Don Tuley is the ultimate gym rat.
He was hired as Capitol Hill High School's boys basketball coach in 1981, and since then, every night when there was basketball being played in an Oklahoma gym big or small, Tuley was probably there.
Most of those nights, he was coaching. For 32 seasons, he led Capitol Hill, a run that ended with Monday's announcement that he had accepted the head coaching position at Seminole State College.
Over the last 13 seasons, Tuley has pulled double-duty, also working as an assistant college coach — 12 years at Redlands Community College before helping at Oklahoma City University last season.
But even on the nights when one of his teams wasn't playing, he could usually be found sitting somewhere watching basketball. Maybe scouting a future opponent, recruiting for one of his college teams, or just trying to learn something new.
“He's extremely committed to the coaching profession,” Star Spencer coach Patrick Cudjoe said. “He does all those things during the season, and in the summer, he still works as hard as any of us, making sure his players are developed and in shape.”
Tuley has a deep love for basketball — which is only surpassed by his passion for helping young people.
It's a quality he has never been boisterous about. And his gritty exterior might help to keep his generous heart secret to much of the outside world.
But Tuley has never hesitated to help a kid. It might be something simple, like a ride home after practice, a sweatshirt to wear on a cold day, or a meal.
“What he does on the basketball court is transcended by what he does off the court,” Cudjoe said. “He's constantly making sure that his kids have everything they need.
“He wants to provide them with everything he can.”
For all of those reasons, Tuley will be missed at Capitol Hill, a program he kept in the top 20 of Class 5A most of his tenure, even when it didn't have the talent to belong there.
“He's done a lot with what he's had to work with,” said Joe Vladovich, who has spent 16 seasons as Tuley's assistant coach in two separate stints. “He's just a great man and a great coach. I've learned an awful lot from him.”
With Tuley's career record of 530-220 and 10 state tournament appearances, Vladovich joked that the coach has been at Capitol Hill almost as long as the building has been standing.
And that's the fact that will be most odd next November, when someone else is coaching the Redskins.
“The conference is going to miss him and his leadership in the city area,” said Millwood coach Varryl Franklin, one of the few coaches in the state with a longer tenure at one school. “Not too many people have carried the mantle he's carried, as far as leadership in our conference.”
Added Southeast coach Walt Brewer: “He's like a pioneer of basketball in the state of Oklahoma. He's very intense, very competitive. He'll find any way to win. I'm gonna miss him being on the other end of the court coaching his players.”
But while it's a loss for high school basketball, and student-athletes at Capitol Hill, Tuley's move to Seminole State has a positive side as well. Clearly, Tuley has wanted to be a head coach at the next level, and now he'll get that opportunity.
“This is an outstanding situation for him, an opportunity to go on to the next level,” Vladovich said. “I wish it would have happened earlier, but sometimes it's not in the cards. But there's a reason he was put at Capitol Hill and that he stayed there so long.”