It was a cold, rainy night in 1967

Mar. 12—To all you children out there, this is my last basketball storytelling until next fall.

This one begins on a bus riding home from Holdenville to Hugo on a cold, rainy night in 1967.

My Hugo basketball team had lost the game to go to state to Wewoka, 52-47, a game which was suspended for an hour because many Wewoka fans stormed the floor and literally beat us players with four minutes remaining in the game. We sought shelter in our dressing room until enough law enforcement arrived to complete the game. After the game, police escorted us to our bus as Wewoka fans yelled and threatened us.

It was a cold, rainy, long ride home. I had a knot on my head you could hang a hat on as I exiled myself to the back seat of the bus and rested my head on the foggy window. Despite a terrifying experience, I kept thinking to myself, "My season is really over and ended in travesty".

A sweet cheerleader made her way back to sit and console me, but I said, "This seat is taken" and teary-eyed, she left. I've always been a very inward person and never wanted anyone to feel sorry for me because it's a sign of weakness.

One thing I remember during that crisis was thinking, "One day I'm going to do something very special."

Little could I fathom that 11 years later (1978) I would be a first-year head coach at Hugo who would coach his alma mater to its first-ever state tournament by beating No. 3 Wewoka at ECU, 75-72. There was no such thing as 'revenge', because revenge is a meal that's best served cold. At state, we won our first game ever and lost the semis to No. 1 Millwood.

Taking a team to the state tournament gave me an insatiable desire to go back, which we did in 1980 by defeating Byng. Next, I was recruited to come to Byng and Mr. Stokes was quoted in the paper — "We couldn't beat Alan, so we decided to hire him."

In 1980-81, my first year at Byng, we returned no starters and were 7-11 in January but then won 11 of 12 games and went to state. We returned to state in 1983 but lost our first game to No. 1 Cushing, who won state. 1985 came around, and though unranked, we beat Ada, 51-50 in the district final. Ada was much better than us, but the best team doesn't always win. On a 10 scale, we played a 10.5, but following that win, we lost the next two games and were finished.

Ada was so good they won eight straight games and lost in the state finals.

There's a conundrum I could never comprehend — many Ada fans were livid about playing a game at Byng when the Ada Middle School gym capacity was 500 and the Byng gym capacity was 3,000. Am I missing something?

It took forever for Ada to finally build a basketball facility. Thanks, Zane Bowman. Perhaps you'll see his name on the floor before he perishes.

This is a good time to turn the page...

Back to my storytelling. The years passed, and I had opportunities to leave Byng, but I've always been a 'Homesteader' and not a 'Gypsy'.

My prognosis for the 1985-86 team was that we could be good, but little did I know how good. Come late January we had settled into playing seven players, and my intuition told me that we needed to experiment with playing a 3-2 zone that could also help with avoiding foul trouble. I didn't talk to anyone who ran a 3-2, and we just adapted to things that suited our personnel. It's called 'coaching'.

Part of me felt like I was "selling out" by running a zone defense, especially since I didn't think I was a great offensive coach versus a zone. It just always seemed like playing against a zone was like walking into a 7-11 and seeing a holdup with five guys standing in the lane with their hands in the air.

The reason I was attracted to a 3-2 zone was because we could put three great athletes on the top in Chris Chandler, Marcus Nelson and Gregg Hardin. With this tandem, we would have better guards than anyone we played against. It allowed us to be very aggressive and force turnovers that we could convert 2 on 1's with.

We could even extend our defense, play passing lanes, and trap out of it. Nobody was running a 3-2 like we did, and our kids believed in what we were doing. You ask why?

It worked, and our kids felt good about themselves

The Proverbs writer said, "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." You may turn the page now.

The '86 team was unique. I've never had a team peak like them. Very surreal, very. Our starting five had a combined 3.6 GPA, so they WERE student-athletes. We had four double-figure scorers from 11.2 to 13.6 and the fifth at 7.2 ppg. When you're successful there's enough pie for everyone. I'll have coconut cream, please.

During the playoffs, we beat No. 10 Ada, 77-51, No. 8 Tuttle, 72-61 and No. 6 Hugo 66-65 in three OTs. It was now time to prepare for another appearance in the state tournament ... except this was going to be different.

The Daily Oklahoman Class 3A preview didn't talk about Byng, but its storyline featured four OKC area teams: Millwood, McGuinness, Harrah and Deer Creek and them playing in a semis. Thanks for the good 'bulletin board' motivation.

The gist of the story was about an anticipated rematch of No. 1 Millwood vs No. 3 Deer Creek in the finals in which the Deer Creek coach was quoted.

Well, we wrecked their story, because in the first round, we jumped on Deer Creek like a little chubby boy on a chocolate donut, winning 67-46 and we pulled off, too. Next was No. 2 Harrah with its 26-1 record and we won 58-48.

No. 4 Bishop McGuinness upset No. 1 Millwood in the semis, so it was now No. 4 McGuinness vs No. 5 Byng in the finals. We won 53-44, and the nine-point win was the closest game we had in the tournament. There was nobody left standing as we beat SIX Top 10 teams in the playoffs to win the gold ball.

Gregg Hardin was tournament MVP as a sophomore.

The '86 team was a combination of 'competitive genius' and 'boyish fun' and I, for the first time, was like a little boy skipping through life laughing and not that sorrowful boy on a long bus ride home on a cold, rainy night in 1967.


Best, — Alan Simpson