STILLWATER â€” Mike Gundy hadn't even graduated at Oklahoma State when Pat Jones nabbed him for his Cowboys coaching staff in 1990.
â€œThere was a little bit of an â€˜it' factor with Mike from a leadership standpoint,â€ said Jones. â€œWe knew he was raised right. His work habits were excellent. His people skills were always very good and his intuition was always very good.
â€œWe moved on him really quickly.â€
What Jones saw then, others have seen since, including his peers, who voted Gundy the Big 12's Coach of the Year, released by the league office Tuesday.
Gundy took a team that lost two first-round draft picks, a three-year starter at quarterback and a large group of successful seniors â€” a team picked for the bottom of the Big 12 South â€” and constructed the school's first 10-win regular season and a share of the South title.
â€œI think it's well-deserved,â€ said Jones, now a college football analyst for Fox Sports. â€œIt's not a fluke. They had a heckuva year.â€
Gundy had just finished his playing career at OSU that fall when Jones added him to his staff. Yet well before that, going back to Midwest City High School, Gundy's leadership skills were legendary.
Ron Smith, current head coach at Bartlesville High but Gundy's offensive coordinator at Midwest City in the mid-80s, remembers the panic that nearly set in as the Bombers blew a big lead to fall behind in the final minutes of the 1985 state championship game.
Midwest City already had a four-game losing streak in title games and was on the verge of giving away another.