Ken Trickey, former ORU basketball coach, dies at 79
BY JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
Wednesday, December 05, 2012
12/05/12 at 4:56 AM
Former Oral Roberts University coach Ken Trickey, one of the most influential and colorful characters in this state's basketball history, died Tuesday morning. He was 79.
Trickey served two tours of duty at ORU, including a five-year stint in the 1970s in which his run-and-shoot teams went 118-23 and scored 100 or more points 55 times. The glory years period was climaxed by a 1973-74 season in which ORU finished one win away from a Final Four. The Titans (that was ORU's nickname in a pre-Golden Eagles era) lost in overtime to Kansas in an NCAA regional championship game at the Mabee Center.
During a 2008 interview, Trickey said he had the time of his life at ORU.
"It was just unbelievable," he said.
Current ORU basketball coach Scott Sutton was informed of Trickey's death and called it a sad day for the university and its athletic department.
"It's amazing what he accomplished in such a short time to go from ... 10 years from the time the university was founded (in 1963) to playing for the Final Four and playing at your home arena," Sutton said.
"Without him, there wouldn't be a Mabee Center probably. I always tell people - and people have said this - that (All-American player) Richard Fuqua built the arena. But Ken Trickey recruited Richard. Without Ken, ORU athletics certainly would have taken a lot longer to get on the map."
Trickey created waves that went beyond 81st and Lewis. Other basketball programs in a football-crazy state were essentially guilted into keeping pace with the new kids on the block who gained national publicity. (Sport magazine, a one-time competitor to Sports Illustrated, wrote an article titled "Praise the Lord and pass the ball to Fuqua.")
If not for Trickey's success, would Tulsa have hired Nolan Richardson? Would Oklahoma have hired Billy Tubbs?
Former Tulsa World Sports Editor Bill Connors once wrote that ORU's surge inspired Tulsa, Arkansas, OU and OSU to commit to better things.
"I'm not sure Ken Trickey was ever given the credit for the impact he had on basketball in the state of Oklahoma," former ORU and Tulsa coach Ken Hayes said Tuesday.
"We all grew up in the Henry Iba era and, if you coached basketball in Oklahoma, you did everything Mr. Iba's way and why not? Mr. Iba was, is and always will be the godfather of basketball in the state of Oklahoma. He put together two national championships back-to-back and, besides being a great coach, he was a great human being and everybody that ever met him will always hold him in awe. But when Ken Trickey came in ... and said we've got to put up 100 shots a game, he introduced an exciting brand of basketball."
Former Oklahoma State coach and Iba disciple Eddie Sutton said Trickey was "unorthodox" in the way his teams played.
"But he was very successful," Sutton said. "He did things a lot of other coaches probably weren't teaching at the time and now there are coaches who are teaching basically the same way he did things."
Trickey grew up in Cairo, Ill., and knew he wanted to be a coach because the coach in his hometown "was the best-looking guy I had ever seen. He was like a father to me. I had been able to have chosen my father, I would have picked him."
Trickey became a multi-sport athlete at Middle Tennessee State and finished his basketball career as the program's all-time leading scorer. He became a coach in Cairo and MTSU during a period when both schools integrated athletics. Trickey wasn't trying to break color barriers. He just wanted to play the best players.
ORU founder Oral Roberts wanted to use athletics to spread his ministry and hired Trickey. Roberts and Trickey (who wasn't in awe of the evangelist) became friends and the coach got everything he asked for, including the use of an airplane to go recruiting anywhere and everywhere during a time when there was no such thing as a "dead" period. "It was big-time," Trickey said in 2008.
Knowing that he was on Iba turf, Trickey made a splash at his introductory press conference by saying he wanted to score 100 points a game. He once told a national writer that he didn't mind giving up 120 points as long as his team scored 140.
Subsequent words and actions earned Trickey a maverick label.
Trickey scoffed at coaches who fancied themselves as great tacticians or strategists. "They like to think they are Patton," he said.
He admitted he would rather play games four or five times a week than practice.
He gave media carte blanche access, letting reporters come into the locker room at halftime.
Eccentric? "He was a breath of fresh air," Hayes said, adding that he and Trickey were friends when they were crosstown rivals.
Trickey's maverick behavior continued at the peak of his success. Near the end of his Elite Eight season, he announced he was stepping down and, in 2008, he said he did it because some people on campus were getting too meddlesome (they wanted him to coach a different way) and "uppity." The announcement came before he was pulled over for suspicion of DWI. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of careless driving and said he could have stayed at ORU, if he chose to do so.
Trickey became the head coach at Iowa State and immediately realized he didn't fit. He lasted two seasons. He also coached at Oklahoma City University and the junior college level before returning to ORU for a second tour of duty from 1987-93, when he shepherded a temporary drop from the NCAA to the NAIA.
Trickey also coached at Muskogee High School and was an observer of officials for the Big 12 until a car accident led to impaired vision. After his career ended, he remained pleasantly contrary, saying if he was coaching today, he might scrap his preferred style of play and recruit suburban kids to run a Princeton offense.
He was different until the end.
"I never understood why everybody wanted to be like everybody else," Trickey said.
Trickey was like nobody else.
Original Print Headline: Ex-ORU coach Trickey dies
Jimmie Tramel 918 581-8389
Ken Trickey: The coach enjoyed his time leading Oral Roberts, describing it in 2008 as "just unbelievable."