Ken Trickey was the titan for ORU's basketball program
BY JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
Saturday, February 16, 2013
2/16/13 at 5:08 AM
A Titan will be remembered before Oral Roberts resumes its inaugural tour of the Southland Conference.
At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, ORU will face Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at the Mabee Center.
At 2 p.m. Saturday, a memorial service will be held for Ken Trickey at All Souls Unitarian Church, 2952 S. Peoria Ave. Trickey, a former ORU coach, died in December.
The core of Trickey's bio is this: He put the ORU basketball program - and for that matter, ORU athletics - on the map.
Trickey steered the Titans (ORU's mascot before a switch to Golden Eagles) within a game of the Final Four in 1974.
And, during a five-season glory years period in which ORU posted a 118-23 record, he seemed the ideal wing man for an evangelist whose goal was to make the nation take notice.
The ORU hoops program was only four seasons old and was not yet playing at the major college level when university founder Oral Roberts hired Trickey from Middle Tennessee State so they could tag-team a vision.
"Athletics is part of our Christian witness," Roberts once said.
"Nearly every man in America reads the sports pages, and a Christian school cannot ignore these people... For us to be relevant, we had to gain the attention of millions of people in a way that they could understand."
Trickey's swashbuckling teams commanded attention, scoring 100 or more points 55 times from 1969-74 and leading the country in scoring in ORU's first two seasons as a Division I member. Trickey cultivated hype and a maverick reputation by saying things like he didn't care if the Titans gave up 120 points as long as they scored 140.
All of a sudden, the little school from Tulsa was getting name-dropped in Sports Illustrated. Trickey kept a framed copy of a 1972 article (ORU was picked fourth nationally by SI in preseason) on the wall of his Tulsa home.
Sport magazine, a one-time competitor to SI, published an article titled "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ball to Fuqua" in reference to ORU's Richard Fuqua, who scored 40 or more points 16 times in an era when the 3-point shot didn't yet exist.
And, at the corner of 81st and Lewis, up sprang the Mabee Center, which opened in Trickey's fourth season.
"This building would not have been built without coach Trickey and the players he recruited - Anthony Roberts and Richard Fuqua," current ORU coach Scott Sutton said Friday. "Both of those guys were terrific players."
Former Trickey assistant "Moose" Roe said during a recent telephone interview that Roberts viewed the Mabee Center as his church.
"And what did Paul (the Apostle) do?" Roe asked.
"He went from church to church to church to (spread) the gospel."
Roberts borrowed a page from Paul's playbook. Not only did he instruct coaches to locate name-brand opponents (Wisconsin was secured for a Mabee Center christening) to visit his "church." Roberts made it clear he wanted to take his hoops ministry to the biggest stages, including Madison Square Garden.
The Titans wrangled their way into the historic arena, but the combo of being a new program and being good often resulted in opponents declining invitations to play.
"I got turned down so many times I was black and blue," Roe, who was in charge of scheduling, said.
Roberts reportedly never turned down Trickey when the basketball program was in need.
Trickey asked for, and got, a sports information director, assistant coaches, a trainer and use of a private plane. On a whim, the Titans could fly anywhere to recruit. Roberts often tagged along.
"It was just unbelievable and it was fun," Trickey said in a 2008 interview. "UCLA or none of them could match what we did. Nobody else had a 48-passenger plane like we did. It was big-time."
Trickey left when the program was at a zenith, announcing his pending exit before ORU played host to Kansas with a Final Four trip at stake.
He returned for a second tour of duty from 1987-93, when the Titans briefly transitioned to the NAIA level.
What occurred on ORU's campus during the 1970s will be viewed as his lasting gift.
"What coach Trickey did in a short time is remarkable," Sutton said of ORU's express-lane trip from fledgling program to Elite Eight participant.
"It's a remarkable story that couldn't happen nowadays. I don't think he ever got the credit, as far as nationally, that he deserved. He was way ahead of his time as far as the way he coached the game and how exciting his teams were. There's a reason they used to sell out this place with their style of play and obviously having really good players."
Original Print Headline: Trickey was the titan of ORU's basketball program
Jimmie Tramel 918-581-8389