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Mick Cornett brought the big-time to Oklahoma City

It was March 2008, and the NBA had dispatched a small army of decision-makers to Oklahoma City, a place long seen as a minor-league town. The question they sought to answer: was the city ready to have a big-league team of its own?
by Jenni Carlson Published: July 30, 2014
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photo - FINAL REGULAR SEASON HOME GAME: Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett addresses the fans alongside Hornets owner Geroge Shinn and NBA Commissioner David Stern before the start of the NBA basketball game between the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets and the Denver Nuggets at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Friday, April 13, 2007. By Nate Billings, The Oklahoman  ORG XMIT: KOD
FINAL REGULAR SEASON HOME GAME: Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett addresses the fans alongside Hornets owner Geroge Shinn and NBA Commissioner David Stern before the start of the NBA basketball game between the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets and the Denver Nuggets at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Friday, April 13, 2007. By Nate Billings, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD

Mick Cornett’s most surreal moment came during a most surreal time for his city.

It was March 2008, and the NBA had dispatched a small army of decision-makers to Oklahoma City, a place long seen as a minor-league town. The question they sought to answer: was the city ready to have a big-league team of its own?

Cornett remembers it as the biggest dog and pony show ever — and why wouldn’t it be? — but amid all the hubbub, one moment is forever frozen in the Oklahoma City mayor’s mind.

Introducing Bob Stoops to David Stern.

“Have you met my friend David?” Cornett quipped recently as he recalled his role of go-between for the Oklahoma football coach and the NBA commissioner.

He laughed a never-thought-I’d-do-that laugh.

But as someone who’s long understood the power and the impact of sport, he couldn’t be prouder of all that he’s helped do for his hometown.

Being inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame next week, Cornett will be recognized for his contributions to the state’s sports scene. Of course, one of the main reasons he’s going into the hall is because he created the hall, a feel-good idea that sprouted when the state was a bit down on its luck in 1986 when Cornett was still a sportscaster at Channel 5 and now has roots in a stand-alone facility on Lincoln Boulevard.

But more significant than that is the stamp that Cornett has left on the sports landscape in this city.

His city.

Cornett was born and raised in the Coronado Heights neighborhood. His house wasn’t far from the busy intersection of Lake Hefner Parkway and Northwest Expressway, but nestled amid tree-lined streets, he felt safe and secure. He could run and play, and that’s what he did every chance he had.

His love of sports only grew as he started school in the Putnam City district. In those days, it was the place to be.

“That was the high-achieving suburban district of its day,” Cornett remembered. “It felt to us like when it came to academic awards and athletic achievements that Putnam City was doing really, really well.”

That wasn’t just an internal feeling. Putnam City High School was a juggernaut in just about every sport. There were state titles and all-staters and college signees everywhere you turned.

The Class of ’72 alone produced Steve Largent, Alvan Adams and Bob Shirley. Largent became one of the greatest pass catchers in NFL history, Adams became an NBA All-Star and Shirley became a Major League pitcher who spent a decade-plus in the big leagues.

That excellence rubbed off on the next generation of Putnam City kids, including Cornett.

“There was an expectation of doing well and winning and all those things,” said Cornett, who was a member of Putnam City’s state championship golf team as a junior, then was an All-Stater on a runner-up team as a senior in 1976.

But as much as that, Cornett also saw the way that sports brought people together. He remembers vividly being at Taft Stadium when Putnam City and Midwest City played in front of what was then the largest crowd to watch a high school football game in Oklahoma history. His older brother, Don, was on the team when so many people packed the stadium that they spilled onto the track around the field.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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