Sherri Coale is in a bubble. In a cocoon. She’s like every other big-time coach in basketball season. She doesn’t know what the weather’s doing. Barely knows what day it is. Can’t remember if that apple she ate was dinner last night or breakfast this morning.
Coale just knows she’s got a team to ready for the NCAA Tournament.
Except for that glimmer of normalcy on the other side of the basketball complex. Those guys in similar uniforms who give Coale the opportunity to be a fan.
Coaches can’t be fans in their own sport. Too much to do. Too much riding on results.
But when the Oklahoma men play, Coale steps out of her vacuum. She can forget backside screens and help defense and shoot-around times and travel schedules. She can just worry about the scoreboard involving the game of her friend, Jeff Capel.
"In basketball season, it’s unique in that you always get to live your experience as a fan on the outside with your men’s team,” Coale said.
Both the Sooner men and women are in the NCAA Tournament. The No. 2-seeded OU men play Morgan State at 8:40 p.m. Thursday in Kansas City, Mo. The No. 1-seeded OU women play Prairie View at 6 p.m. Sunday in Iowa City, Iowa.
And Coale’s affinity for the Sooner men goes far past the company line.
"She and I talk about every day,” said OU men’s coach Jeff Capel, even if sometimes by text. "It’s not just a business relationship. It’s a friendship. I think we would be friends even if I wasn’t coaching at the University of Oklahoma. Obviously, we have a lot in common.”
Successful men’s and women’s coaches at the same school often are at odds. They compete for fans, boosters, funds, media. Some have to compete for practice time on the gym floor.
Feuds can happen, like the long-time spat between Connecticut icons Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma. At the very least, tension and stress are common.
But OU athletic director Joe Castiglione said the relationship between his basketball coaches has been solid since Capel’s arrival in April 2006, and Coale said that’s the way it should be.