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'His legacy is just the thousands of people he has touched': Longtime Barnsdall coach Joe Gilbert dies at 87

Joe Gilbert, who spent 66 years coaching numerous sports at Barnsdall High School, died Monday at age 87. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]
Joe Gilbert, who spent 66 years coaching numerous sports at Barnsdall High School, died Monday at age 87. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]


Joe Gilbert, who spent 66 years coaching numerous sports at Barnsdall and amassed nearly 4,000 total wins during his tenure, died Monday morning. He was 87.

He claimed 3,912 victories: 1,140 in fastpitch, 922 in girls basketball, 801 in baseball, 649 in boys basketball, 395 in slowpitch and five in football. He coached only girls basketball last season and planned to return for his 67th year. 

He won two state titles: 1980 in baseball and 2012 in fastpitch softball.

He was inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame in 2019.

"His legacy is just the thousands of people he has touched," Barnsdall boys basketball coach Wade Corder said. "This whole town has roots with Gilbert. Grandparents, parents and these kids who have came up. He really bought into the community and everybody bought into him.

"Staying for 66 years here shows a lot about who he was, his loyalty, and what he stood for. He always said, 'Sports is sports,' no matter what level you're at."

Gilbert was born in Buffalo, Missouri, near Springfield. He attended Northeastern State in Tahlequah and graduated in 1954. He then hitchhiked to different interviews and settled down in Barnsdall, where he spent the remainder of his life.

Barnsdall had 14 superintendents during Gilbert's tenure. There have been 12 United States' presidents in that span. There were only 48 states when he took over. 

Corder, who begins his fifth season at Barnsdall this fall, said Gilbert could remember nearly everyone's name, even people from back during his first few years coaching. He has coached numerous kids and grandkids of those on his original teams. 

"It was just unreal the amount of people that he knew and he was associated with," Corder said.

Now, Joe Gilbert Fieldhouse will serve as a memorial for the teacher and coach who spent two-thirds of a century in Barnsdall.

Funeral services haven't been announced.

"He was just so humble about everything he did," Corder said. "He didn't want any of the recognition. Anytime you tried to talk about his accomplishments, it was just right back to the kids. He would always say it was nothing he had done, just the hard work of the kids.

"He didn't want anything to be in his name. He was always wanted to stay away from the spotlight. He lived a real quiet life and never stood out, and that's the way he wanted it."

Related Photos
Joe Gilbert, who spent 66 years coaching numerous sports at Barnsdall High School, died Monday at age 87. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]

Joe Gilbert, who spent 66 years coaching numerous sports at Barnsdall High School, died Monday at age 87. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-1798db7f670801649d195e1774f4458e.jpg" alt="Photo - Joe Gilbert, who spent 66 years coaching numerous sports at Barnsdall High School, died Monday at age 87. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]" title="Joe Gilbert, who spent 66 years coaching numerous sports at Barnsdall High School, died Monday at age 87. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Joe Gilbert, who spent 66 years coaching numerous sports at Barnsdall High School, died Monday at age 87. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-def6227fb6864e4c5d0658805c977d8e.jpg" alt="Photo - Coach Joe Gilbert during girls basketball practice in the gym inside Barnsdall High School in Barnsdall, Okla., Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. Gilbert has coached at Barnsdall since 1954. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] " title="Coach Joe Gilbert during girls basketball practice in the gym inside Barnsdall High School in Barnsdall, Okla., Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. Gilbert has coached at Barnsdall since 1954. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption>Coach Joe Gilbert during girls basketball practice in the gym inside Barnsdall High School in Barnsdall, Okla., Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. Gilbert has coached at Barnsdall since 1954. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-965038f251520a52f689b7364135b2dc.jpg" alt="Photo - Coach Joe Gilbert shown in the yearbook for the 1954-1955 school year at Barnsdall High School in Barnsdall, Okla. Gilbert, currently the girls basketball coach, has coached at Barnsdall since 1954. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]" title="Coach Joe Gilbert shown in the yearbook for the 1954-1955 school year at Barnsdall High School in Barnsdall, Okla. Gilbert, currently the girls basketball coach, has coached at Barnsdall since 1954. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Coach Joe Gilbert shown in the yearbook for the 1954-1955 school year at Barnsdall High School in Barnsdall, Okla. Gilbert, currently the girls basketball coach, has coached at Barnsdall since 1954. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-189567f4de52ae8d55526b61d50b9bb5.jpg" alt="Photo - Coach Joe Gilbert takes a phone call from another coach while inside the fieldhouse named after him at Barnsdall High School in Barnsdall, Okla., Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. Gilbert, currently the girls basketball coach, has coached at Barnsdall since 1954. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]" title="Coach Joe Gilbert takes a phone call from another coach while inside the fieldhouse named after him at Barnsdall High School in Barnsdall, Okla., Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. Gilbert, currently the girls basketball coach, has coached at Barnsdall since 1954. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Coach Joe Gilbert takes a phone call from another coach while inside the fieldhouse named after him at Barnsdall High School in Barnsdall, Okla., Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. Gilbert, currently the girls basketball coach, has coached at Barnsdall since 1954. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure>
Cameron Jourdan

Cameron Jourdan joined The Oklahoman in March 2019 to cover high school sports. He graduated from Oklahoma State University in May 2018. He had an internship with The Oklahoman and Stillwater News Press. During his time at OSU, Cameron served in a... Read more ›

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