OSU football: Larry Coker has good memories during time in Stillwater

Barry Sanders, Mike Gundy, Hart Lee Dykes were under Coker's charge as Cowboys' offensive coordinator.
by John Helsley Modified: September 5, 2013 at 5:00 pm •  Published: September 4, 2013
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photo -  FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2010 file photo, University of Texas at San Antonio college football head coach Larry Coker watches a drill before UTSA'S first-ever scrimmage. A spokesman says former Miami coach Larry Coker hasn't been contacted by the NCAA amid allegations that players on his Hurricanes teams received cars and lavish gifts from a booster. (AP Photo/San Antonio Express-News, Kin Man Hui) NO SALES ORG XMIT: TXSAE102
FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2010 file photo, University of Texas at San Antonio college football head coach Larry Coker watches a drill before UTSA'S first-ever scrimmage. A spokesman says former Miami coach Larry Coker hasn't been contacted by the NCAA amid allegations that players on his Hurricanes teams received cars and lavish gifts from a booster. (AP Photo/San Antonio Express-News, Kin Man Hui) NO SALES ORG XMIT: TXSAE102

Coker said he, too, saw something special in Gundy.

“Mike just had that innate ability,” Coker said “I had seen him play in high school, and you hear the coach-speak of ‘He's a winner,' and all that stuff, but Mike was a winner. He was a playmaker. He made the guys around him a lot better. And that's what it's all about.”

Gundy suggested there are pieces of Coker in his own coaching style, philosophies he's carried over into his career.

“I remember spending time with him in position meetings and as a player … He kept the game simple and it wasn't very complicated, and as a player I enjoyed that part,” Gundy said.

“Anything you needed, he'd do it for you. Great family, good people skills. And that's why he's having success. It's not all about the football aspect of it; he sees the big picture in my opinion. In looking back now, I've always enjoyed him.”

Coker, 73-25 as a head coach, continues to have success, even in UTSA's football beginnings. The Roadrunners are 13-10 in his two-plus seasons leading a program he's built from the ground up, literally.

The team practiced at a local high school facility until a couple of weeks ago, before on-campus fields were finished. They still don't have a permanent weight room. Still, many improvements are in the works, with 124 acres adjacent to campus available for use.

“That was pretty daunting, not to have any of those things,” Coker said. “And in Texas, these high school kids come from programs with great facilities. So it was a pretty tough chore to recruit in the beginning.

“But these kids want to stay in Texas. I think they've bought in to the vision we had. And the Alamodome has been a great selling tool. We've averaged over 30,000 fans at our games. It's been special for us.”

Now 65, Coker shows no signs of slowing. He talks fast. Works hard. And seems in a rush, whether to prepare his team or promote and build his program.

The locale, he said, makes all the difference. UTSA's roster features 80 players from Texas, including 30 from the San Antonio area.

“It is a startup football job, but it is in Texas,” Coker said. “And it's in the sixth-largest city in America now. And we have no Division I football. We have no professional football. We have a 65,000-seat indoor stadium to play in. We have 30,000 students. It's Texas recruiting.

“I just thought it was a great opportunity. And the leadership here was all on board. I've been so blessed in my career to be around some great kids and great players and great programs and to have an opportunity to be here and see this program grow has been a huge amount of fun for us.”

by John Helsley
OSU Reporter Sr.
John Helsley grew up in Del City, reading all the newspapers and sports magazines he could get his hands on. And Saturday afternoons, when the Major League Game of the Week was on, he'd keep a scorecard for the game. So the sports appeal was was...
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