NORMAN — The end of Oklahoma baseball's Sunny Golloway era elicited a wide variety of reactions: Anger, disappointment, indifference and — in some instances — outright glee.
Joe Simpson, an All-America outfielder at OU under legendary former Sooners coach Enos Semore, didn't hold back when contacted by telephone Tuesday afternoon.
“I'm so thrilled that he's gone that they could hire a basset hound and it would be an improvement,” said Simpson, an Atlanta Braves broadcaster the past two decades.
“I haven't had anything to do with the program since near the end of the Larry Cochell era. I didn't want to have anything to do with it as long as Sunny Golloway was the head coach because I think he's a sorry individual. I think he's a bad guy. I want to thank Auburn University for taking him off our hands and getting him out of Norman.”
Golloway accepted Auburn's head coaching position last weekend, bringing an end to his nearly nine-year run as OU coach.
In a Tuesday interview with The Oklahoman, he admitted feeling hurt after some of the harsher comments, not the least of which came Sunday night from OU pitcher Dillon Overton's Twitter account.
Overton, who was picked in the second round of the MLB Draft by the Oakland Athletics, sent three tweets to Golloway, calling his old coach “two-faced,” and saying he “lied to our whole team and never had any of our backs.”
A few other Golloway-era Sooners sent concurring tweets; former reserve catcher Jake Smith said Golloway is “crooked” and “puts out a huge front to the public.”
Golloway said some of those critical players — he wouldn't say which ones — have since apologized.
“It's against the law to drink and drive because you could hurt somebody,” Golloway said. “But it's OK. It's just words, so you forgive and move on.”
Fair or not, Golloway leaves Norman an extremely polarizing figure.
Golloway's on-field success throughout his eight-plus seasons as head coach speaks for itself; the Sooners just completed a fifth consecutive 40-win season and won their first Big 12 Tournament since 1997.
OU also reached the 2010 College World Series under Golloway. But throughout his tenure, Golloway made lots of enemies, particularly among players from past eras.
Simpson said he and other Sooners from the Semore era — which lasted from 1969-89 and included five College World Series appearances — haven't felt welcome around the program under Golloway.
“Those of us that have been estranged from the program for a decade still want the program to be great,” Simpson said. “We want, more than anything, for Enos Semore to be a guy that is still involved in the program. When a class act like Enos Semore can't even hang around the ballclub, that is a really sad state of affairs for all of us.”
Jordan John, who pitched two seasons at Oklahoma under Golloway and is playing his first year in the Detroit Tigers' organization, responded Sunday night to Overton's tweets with additional negative comments about his former coach — “I busted my (rear) for the man and after (a Super Regional), he told me I was worthless” — but quickly deleted them.
John said in a telephone interview that he'd apologized to Golloway and regretted his tweet.
“The remark I made (Sunday) night — in the heat of the moment I said something,” John said. “I was getting heat from former teammates and guys at OU that are there now. I did say things that were tasteless.
“I wouldn't be sitting here enjoying playing professional baseball if it weren't for OU.”
With the Golloway era ended, Oklahoma's focus turns to finding his replacement. Dallas Baptist's Dan Heefner has generated lots of buzz as a candidate, and many more coaches around the country will surely be interested in the job.
“I hope the program moves in an even stronger direction without me,” Golloway said. “No coach before me has said that, and I'm saying that. I want my time here and what I've done to help strengthen the future. I would tell the new head coach that he got a great job and he is gonna have a great time.”
Golloway expressed excitement about the future at Auburn and said he'll remember his time at OU fondly, but added he doesn't expect negative comments from his Oklahoma detractors to stop anytime soon.
“It hurts,” Golloway said. “You wonder what you did wrong. You must've done things to offend people. You shed tears over it, pick yourself up, brush yourself off and move on.
“But for guys like (radio host) Jim Traber, coach Enos Semore and whoever else wants to jump on, this is their day. They're allowed to be critical.”