount of time Tuley has spent helping Woodside develop enough respect for authority. Woodside said without Tuley, he would likely have dropped out of school as a sophomore.
"Because of Coach Tuley, I'm still in school. He helped me adjust to being spoken to and to respect authority … that's something that's really difficult for me,” said Woodside, who is now shooting for a college scholarship so he can achieve his real goal – a hotel management degree.
Success on a different scale
When Tuley walked into the Capitol Hill Sports Arena in 1981, the 25-year-old was starting his fourth high school basketball coaching job in four years. Just working his way up the ladder to bigger and better things, he thought.
Tuley never imagined that, more than a quarter of a century later, he still wouldn't have moved on to the fifth job.
During his tenure at The Hill, he has turned down several college jobs — including an assistant position at San Jose State and the head position at Murray State in Tishomingo, where he played junior college ball. Last summer, he turned down the head athletic director position for the entire Oklahoma City Public Schools system.
"That amazed me,” said Sherry Tuley, Donny's wife of 16 years. "He got emotional, and he is so unemotional. He said, ‘I don't want to leave my kids, not this group. I've had these kids since they were freshman, and I've got eight seniors. I want to see them through.'”
As much passion as Tuley might have had for moving up in the coaching ranks, it's always been outweighed by his desire to help kids. And nowhere has that need been greater than Capitol Hill, which used to be one of Oklahoma's premier high schools.
The last several decades, however, have brought a continuous economic decline around the school. Now, 99 percent of Capitol Hill students come from households with income so low that they qualify for reduced-price or free meals, according to the Oklahoma City Public Schools' Web site.