GUTHRIE — To Rafe Watkins, Muskogee is almost in the same condition as Guthrie was when he took over the program in 2001.
He even called Muskogee “a bigger Guthrie” when talking Saturday about becoming the new coach of the Roughers just months after leading Guthrie to its fourth title in 13 seasons.
“It reminds me a lot of the Guthrie job as far as a community and school that's wanting to succeed and do well, and they've obviously got some talent there,” said Watkins, The Oklahoman's Big All-City Coach of the Year. “Now that they're in that 6A Division II, they've got great facilities and so far everybody I've met is top-notch.”
When Watkins was named Guthrie's coach in 2001, the Bluejays were coming off a 6-4 season, the school's first winning record since 1991. Guthrie missed the playoffs just once during Watkins' tenure and won championships in 2002, 2007, 2011 and 2013.
Now, he's facing the challenge of turning around a Muskogee program that has not had a winning season since 2008 and has not made the playoffs since 2010.
“We have a lot of work to do, without a doubt, but if the kids go in there and they accept the new work ethic that they're going to start going through, the talent pool is there if we can pull it all together,” Watkins said.