Tributes: Former UCO basketball coach Mark Winters dies at age 85

Winters guided the Bronchos to three conference championships and one NAIA Tournament appearance.
by Scott Munn Published: February 3, 2014
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A farewell to people with Oklahoma ties who enjoyed a game day experience:

*Mark Winters, 85, spent 16 years as men's head basketball coach at the University of Central Oklahoma. He guided the Bronchos to a 239-185 record with three Oklahoma Intercollegiate Conference championships and one NAIA Tournament appearance over the 1962-78 seasons. Winters was inducted into the UCO Athletics Hall of Fame in 2004. He also spent time as a basketball coach at the high school level and at Eastern Oklahoma Junior College. Funeral services are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at first Presbyterian Church in Edmond.

*Leland Crissman, 86, of Duncan was a pitcher in the Cleveland Indians organization. The right-hander spent the 1947 season with the Ardmore Indians of the Sooner State League, tying for the team lead with 11 wins. Crissman threw for the Indians' farm teams in Midland, Texas (1948) and Spartanburg, S.C. (1949), before returning to Oklahoma for one more season of pro ball. He played parts of the 1950 season with the Chickasha Chiefs of the Sooner State League and the Oklahoma City Indians of the Texas League. After his playing days, he coached American Legion baseball and worked for Haliburton Services.

*Stillwater resident Joan Bauer Wittner was a New York native who coached at the elementary and high school levels. She and husband Bob moved to Oklahoma in 1982 (Bob accepted a position at Oklahoma State), and Joan continued her involvement in athletics. She was a youth soccer coach; officiated youth and adult sports; and worked as a coach and volunteer coordinator for Special Olympics. Joan was a Donna Nigh Award recipient for her service as a volunteer. She died recently at age 73.

*Vern Benson, 89, of Granite Quarry, N.C., spent the 1959 and 1960 baseball seasons as manager of the Tulsa Oilers. Benson guided the St. Louis Cardinals farm team to a 153-135 record and two third-place finishes in the Texas League. He then served as an assistant coach for several big league teams, including the Cardinals' 1964 world champions. In an unusual twist to Benson's career, he spent one game as manager of a bad Atlanta Braves team, in 1977. He replaced Braves owner and television magnate Ted Turner, who managed one game while regular skipper, Dave Bristol, was on a reported scouting assignment. National League president Chub Feeney told Turner rules prohibited managers from having ownership in a team. So Benson, the Braves' third-base coach, took over for Turner until Bristol returned to finish out a 61-101 season.

*Archie Franz, 88, played basketball for Corn High School. He became a farmer and rancher in the area, supplementing his income by refereeing basketball games.

*Seth Martin, 15, played basketball for the Cement junior high and high school teams. A devoted fan of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant.

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by Scott Munn
Sports Assistant Editor
Scott Munn joined The Oklahoman/Oklahoma City Times sports staffs in October 1982. He spent a year as a formcharter, three years on the desk and 16 as a reporter. Scott has spent the last nine years as an evening assistant sports editor. Scott's...
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