Mark Vancuren described his old basketball coach as a great guy, a big teddy bear.
Most people who saw Dub Raper coach high school ball all around Oklahoma during a four-decade-long career thought otherwise. He yelled. He stewed. He ranted.
He kicked a hole in the bench in the old gym at Piedmont that is still there.
Raper was a tough love coach if there ever was one.
“He was mean, too,” Vancuren admitted, laughing. “Whenever you played for him, boy, he could get into you big time.
“But whenever it hit the fan and you needed some help, he was there.”
Now, Raper is the one who needs help.
The hall of fame coach and wife, Jackie, lost their house and lifetime of belongings when a massive tornado roared through Moore on Monday. But as they work to get back on their feet — Jackie sustained a broken arm and cracked ribs and is still hospitalized — they're getting help from more than family and friends.
Dub's boys are rallying.
“Oh, my goodness, it's unbelievable,” Jackie said, words catching in her throat as she lay in a bed at Integris Southwest Medical Center. “Just so many people. To see this love pour out, it's just awesome.”
Vancuren was among those who felt he had to do something for the Rapers. He played for Dub at Owasso High School, where Vancuren is now the coach, and he says he learned lessons from his coach that made him not only a better coach but also a better man.
How to pay attention to detail. How to treat others. How to be loyal.
So when Vancuren heard that the massive storm carried away his coach's home, he started a fund at First Baptist Church Owasso. That's where he attends and where the Rapers attended when they lived in the Tulsa suburb.
“Just trying to put some substance behind our words,” Vancuren said. “Everybody says, ‘Oh, I'm praying for you' ... but we're trying to put some teeth into it a little bit by trying to raise some money to help them.”
Vancuren saw Raper help less fortunate kids who he played with, quietly giving them a few bucks for food when they had none.
Now, Raper's former Owasso players are the ones giving back.
Even though Vancuren set up the fund so people could send money straight to the church, he had over $300 in his pocket Wednesday afternoon just from people who'd walked up to him and handed him cash for the Rapers.
“I'm not sure what the amount will be” in the end, Vancuren said, “but we're hoping and praying it's something that would be indicative of the investment that they made her in our community.”
Edmond Santa Fe coach Lenny Hatchett hopes the same thing.
Another one of Dub's boys who now coaches — there are 45 of them in all — Hatchett played for Raper at Carl Albert. Tuesday night, he called on former teammates, classmates and friends via Facebook.
“I know many of us may have thought he was hard on us,” Hatchett wrote, “but after I look back, ‘tough love' is the reason I am able to get through tough situations. I really want to help Coach Raper and Jackie through their tough situation.”
By Wednesday afternoon, Hatchett had heard from many who he expected to rally behind the Rapers. But he'd also been contacted by Carl Albert alums who he didn't even know, people who wanted to mail him a check for the Rapers.
“I'm hoping my mailbox will be pretty full the next couple days,” Hatchett said.
Raper was one of the first people to call Hatchett after his mom died unexpectedly a decade ago. Now when he goes to visit the Rapers this weekend, Hatchett hopes he'll be able to present them with an envelope bulging with cash and checks.
He feels like it's the least he can do.
All of Dub's boys feel the same way.
Wednesday, Raper received 37 phone calls from people who wanted to offer support. Some were coaching friends, but most were former players.
“It's just amazing,” Raper said. “It makes you think you did something right. Maybe you did something right because they still care about you.”
He choked up as he talked about the phone calls, the hospital visits, the offers of support.
“You love them, and you want the best for them,” Raper said, “then when something happens bad to you, they're right there. I can't tell you how fulfilling it is.”
Up until this week, the Rapers haven't needed for anything. They weren't rich — those who spend their lives in public education never are — but they always had enough.
Now that they are in need, the tough-love coach is feeling the love.
“It's coming back,” Raper said. “It's all coming back.”
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... read more ›