JT Gasso’s closet is full of crimson. There’s the crimson baseball hats, the crimson polos and that white shirt with the words National Champions written in — you guessed it — crimson.
The son of Oklahoma softball coach Patty Gasso, JT collected some of that gear over two years when he served as a graduate manager for the Sooners softball squad.
Now, he’ll continue his journey in hopes of one day becoming a legendary coach like his mother at a place that despises the color crimson.
Purdue University, JT’s new home, bleeds black and gold. Only their archrivals at Indiana wear crimson.
JT grew up playing high school baseball at Community Christian in Norman, played four year of college ball, including time under former Oklahoma assistant coach Aric Thomas) before landing the graduate manager position at Oklahoma.
JT recently talked with The Oklahoman about the ditching of his old wardrobe of that forbidden color, his road to his new role as a defensive specialist for the Boilermakers and the Sooners’ run to the title.
What position did you play in baseball?
In high school I was kind of a utility player. I played outfield, shortstop, catcher, pitcher, a little bit of everything. It was low level high school ball … once I went to college there was an influx of infielders and that’s what I came in as so I figured out if I wanted a chance to play or be successful, I was going to have to learn to be an outfielder.
So I became an outfielder and then my last year we had both of our catchers go down so AT asked me to catch. Going from low-level high school ball to top ranked JUCO catching, I was a little bit in over my head, but I still made it work.
What was it like to eventually become a graduate manager for Oklahoma softball?
It was real humbling. You come in as a player so you have that playing experience where you still want to be in the mix, but the role you have to take on was more of an assisting role to where I had to put others before myself.
It teaches you how to be a coach. It was real humbling. I had a more exclusive role than probably other GA’s had just because of having my mom being the head coach but I took full advantage of it. Maybe sometimes a little bit too much. I was always in Tripp (McKay)’s ear, our hitting coach, or Missy (Lombardi)’s ear, our pitching coach.
I definitely got to learn a lot, basically how to step up for people, how to be someone’s right-hand man. That’s not something you can really be taught. It’s something you more have to learn. I kind of felt like the coaching staff prepared me well for all aspects of coaching because that’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve never second guessed being a coach.
I kind of learned from everyone at Oklahoma this year.
I take it you’ve been picking your mom’s brain about coaching for years.
Oh yeah. Always. Ever since I was a kid I would ask her about the games, ask about the situations. I’d always kind of eavesdrop on conversations she’d have with coaches and would always watch the type of players she brings in and how she evaluates a certain player and the athlete she wants. It’s always been there.
Once I got to OU, it was more game strategy instead of me observing. Once I got in, I got to know why she did the things that she did and basically how to win. That’s one of the main things I got from the two years at OU. The athletes just wanted to win.
What are the attributes in your mom that you hope to develop as a coach?
I think what I would want to take form her is how she’s able to separate the game from her personal life. She doesn’t let the game wrap her up. I think that gives you balance.
She’s not going to let a loss kill her, but she also knows she’s not going to celebrate a win because we still have to play more games. With me as her son, she was there for me a lot and for my brother a lot also. I know you know the stories of her missing her Hall of Fame speech. It really kind of makes you take a step and think that there’s more to the game then just winning and losing. You’ve still got your family.
With her being there for all of her players, I know that’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I want to be like her and be a role model to people and kind of help them to the right path and being excellent in everything they can do.
You’re leaving Oklahoma and moving to Indiana now. What are you excited about at Purdue?
I’m just excited to start my career. I’ve been around the game in a different role and now I get to influence a program. I’m with a great staff with (Purdue coach Kim) Schuette and (assistant coach Jason) Dorey. They’re exactly the kind of people I want to be around and learn from. I’m excited to just continue to develop as a coach. This Purdue team, we have a chance to make some noise in the Big Ten and the national scene. The potential is there. We’re in a great conference. I’m just really excited to start and get things rolling the right way.
Pretty good summer for you. A national title and your first job. What was that championship run like?
The season went by so fast because ever since the 2012 season. That 2012 season was more of a, I don’t want to say unexpected, but we were new on the scene. For us to do what we did was awesome, but this 2013 season it seemed so fast because we were on a mission and every game we were just so hungry to get to the next opponent because we knew each game was going to lead us back to that title game that we wanted to get back to.
Once the World Series hit, it was awesome to see how that team responded to the pressure, the expectations … the pressure for those girls was incredible. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’ll never forget my years at OU.
Do you think it’s going to be weird for crimson to be the enemy color?
Obviously, I’m committed to Purdue. I know one of the things I take away from being a part of OU and just being in the Gasso family is just being competitive. No matter what said you’re on we’re always taught that you’re going to be competitive.
If we’re playing OU , I don’t expect anyone to hand us anything and we’re not going to hand anything over either. Once the game starts, there’s no bias or old feelings. It’s who I’m with now.