Relationships trump Bedlam rivalry in women's basketball
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Sunday, February 10, 2013
2/10/13 at 8:08 AM
NORMAN - Sherri Coale remembers Jim Littell fighting through unimaginable grief and inviting the Oklahoma players who had come to Gallagher-Iba Arena for the service back to Oklahoma State's locker room.
OU forward Joanna McFarland remembers the feeling from 15 months ago, when the Sooners met the Cowgirls the day OSU coaches Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna were memorialized.
"It was sad. It was all very sad," McFarland said. "We tried to commiserate with them, tried to offer comfort.
"They are our sister school."
While Bedlam feelings in Norman harden in other sports, especially football, there is something different about OU's perspective on OSU when it comes to women's basketball. Much of that stems from the head coach.
"I watched Dick Halterman coach at Oklahoma State long before I was coaching here," Coale said. "I wanted to go head to head against him for a decade. I think the respect was there even then.
"Kurt and I developed a fun friendship because of the way he was. We both loved Bedlam because it got people in Oklahoma fired up about women's basketball. And just his nature... He was very competitive, but he also loved to have a good time. In the summer we'd sit and watch games and have conversations.
"I've known Jim Littell since I recruited Jamie Talbert from him (when Talbert played for Littell at Kansas' Seward County Community College) way back when. I sent players to him from Norman High. I've known Jim for 20-plus years.
"They are more than just coaches at Oklahoma State. They are people I have a relationship with."
So it's a rivalry that continues today at 4 p.m., when No. 23 OU hosts No. 22 OSU at the Lloyd Noble Center. And a relationship as well. It is fostered by coaches and players alike, something made clear Nov. 21, 2011, a day the Sooners hold close more than a year later.
"It was everyone putting basketball aside and coming together to remember some very good people," OU guard Sharane Campbell said. "We wanted to be there for them in their time of need.
"I know LaShawn Jones. We went to a camp togehter. Liz Donohoe, I gave her a hug because I played against her in AAU. I hugged her like, 'It will be OK.'"
"Liz and I grew up playing against each other and our dads are pretty good friends," OU guard Morgan Hook said. "When we went into their locker room, I made a point to hug her first."
"I grew up playing basketball with Tiffany Bias," McFarland said. "We were on the same team from the time we were 6 years old. I played with Lindsey Keller when we were kids."
The Sooners emerged from that day having been taught a couple valuable lessons.
"When somebody gets hurt, it stinks and it feels lousy, but it's not that bad in the great scheme of things," said Coale, whose current team is down to eight healthy scholarship players. "It helped our kids get the big picture."
"Every chance we step on the floor to play a game or practice is a gift," McFarland said. "Sometimes that's hard, when you're in the thick of things, to think of it that way. But that's really what it is."
"It hit all of us pretty hard. All of us were crying," Hook said, reflecting on both the memorial and the nature of Bedlam women's basketball. "It shows it's not all about basketball here. It's about developing relationships."
No. 22 Oklahoma State at No. 23 Oklahoma
4 p.m. Sunday
Lloyd Noble Center, Norman
Radio: KTBZ am1430
OSU (16-5, 5-5 Big 12)
Oklahoma (17-5, 7-3 Big 12)
*assists per game
Original Print Headline: Relationships trump rivalry
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
OU women's basketball coach Sherri Coale talks before a memorial service for the victims of a plane crash in 2011 in Stillwater. Coale and the Sooners comforted the Cowgirls after two of their coaches died in the crash. JOHN CLANTON / Tulsa World file