The sooner Barry Hinson stops coaching basketball, the better.
That way, he can retire with his 300-some-odd wins at Oral Roberts, Missouri State and Southern Illinois, his contributions alongside Bill Self at ORU and Kansas, and his original rise to prominence at Bishop Kelley High School, and do something even more consequential.
He can do what he once figured he might, before coaching entranced him, and run for governor of Oklahoma.
He can give as his stump speech the one he gave me before addressing the Oklahoma Coaches Association convention Wednesday morning:
“The most unheralded, underappreciated and underpaid employees anywhere have always been our teachers, and what we do to our teachers in this state is absolutely embarrassing. I’m just … I’m appalled. My daughter taught in the Colorado school system and literally took a $20,000 paycut for the same job in Oklahoma. That’s just not right.
“When I hear stories of teachers that have to work other jobs and have to do this to get by, or they’re Uber drivers or Lyft drivers to make ends meet ... And they’re doing us a favor ... Give me ... Are you kidding me?”
Hinson can enlist as his campaign operatives the coaches who came to hear him Wednesday.
“If you were not part of the strike, if you were not at the capitol, if you decided your sport was this or that and you didn’t participate, shame on you. You need to join the force,” he commanded to his audience. “You need to get in there with the English teachers, the home ec, the social science, the speech, the elementary, and you need to be prepared to fight your ass off for our profession and what we do.”
And just to clarify “our” profession ...
“I’m not a coach. None of us are coaches,” Hinson said. “We all have ‘coach’ as our tag, but we’re all teachers. That’s what we do. We teach every day.”
That is literal when it comes to Oklahoma high school coaches who grade papers along with game film. Thus the passion in Hinson’s thoughts and words Wednesday. He knows what they’re up against around here.
“I’ve got two grandsons that are going to be in the educational system in Oklahoma,” he said. “I’ve got two daughters that live here. It means a lot to me.”
It meant a lot 40 years ago, long before ignorance engulfed our legislature and bitterness swept through our school districts, back when teachers and coaches were still treated with a modicum of respect in this state.
“The most influential people in my life besides my mother and father were Jerry Havens, who coached me and got me into the coaching profession, and Ernest Muncrief, who was the Future Farmers of America agriculture instructor at Marlow,” Hinson said. “Also, Miss Freeman, my eighth grade English teacher at Marlow Junior High. ‘Is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been ...’ I can still recite it today.”
Even as Hinson grew up, caught the basketball bug and tempered his interest in politics and agriculture, he never lost sight of the classroom.
“I started coaching at Stillwater Junior High,” he said, “and I’ll be danged, the first class I taught was civics.”
Ask Hinson to reflect on his six-year tenure at Bishop Kelley, you won’t just hear about his reputation-making upset of nationally ranked Star-Spencer in the 1989 Class 4A state tournament.
“I taught international affairs, government and American history,” he said. “I can remember to this day Brother Bernardine would walk up and down the hallways, and if you were showing a video or a film you would be in trouble. There were two people that I feared at that time. One was God and the other was Brother Bernardine. Needless to say, I lectured every day.”
Hinson was back at the dais Wednesday morning, and it was quite a lesson for the coaches and educators who absorbed it.
“I want to tell them how much they are appreciated,” he said before delivering it.
This day, at least, they were.