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Oklahoma high school coaching legend Mike Little dies

By SCOTT WRIGHT, Staff Writer, Modified: January 31, 2011 at 9:56 am •  Published: January 29, 2011
BETHANY — Attend any random Oklahoma high school football game on an autumn Friday night, and you're likely to see someone who was influenced by Mike Little.

Maybe it's a coach who played or worked for Little at one of his four high school coaching stops. Maybe it's a player who attended the Southwest Air summer camp he created 25 years ago. At the very least, there's probably someone on the field who played or coached against one of Little's teams.

The 68-year-old coaching legend died at his home Friday, and with the widespread impact Little had on Oklahoma high school football, it's impossible to gauge the depth of the void his death will leave.

“It's unbelievable the coaching family that has come from Mike Little,” said Piedmont head coach Rob Green, who was hired as an assistant to Little at Putnam City West in 1979.

“From guys who are coaching in junior high all the way up to Bill Young at Oklahoma State, it's just amazing the number of coaches he touched.”

Little was found by his family at his home. A police report had not been filed Saturday, and Bethany police could not comment on the situation.

Little’s funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday at Westminister Presbyterian Church at 4400 N. Shartel Ave. in Oklahoma City.

Little never got away from football. He spent last fall attending Yukon games to watch his grandsons, and was helping coach another grandson's little-league team.

The branches of his coaching tree seem impossible to count, from guys like Young and Mike Jones, who ended up in the college ranks, to others like Jerry Griffin, Bob Wilson, Dennis Millican, Jon Lantz, Bill Dalke and dozens more.

“He was my mentor,” said Wilson, who was promoted to Putnam City North's head coach when Little left for Yukon in 1992. “He's the main reason I do what I do.

“It'd be hard to find a coach who hasn't been influenced by him. And it'd be even harder to find someone who had one bad thing to say about him.”

Little compiled a record of 172-76-3 in a career that spanned parts of five decades, winning at every coaching stop during his 23-year career.

He was the offensive coordinator at Putnam City West when the school first opened in 1968 and soon took over as head coach. Under Little, the Patriots played for three state championships, winning it all in 1981.

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