A 31-year coaching career that has taken him from Sand Springs to Mangum and other stops in between is now taking Mike Whaley to the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Whaley will be part of an 11-member class inducted into the Hall of Fame in July.
Whaley’s football coaching career began as an assistant at Sand Springs in the late 1970s. From there, he had was the head coach at Mangum and an assistant Southwestern Oklahoma State in Weatherford before becoming the Blanchard head coach in 1986. He finished his coaching at Westmoore, first as an assistant, then serving as the head coach from 2000-2009, at which point he joined the OSSAA.
As an assistant director for the OSSAA, Whaley oversees officiating, and fall and spring baseball, along with helping with eligibility and hardships.
When he looks at the list of men and women in the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Whaley is taken aback to know that his name will soon join them.
The Hall of Fame is an unbelievable honor. One I don’t know that I ever thought about when I was starting in coaching, or considered it something that would be achievable. I was very fortunate, because my junior-high coaches, Jerry Minihan and Darold Ritchie, they’re Hall of Fame coaches. My high school coach, Harold Park, a Hall of Fame coach. So I was coached by guys who were that quality. When you look at the people who are in there, it’s very humbling to think that your name is next to their names. I don’t know if I can even describe what it means.
I practiced football a lot at Southwestern. I didn’t actually get to play very much. I was a professional practicer there for a few years.
We played for a national championship there in 1977. Played in a short-lived bowl game called the Apple Bowl that was played at the Kingdome in Seattle, Wash. We played Abilene Christian in the finals, and they beat us. But it was quite an experience to go to the Kingdome. We had a lot of guys that stood around and watched the game on the big screen. Unfortunately, they were on the field watching it while it was going on. Abilene got after us pretty good that day.
I started off at the Naval Academy. I thought I wanted to teach and coach, and the Navy said that was fine, except I would get to do five years of something else first, then they’d bring me back to the shore and let me teach and coach. And at that time, when you’re 19 or 20 years old, you think five years is like 50. So my high school coach had a friend who was coaching at Southwestern and I was able to go there. And that enabled me to get into teaching and coaching.
I was always fascinated by coaches. I grew up with a teacher. My mom was an elementary teacher. I’ve always been highly interested in school, for whatever reason, but mainly because it was the place we went to play games.
The games are huge, and you go from Friday to Friday and it’s such a roller-coaster. But now, looking back on it, what’s more enjoyable for me is to see how those guys I coached have had an opportunity to turn out, what they’ve done and what they’ve been about. And you’re always excited when you see one or two of them get into coaching, because that means they must’ve enjoyed their time when you were around.
It was very fulfilling to watch Billy Langford coach at Westmoore, because Billy was my quarterback at Blanchard and I’ve loved watching his career. Or watching a guy like Billy Bajema. I’m the guy who played him at quarterback. He started at OSU and went to the NFL for all those years as a tight end, and I thought he was a quarterback. So that tells you what I knew about that stuff.
Billy Bajema was such a gifted athlete. His senior year, he was having some arm trouble and wasn’t getting to play a lot of baseball. He was over on the track, getting his running in, and he wanders over to the high jump pit and starts screwing around and jumping. The track coach comes over and says, “Hey you want to go do that at the conference meet?” He went out there and got second or third, or something like that, and didn’t train more than probably two or three hours, maybe.
My first year at Sand Springs, I coached a young man named Alan Schinnerer. He was a guy who did everything you asked him to do, the kind of person you wanted your kid to be like. We worked together in the summertime when I was painting for the school. Alan was on my paint crew. I told him if he ever wanted to get into this coaching thing, he’d always have a job with me. One day, years later when I was at Blanchard, my phone rang. He said, “Coach, I got my degree, and I’m ready to start coaching. When do I show up?” He was a special-ed teacher and we had a special-ed opening, so I was able to hire him. We coached together for several years. He stayed in the Blanchard community, became a principal and administrator down there.
When you watch people you were around, and see them become successful — Alan’s been successful, Billy Langford’s been successful, Billy Bajema’s been tremendously successful. Or a guy like Ryan Fightmaster, who played quarterback for us at Westmoore, who was undoubtedly one of the most competitive young men I’ve ever been around in my whole life. The coaching and the games, don’t get me wrong, I wanted to win as many as I could. But I didn’t realize while all that was going on, how much I enjoyed the relationships with the kids and how powerful those relationships were. You can’t buy that stuff. That’s really rewarding.