All-Area Coach of the Year Dylan Parker's journey to bringing Perkins-Tryon its best season in school history

Jun. 8—It took less than a month for Ripley boys' basketball coach Doug Scott to know that he had a future head coach in his midst.

Dylan Parker was in his early 20s and had accepted a job as a student teacher with Ripley Public Schools. He helped Scott out with the basketball team as well, and his impact was felt quickly.

Once Parker's student teaching gig was up, the longtime head coach approached the superintendent of Ripley.

"We've gotta hire this guy," Scott said at the time. "He has got so much energy. He's ready to go, there's no laziness. I noticed that right from the start."

That began a four-year partnership, one that was mutually beneficial for all sides.

Scott taught Parker the intricacies behind coaching — relationship management, scouting, consistency and more.

"That guy really showed me, from a coaching standpoint, what it takes to win," Parker said. "It's hard to just roll the ball out there and go beat people."

It was also in that dynamic that the young coach showed off his tactical ability to coach. He taught Scott various drills, inbounds plays and schematics.

Then, in 2019, the head boys basketball coaching job at Perkins-Tryon High School opened up. Scott had the connections, and recommended Parker for the job. He got it.

"We probably had him longer than we thought we would," Scott said. "I knew he was gonna be ready for a job."

Fast forward five years, and Parker is now 32 years old and just coached Perkins-Tryon to its best season in school history; the first trip to the state tournament and the most wins in a season ever (28).

It was a true case of development for Parker, who built deep relationships with the 2024 class all the way from eighth grade through their recent graduations — players such as Dylan Davidson, Cutter Greene, Quincy Mouton and News Press All-Area Player of the Year Tucker Shepherd.

"I've been with those guys basically my entire time at Perkins, I mean, they were my team," Parker said. "They played as freshmen, so the amount of highs and lows and fun locker rooms and sad locker rooms we've had, it's been a really, really fun four year journey. I appreciate them a bunch, and I think they really enjoyed the journey we went on together."

The first two years were difficult for Parker. Going from assistant coach to head man felt like a drastic jump — one that he had to face head on.

"You wouldn't imagine the amount of things that went through my head that first year, like I didn't know how to do anything," Parker said. "You're just kind of figuring out as you go, really. No matter how prepared you think you are, you don't have a clue what you're going into. It's just the nature of the beast.

"The only way you're going to learn how to be a head coach is to be head coach. I think sitting on a bench helps. I think being an assistant helps, and I think you learn things. But when you get that head coaching job for the first time, it's so different from being in the system."

In his first year as coach, P-T went 12-13 and had some momentum heading into year two. That momentum was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Uncertainty and anxiety filled the minds of most people during 2020. For Parker and his young Demons squad, it was canceled games, inconsistent schedules and daily schedule changes that really made things difficult.

"I mean, everything about that time, from basketball to life in general was just difficult," Parker said. "So we didn't probably get off to the start that we wanted to with that crew. Everything about that year was tough."

That season was the first one with his illustrious 2024 class. Shepherd remembers first being around Parker, and how far he has come since then.

Early on, it was all business for the young coach. It still is that way, but with some alterations.

"He could not take a joke at the start, and then we started messing with him, joking with him," Shepherd said. "He finally got used to it, so we kind of loosened him up a little bit."

That's the area that Parker believes he has improved in the most.

He says that his first couple of years, he was closed off to the players. That has changed.

"You can't be this hard-nosed, stubborn guy all the time," Parker said. "I'm that to a certain extent, but I think I've learned how to better foster those relationships and make them more productive than I did early in my career."

In 2021, Parker led Perkins-Tryon to the area finals for the first time. His team came up short of a state tournament bid, but it was on the precipice.

Two years later, his team got over the hump. But it wasn't without a little stress involved. Perkins lost to Fort Gibson in the first regional game, leaving zero margin for error and five games separating his team from state.

The run that ensued was something that Parker will remember forever.

A dominant win over Verdigris, doubling up Hilldale on the scoreboard, 30-piecing Madill to set up a rematch with Fort Gibson, getting revenge with a 49-42 win and completing the rally with a win over Inola to reach state.

Five wins in a week's time, and not much time for reflection. Not until recently.

"I never really got to watch the film or anything, because I had to get ready for the next team," Parker said. "About a month ago, I finally sat down and watched them, got to enjoy them."

It was a gratifying season, despite the state quarterfinals loss to North Rock Creek. Parker invested hundreds of hours into that 2024 senior class. He helped Shepherd train through the offseason for four straight years, the same investment Parker feels he received during his playing days.

He grew up in the small southeastern Oklahoma town of Hartshorne, located about 15 miles east of McAlester. It was there that Parker first discovered what a great coach looks like.

"That was probably where the foundation came from, just seeing that as a player," Parker said.

Now, another test presents itself. Perkins-Tryon loses nearly all of its production from 2024, and Parker needs to rebuild his roster and start fresh. He described it like a puzzle.

"Last year, last summer, was like one of those elementary puzzles where you've only got six pieces, it's very easy to figure out," Parker said. "This summer, it's like a 1,000-piece puzzle and they're all flipped over backwards. You've got to flip them over, and then you have to figure out where they go. And so we're right in the middle of that process."

Parker is also pursuing a masters degree in education administration. Ironically, he's going through SWOSU, the same college that Shepherd is set to play at starting next year.

"We might have some classes together," Parker jokingly said to Shepherd.

The degree could set up a path for Parker to get into administration, with a job as a principal or athletic director.

Life continues on, and it's hard for Parker to believe it's been five years already since he became a head coach.

He will look to keep his Perkins-Tryon team in contention, but he'll also occasionally reflect on what has already been accomplished.

"We had a lot of good things happen for us this year, and we had an unbelievable season," Parker said. "One I'll never forget."

He still stays in contact with Coach Scott at Ripley as well, and they still learn things from each other to this day. Scott takes great pride in watching Parker flourish, but he isn't surprised.

Dylan Parker was destined to be a head coach.

"I'm very proud of him," Scott said. "He's definitely the coach of the year in our area, no question."