STILLWATER — Mike Boynton aims to move forward. Of course, he does. His Oklahoma State Cowboys have more than half of their Big 12 Conference basketball season ahead. They have Bedlam at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Wednesday night.
Boynton’s priority is the nine players still on his roster, not the three he booted from the program last week. It is reacting to what happened with Michael Weathers, Kentrevious Jones and Maurice Calloo, not reflecting on it.
But gracious ... you lose a quarter of your roster, you dismiss three players you brought into your program, you come to grips with this as a 37-year-old second-year head coach at a place as proud as OSU ...
There is some reflecting.
“There’s a ‘why’ somewhere. That’s what I keep telling myself,” Boynton said. “I just don’t know yet. At some point … it’s like when I first got the call from the AD at Stephen F. Austin when I wasn’t going to get the head coaching job there.”
He is reflecting back to April 2016 when SFA athletic director Robert Hill chose Kyle Keller to succeed Brad Underwood, and Boynton wound up following Brad Underwood to Stillwater instead.
“It didn’t make any sense to me. ‘Well, maybe I’ll never be a head coach,’ ” Boynton went on. “When there was a reason I wasn’t named the head coach, I didn’t know why. It was revealed almost a year later (when Mike Holder chose him to succeed Underwood at OSU).
“At some point this will be revealed and hopefully I’ll be better for it.”
We live and learn, right? Coaches are no different. You think Henry Iba and Eddie Sutton had it all figured out at 37? You think Underwood, Keller or anyone else who ever blew a whistle did?
Boynton hit that mark last Thursday, the day after he announced the dismissals. Among his birthday gifts was a book, “Good Leaders Ask Great Questions.”
There are questions now. There is self-analysis.
Did I miss something with those players?
“You can always go back and think, ‘Maybe I did,’” Boynton said. “Some of this stuff you can’t predict. Some of it, you have to figure out how to deal with when it happens.”
Could I have done something different during the recruiting process?
“I’m definitely not angry at myself,” Boynton said. “I would say I’m more conscious of just being more thorough.”
Can I use anything generational as an excuse for what happened?
“I don’t necessarily believe in that,” Boynton said. “I’m sure that adults found my generation challenging when we were growing up. Here’s what I do think the difference is: I think the adults are different now. We want to make things OK for the kids and not hold them accountable.”
As he does move forward, Boynton figures it will be easier to show future recruits how serious he is about accountability. Dismissing players you didn’t sign is one thing. Boynton booted Travis Ford signee Davon Dillard and Underwood signee Zack Dawson in 2017.
Removing kids after you personally chose to invest scholarships in them? That should have impact.
Boynton hopes it has an impact on his fan base.
“To make sure people continue to believe we’re doing it with the right intentions,” he said. “We’re not here just to win games. We’re here to educate kids and put them in position where they’re doing things the right way.”
Boynton said he has received supportive fan and administrative feedback to that effect since last week.
He also realizes it was his signees who didn’t do right, who failed to uphold the standards he touts.
“Oh, absolutely. That’s factual,” he said. “That’s part of my job, to be more diligent in that regard and make sure we’re mindful to ask the questions that need to be asked.”
There are questions here not just concerning past players, but current and future ones. Concerning staff and procedure. Concerning oneself, primarily.
These are all OK to ask. We live and we learn. We reflect. We especially hope this is being done in positions of stature and influence.
As Boynton barrels ahead into Bedlam and beyond, how much does the “why” occupy his mind?
“I try not to dwell on it. But I do wonder what’s really happening,” he said. “I’m pretty spiritual. I believe that there’s something being worked on and I’m being trained for something later. I don’t know what it is. I’ve just got to have faith that if I keep doing things the way I’m supposed to and keep being faithful to who I am, if I keep these kids first ...
“Those kids that are still here and weren’t involved in any of the mess, they deserve to have a good experience. They deserve to have a coach who is still committed to bringing great energy in practice and trying to help them. That’s what we’re committed to doing for them.
“But it’s hard because you also have over here: ‘Here’s what’s happening under your watch, Sir. Help me understand this.’”