NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Longtime high school basketball coach Steve Freeman dies at 68

Longtime high school basketball coach Steve Freeman died of pancreatic cancer on Tuesday. 

He was 68. His birthday would have been next week. 

Freeman was inducted into the Oklahoma Girls Basketball Coaches Association's Hall of Fame in 2015 after a storied career. He had coaching stints at Dale, where he won a pair of state titles in 1990 and 1991, Okemah, Durant, Plainview and McLoud before taking the assistant coaching position alongside Wendi Wells at Shawnee.

Wells, who spent the past 12 years coaching with Freeman, praised him for his mentorship.

“When we worked together, it was great,” Wells said. “It was my first head coaching job and he never tried to overstep. He offered advice and it turned into a great friendship.”

Wells said what made Freeman such a great coach was not only his desire to outwork everybody, but also his ability to separate his on-the-court and off-the-court approach with the players. 

“On the court he pushed them a lot of times, [But] it was to achieve things they never even thought they could achieve,” she said. “You could just see it in him. But as soon as practice was over, as soon as the game was over, he was just like a completely different person. 

“He really cared a lot for the kids. He’d always tell me, if all we ever do is teach them basketball, we’re not doing our job.’”

Wells and Freeman coached Shawnee to an unbeaten season in 2012 and its first ever girls’ basketball state championship. But Freeman said it was a “tough” time for the team because of what Freeman was enduring off the court.

“What a lot of people don’t understand is through that season, his wife [Karen] was battling breast cancer and she was really close to that team,” Wells said. “And so it was really hard because through the playoffs she couldn’t really attend the games. And then she passed away right after the season was over.”

After Freeman’s passing, Wells says she has taken phone calls from many of Freeman’s former players. Through them all, there’s one word she keeps hearing: Impact. 

“They’re just like, ‘he just pushed us so hard but we always knew that he cheered for us’. That was one of those things,” Wells said. "He could really push kids hard in practice because they knew that off the court, how much he just cared for them. Just seeing that and talking to all these kids coming back now, you can just feel that impact.”

Funeral services are pending with Walker Funeral Service.

Related Photos
2005 High School Athlete winter sports All-City photo day. November 16, 2005. Steve Freeman, McLoud.  By Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman

2005 High School Athlete winter sports All-City photo day. November 16, 2005. Steve Freeman, McLoud. By Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-8d8c8ba2534b593bccb4e5b9c6b6942d.jpg" alt="Photo - 2005 High School Athlete winter sports All-City photo day. November 16, 2005. Steve Freeman, McLoud. By Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman" title="2005 High School Athlete winter sports All-City photo day. November 16, 2005. Steve Freeman, McLoud. By Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman"><figcaption>2005 High School Athlete winter sports All-City photo day. November 16, 2005. Steve Freeman, McLoud. By Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure>
James Jackson

James D. Jackson joined The Oklahoman in January 2020 to cover high school sports. He a University of Central Oklahoma graduate. During his time at UCO, James served as a sports reporter and Editor-in-Chief of the student newspaper, The Vista.... Read more ›

Comments