Bob Funk Jr. was among hundreds of Oklahomans that celebrated No. 14-seeded Mercer’s 78-71 upset of third-seeded Duke on Friday afternoon in the opening round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
Funk, CEO of Prodigal, which operates the Oklahoma City Barons Triple-A hockey team for the Edmonton Oilers, played for Mercer coach Bob Hoffman for four years when Hoffman coached Oklahoma Baptist University in the 1990s.
“For him to pull off this upset, I feel so ecstatic for him,” Funk said. “He’s a great guy who is a great coach. I learned so much from him, not just basketball, but life.”
Funk watched Mercer’s game Friday on television with his father at the family’s Express headquarters in Oklahoma City.
“We were almost moved to tears,” Funk Jr. said. “It’s a great day for Bob and everybody who knows him. Everyone knows how hard he’s worked for something like this.”
Hoffman, an Oklahoma City native who played basketball at Putnam City High School and OBU, began his college career by leading Southern Nazarene to a women’s NAIA title. He coached nine years at OBU, highlighted by two national runner-up finishes before he moved to the Division I ranks.
Hoffman was the head coach at Texas-Pan American for five seasons before being an assistant on Kelvin Sampson’s staff at Oklahoma.
After two years at OU, Hoffman was forced to look for a job after Sampson left for Indiana. Hoffman coached two years in the NBA D-League before landing at Mercer six years ago.
“My dad has kept in touch with him more than me, but I’ve known Bob since we attended the same church together when he was the high school coach at Piedmont,” Funk Jr. said. “This has been a long time coming for him, a great guy everybody loves.”
Funk Jr. rarely played his first two seasons at OBU under Hoffman. Funk Jr. was in the rotation his junior year and a starter his senior season.
“I played basketball like I should have played hockey,” Funk Jr. said. “I didn’t play much my first two years. When I started playing my junior year I was more of an enforcer when things got physical. Playing for Bob was something that impacted my life.”