Henry Iba's 1951 Final Four team included two players who became iconic coaches, and teammates never saw it coming.
Don Haskins, you know about. Gerald Stockton, maybe you don't. So it's time to fix that.
Stockton died last week at age 81. His funeral was at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. On Gerald Stockton Court.
Eddie Sutton Court in Stillwater. The Don Haskins Center at Texas-El Paso. Gerald Stockton Court. Some of Iba's boys fostered the same respect that Iba himself had in 36 years at OSU.
“There's quite a string of ‘em,” said Bob Mattick, a teammate of Stockton on that '51 team and later a Cowboy All-American. “You think back, what kind of coaches he's produced here. It's just amazing.”
Stockton was born in 1932 in Peckham, near Newkirk in Kay County. He graduated from El Reno High School, where he played for the legendary Jenks Simmons. Learn your basketball from Jenks Simmons and Henry Iba, and you knew your stuff.
“He was such a wonderful coach and individual,” said Harold Rogers, who also played on that '51 Oklahoma A&M, then became a lawyer who settled in Wichita Falls and recruited Stockton to Midwestern State.
In 24 seasons at Midwestern, Stockton won 493 games, took eight teams to the NAIA tournament, including one semifinal team, back in the days when reaching the tournament, much less its final four, was an absolute bear. Stockton was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1995.
When we think of Iba's great disciples, we often don't get past the glamour list of NCAA Division I. Haskins, Sutton, the great Jack Hartman.
But Iba begat two generations of great coaches on every level. High school, small college, junior college. His tentacles were vast.
And those old Cowboys never saw it coming, either in Haskins, who during college days would supplement his income around Stillwater by shooting snooker, or Stockton.
“No one on the team ever dreamed they'd be coaches,” Rogers said. “Never dreamed Stockton would be a great coach.”
Stockton graduated from Oklahoma A&M in 1953, got a Master's degree from there in 1959 and received his Ph.D. from the University of Utah in 1970. He went into the insurance business, Rogers said, but didn't like it. Coaching was his calling.
“He had the personality,” Mattick said. “He was no soft individual on the floor. He was hard-core. But he was gentle with the guys.”
Rogers saw enough Iba in Stockton to recommend him for the Midwestern job in 1970 and saw plenty of Iba in Stockton over the next quarter century.
“I am sure he took all this from Mr. Iba,” Rogers said. “He never interfered in any academics of his players. He had a very strong moral attitude towards coaching.
“He could teach players basketball. If he got a guy in here that couldn't shoot free throws, he could teach him to step up there, spin the ball and get enough arch on it. Gerald was a great teacher.”
And tough. Stockton was Iba-tough. One of Stockton's greatest players, Ike DeVore, once was late returning from Christmas break in his hometown of New York in the mid-70s. Stockton's punishment was to make DeVore run miles and miles around the gym — on game day. It's a lesson DeVore never forgot. DeVore spoke at Stockton's funeral last week.
The same way that people like Tony Allen and Desmond Mason speak about Sutton, or almost four decades worth of UTEP Miners speak about Don Haskins, Midwestern State Mustangs speak about Gerald Stockton.
One of Henry Iba's finest.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.