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Coaches gave Big Eight basketball an edge

So many coaches these days are button-down. Vanilla flavored. Afraid to offer a peek of personality.
by Berry Tramel Published: March 7, 2012

Maybe Big Eight basketball's format added to the spice. No matter your Big Eight port, you got to know those coaches. All played your team at least twice a year. All came to your arena once.

We're back to the double round-robin. Maybe that will help. Maybe we'll find there's more to Hoiberg than that All-American boy persona we saw 20 years ago as a Cyclone freshman. Maybe we'll find out Texas' Rick Barnes isn't as nice as he seems. Maybe we'll discover that K-State's Frank Martin is even more combustive than he appears.

OSU coach Travis Ford also played Big Eight basketball, a year at Missouri before transferring to Kentucky.

I quizzed all four coaches about their Big Eight memories. I thought they might mention the great atmospheres, at KSU's Ahearn Fieldhouse and OSU's old Gallagher Hall and Hilton Coliseum when it was new and OU's old bandbox Fieldhouse.

And some did. “What great fan support there was everywhere you went,” Ford said.

But when the Big Eight-vets-turned-Big 12-coaches thought back to the old days, they mostly centered on the coaches. And the current coaches even admit things have changed on the personality front.

“Through all the media technology and social media, guys are more reserved on how they talk and how they act.” Self said. “Back then, I thought it was more free flowing, and I thought it created more interest.”

Big 12 coaches aren't all robots. Self can be brutally honest and might be the most media-friendly and public-savvy coach in America today. Ford has his fiery moments. West Virginia's volatile Bob Huggins is on his way to the league.

And like we said, KSU's Martin is a throwback. He would fit in well with the Big Eight days.

But as the Big 12 continues to change, and basketball in the league, while still strong, tries to find its footing, it makes us look back at the stable days of the Big Eight.

And the coaches who remember it look back most fondly on the coaches who were here then. I'm with them.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at