OU football: Dealing with Austin Box’s death
There is no chapter in the coaching manuals on how to deal with death. Football players aren’t supposed to die. Not in their prime.
So Bob Stoops has a challenge in the coming months on how to deal with Austin Box’s death. How does Stoops deal with the tragedy? How does he address it with his team? How often does he bring it up?
Forget the ramifications of who will play middle linebacker. How will Stoops deal with his team concerning Box’s death. They always say that young people believe themselves to be indestructible. So when that belief is shattered, how do they respond? Not as ballplayers, but as people? That is Stoops’ charge as the head coach.
OU has been fortunate over the years. I can’t remember a Sooner who died while still on the football team. Jim Mackenzie died in office as head coach in April 1967, but no player.
But the tragedy has struck Oklahoma State and Texas.
UT lost offensive lineman Cole Pittman in a car crash 10 years ago February. In a recent interview with Leadercast, Longhorn coach Mack Brown called Pittman’s death “absolutely one defining moment that helped me with my leadership. He was a young man who just turned 21 years old, he’d just gotten engaged, he was going to be a sophomore as a starter on our team for the first time.
“He was returning home after spring break when he missed a curve — his truck flipped, and he died. For the next three- or four-day period, I felt the importance of being the head football coach at Texas and trying to manage a tragedy; trying to make some sense out of it for our parents who were afraid of losing their children. It affected me as a father with children; I had to try and make sense out of it for me. I felt the weight that came with trying to figure out how to help Cole’s parents.
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