NORMAN — Sherri Coale has gone back to a tried-and-true look, ditching the style of a year ago and opting for something different.
And we're not talking about her hair.
Yes, the Oklahoma women's basketball coach has returned to the curly look of old. Those straightened locks of a year ago are a thing of the past. While that might have some folks talking, it's the style change that Coale has made on the court that has the Sooners winning.
Gone is the half-court style, the methodical play that worked to get the ball to the big girl, whether she be named Paris or Olajuwon.
It has been replaced by an up-tempo, guard-dominated approach that has OU off to an undefeated start in Big 12 play as it heads to Texas on Sunday.
“We always try to put our guys in a position to use their gifts,” Coale said. “If you've got the Paris twins, you're crazy if you don't come down and try to throw it to Courtney every single time. You're crazy if you shoot it up and don't give it a chance on the block every single time.
“This group ... our perimeter game is so strong that we're crazy not to take a wide-open three in transition if we have it.”
Coale has a squad this season that hearkens back to 2002 and the Sooners' first Final Four team. With the likes of Stacey Dales, LaNeishea Caufield, Rosalind Ross and Dionnah Jackson, guards were the strength then, and with Danielle Robinson, Whitney Hand, Aaryn Ellenberg and Morgan Hook, they are the strength now.
Just as she did then, Coale is not opposed to throwing four guards on the floor at once. Even though Hook comes off the bench, she is on the floor more than starters Carlee Roethlisberger and Joanna McFarland.
The look works, too.
The Sooners are averaging 8.3 3-pointers a game, shooting 38.7 percent from behind the arc and scoring 80.9 points a game.
How good is that?
During the Coale Era, no Sooner team has ever averaged more than 6.1 3-pointers a game or shot any better than 38.0 percent from behind the line. Only once has a squad averaged more than 80 points a game.
While the guard-centric style is showing well this season, the Sooners went to the Final Four these past two seasons with the half-court, big-girl look.
Does that mean this season is a break from what Coale would prefer? Or were these past few years the diversion from her preference?
“I prefer whatever works,” Coale said. “And that depends on the people who are workin' it.”
No doubt Coale has a perfect vision for the game. As a former point guard, she likes a game that is free flowing and hard charging.
Think Maravich and Magic and MJ.
But Coale has never recruited players to fit a certain style — at least not an on-court style.
“There's a kind of kid ... that we have always wanted and still want,” she said.
Coale didn't specify the personality traits of her kind of recruit, but really, there was no need. Just look at the players who've come through her program during the past 15 years. It's easy to see what she wants.
Her gals are reflections of her. Smart. Strong. Even a bit sassy.
“Those guys will be successful, I'm convinced,” she said. “Some are fast. Some can really shoot.”
But whatever their strengths, Coale will adapt. If she's got dominant posts, she'll play a slower, more methodical style. If she's got speed, she'll go up-tempo. If she's got shooters, she'll go guns a blazing. She isn't picky about how her team plays as long as it wins.
It's a classic style — never goes out of fashion.
OU at Texas When: 12:30 p.m. Sunday Where: Frank Erwin Center, Austin, Texas TV: ESPNU (Cox 253) Radio: KOKC-AM 1520