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.