Joe Gilbert hasn't always been a coach at Barnsdall, although it sure feels that way. Shortly after the Missouri native graduated from Northeastern State University in 1954, he was hired to coach a little bit of everything in the small town north of Tulsa. Since, Gilbert has become a Barnsdall institution, winning more than 3,400 games in just about every sport the school offers. Now, retired from teaching for about a decade, Gilbert is the Panthers' girls basketball coach, softball coach and athletic director. He won his only state championship in 1980, leading Barnsdall's baseball team to a title.
“I don't think there's ever been a kid who loved sports more than I do. I still love sports. I spent all last week at different area tournaments at Skiatook, Claremore and Catoosa. I've got tickets to a conference basketball tournament in Bartlesville tonight or I'll go out to ORU to watch the big school championships.
There was never any doubt that I was going to be a coach. I just always thought I wanted to do that from the time I was young.
I went to Northeastern State to play football. Well, I was recruited to play football and wound up playing basketball also. I liked Tahlequah, Northeastern State University and the whole area around here.
I got out of NSU and went to Barnsdall and I've been here ever since. I kept thinking at different times that I might get a job somewhere else, but it never happened. I never did really realize that it was going to be my home for good. Just in the last few years, I thought well, I wasn't going to go anywhere else.
They key for me has been good health. I'm not sure how long I'll keep doing this, but I still enjoy it. I just like coaching, and I get a great charge out of it. Now, I just take it a year at a time. One of these days it'll hit me and I'll stop, but I've been lucky to have my health for this long and do what I love to do.
I stepped back about 10 years ago and went to coaching just one sport a season and retired from teaching as well. That's what really ties you down is when you have to teach as well. If it wasn't for that, I would've stepped away awhile ago.
I get asked that every day it seems like — how long I'm going to coach. That's been happening for about the last 10 years. I don't pay attention to it much.
I just kind of go with the flow. The game has changed and I've changed with it. Probably one of the biggest things that has changed is the faster flow of the game now. I don't mind it. Those kids love it.
I never have had much trouble relating to my players. That part's always come naturally to me. I don't know what it is.
I had a baseball team beat three years in a row in the state tournament, twice in the finals by one run. You remember those. You remember the tough losses more than you do the tough wins for some reason.
If someone wanted to get into coaching, I'd tell them they better really like it. You better really like the game because it's not all gravy. You've got a lot of different people to deal with and just because you love the game, doesn't mean they all will. You've got to deal with so much more than just the games, though — facilities and schedules and everything else.
You're not always going to have good material every year, especially at a place like Barnsdall. When you don't have good kids, you do the best you can. You just deal with what you've got.
Coaching so many sports for me was always a good thing for me. When one season ends, you're sad. It gives me a chance to kind of forget that because there's always the next sport to look forward to. I'm never glad for a season to end, and having another sport helps you get over all that.