Carlson: How OSU basketball coach Mike Boynton went from question mark to exclamation point among Cowboys fans
Mike Boynton has a lot on his plate over these next few months.
Meld together a young but talented roster.
Win a bunch of basketball games.
Restore OSU hoops glory.
Pick a new university president.
Now, that last duty might’ve slipped under your sports-centric radar, but a couple weeks ago, the men’s basketball coach was selected to the OSU’s Presidential Search Committee. He’s an at-large member, and he’ll help find a replacement for Burns Hargis, who is retiring next summer.
That Boynton is on the 38-member committee is no small thing.
Three years ago, there were plenty of orange bloods who didn’t think he should’ve been hired as the OSU head coach, and now, he’s helping select who the university will hire as its next president.
“I think it shows me how far I’ve come,” Boynton said. “I went from kind of, ‘Who is this guy?’ — maybe even to some of the other people on that committee — when I was hired to now. I’m not sure there’s anything more important for a university than the actual leader of the whole institution.
“So, I feel honored and humbled that I would be asked.”
As Boynton and his Cowboys prepare to open their season — 3 p.m. Wednesday at Texas-Arlington — expectations are high but with a hint of skepticism.
Cade Cunningham is the most high profile recruit to ever wear the orange and black. While he seems likely to be around for only one season, it could be one heck of a year, especially considering he has plenty of talented sidekicks.
But what of those sanctions? In June, the NCAA banned OSU from postseason play, and even though OSU is appealing, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen. These Cowboys might not be allowed in the Big 12 Tournament much less the NCAA one.
Even with all the unknowns, one thing that feels certain about OSU basketball is Boynton.
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That seems somewhat crazy, and it’s not just because of the questions that were raised when he was hired. When Brad Underwood unceremoniously dumped the Cowboys for Illinois, OSU fans wanted a big name to replace him, preferably one with an OSU degree. Instead, they got a native New Yorker, a South Carolina grad, an assistant of Underwood’s who lots of people in the athletic department didn’t even know.
Considering the Cowboys’ success since then — a 51-49 record over three seasons and no NCAA Tournament appearances — you’d think Boynton’s chances of endearing himself to the masses would be even less.
But endear himself to them, he has.
Fans appreciate his blue-collar mentality. “Let’s work” has been his mantra, and when things have gone south, Boynton has applied that principle to himself, searching for ways to help his teams maximize when they’ve had injuries or suspensions or dismissals over the past few years.
He has a straight-shooting, no-nonsense style, too. If something’s bad, he says as much and doesn’t try to sugar coat it.
He has shown himself to be loyal and true, too. He goes to games of other OSU teams. He shares congratulations on social media any time any Cowboy or Cowgirl has success. He has become as big a cheerleader of OSU as anyone on campus.
Boynton genuinely seems to care about OSU and its people.
Maybe that’s why there was never so much as an inkling that Boynton’s job might be in jeopardy after the NCAA sanctions came down. Maybe that’s why OSU athletic director Mike Holder turned to Boynton for advice when investigating the unrest between Mike Gundy and his football players. And yes, maybe it’s why Boynton was asked to be on the presidential selection committee.
“I hope it is an indication that they believe that I care about the mission of the university and about the university as a whole, not just the athletic department and basketball program,” he said.
He knows being on the selection committee won’t be easy because of the timing. Much of the work will be done during the basketball season when Boynton is busiest.
Despite that, Boynton couldn’t pass up the invitation.
He admits, though, he feels under qualified considering he’s never been on a search committee of any kind.
“I wish I had some experience,” he said, chuckling. “I wish I had, like, sat on a committee to pick, I don’t know, the vice chair of the local Boy Scouts or something at some point in my life.”
Experience isn’t as important as caring, and Mike Boynton clearly has a heart for OSU.
You get the feeling Cowboy Nation has come to feel the same way about him.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or email@example.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok, and support her work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.