Gene Stephenson was fired Tuesday as baseball coach at Wichita State University. That would be like Oral Roberts University firing Oral Roberts as president. Disney firing Walt.
Stephenson started the program from scratch in 1977, hired away from Enos Semore’s staff at OU, and coached the Shockers for 36 years. He quickly turned Wichita State into a national power.
The only time Stephenson wasn’t the Wichita State coach was the June day in 2005 when he was OU’s coach. For about eight hours. Stephenson took the job when OU replaced Larry Cochell, then Stephenson backed out.
So athletic director Joe Castiglione turned to his second choice, Cochell assistant Sunny Golloway. And since then, while Wichita State’s program declined, the Sooners have soared.
OU is back in the NCAA Super Regional for the third time in four years. The Sooners play LSU on Friday in the first game of a best-of-three series with a trip to the College World Series on the line. OU made it to Omaha in 2010. The Sooners also reached the Super Regional in 2012.
To borrow a basketball phrase, OU has been in the Sweet 16 three times in the last four years.
Golloway has many enemies. Old-line Sooners still don’t embrace him. The Semore era players haven’t supported Golloway. You can’t get too many straight answers on their negativity. It appears to be Golloway’s personality. He can rub people the wrong way.
But the days of questioning Golloway’s coaching have got to be over. He is doing a fabulous job. The Sooners have become the most consistently-successful program in the Big 12. They produce in the NCAA playoffs. They’ve got a fighting chance against LSU this weekend.
Not bad for a second-choice coach.