For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord

Mar. 9—To begin, I'm including a scripture that became a part of me — "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11).

In late July 1973, I didn't have a job, so I went to the Texas coaching clinic at the downtown Baker Hotel in Dallas. I had no connections and after a few hours was leaving discouraged and feeling like the chicken who'd just met Colonel Sanders.

Once out the front door, I decided to go back inside and use the restroom. Leaving the restroom, I ran into Gene Robbins, my JUCO coach at Murray State and was currently the coach at North Texas State. Upon telling him why I was there, he said, "Let's go upstairs I have a job for you".

I interviewed for about 30 minutes and was hired to be the ninth-grade basketball coach at Congress Junior High in Denton, Texas.

Truthfully, They were probably as desperate as I was.

"For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord".

I had a lot of success my first year, and after one year I was elevated to be the sophomore coach and head assistant at Denton High. In my first year as the sophomore coach, we won our conference and were 26-4. The next year we won 22 games, but Jack Howell, the head coach, resigned because of conflicts from football. This was sad because Jack was a great man and a heckuva basketball coach.

Ruby, don't take your love to town, don't tug on Superman's cape and don't go to Texas to coach boys basketball.

I decided to apply for the job and was given a "courtesy interview". There was nothing courteous about it because they'd already decided to hire a former football coach for the job. I was told I could remain as the assistant and did. It became a horrible experience because the new coach wasn't qualified and I'll leave it at that.

Meanwhile, I became engaged to my lovely Kim. She had to do her student teaching, I was just going to teach and we'd get married that fall. I was really discouraged, and then it happened. I got a call from Hugo asking if I would come home and be their basketball coach.

I'd never wanted to go back to my hometown, but I immediately went "from the outhouse to the penthouse", and on October 29, 1977, an Uptown Girl married a Backstreet Guy and moved to Hugo. I thought I was the luckiest guy in the world because I married way up. Not only that, but because of Kim I began going to church.

"For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord".

We had a ton of success in Hugo. In the first year, 1978, we went 22-3 and went to state where we lost the semis to champion Millwood. It was the first time Hugo went to the state tournament. Our team was almost all black, single parents and government housing. That first team had FIVE players who became the first in their family to go to college and get a degree. This was huge, and I was so proud of those kids.

By the third year life became almost unbearable. The prejudice and discrimination from the administration were more than I care to write about. Rather than praise for what we were doing, all I heard were complaints about playing black kids. The persecution took a toll on me ... and the kids.

The 1980 season was going well in spite of the aforementioned. Hugo had a new gym, and to my surprise, the OSSAA sent Byng, who'd been ranked No. 1, all the way to Hugo for a regional game.

I thought it was a misprint.

Our new gym held 800 and Byng's new gym held 3,000. I'm sure Byng fans were unhappy. Most probably thought, "Oh, well, this is a long way to go to get a win, but is there a restaurant in Hugo?"

Most people in far SE Oklahoma regarded Byng as being some mystical, Shangri la place. Byng had a place on the basketball map — Hugo did not. We had beaten them in the 1978 playoffs and they had beaten us in 1979, but now....they're really HERE.

On Thursday afternoon they pulled up to our gym in their big Continental Trailways bus driven by Ed Berryman and began unloading. I'll never forget how sharp their boys and girls looked in their slacks and maroon blazers. They also looked so tall and mature. I must say, they were intimidating as many Hugo fans were already there and watching in awe of them.

Unequivocally, this was the biggest basketball game to ever be played in Hugo. The gym was packed with fans standing and sitting on the stairways and as Byng's tall athletic players took the floor I began reciting, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil..."

Their coach, Burl Plunkett, was from SE Oklahoma and was a coaching legend. At 6' 7" tall, he, like his team, was very intimidating.

And, me.....I was just a young Choctaw head coach wanting to earn his eagle feathers.

Byng just had that 'air' of confidence about them as though they were going to sneak into our kitchen, eat our brownies and leave. Didn't happen.

The game was tied at the end of regulation, the first OT and we won in double OT, 43-38. Our kids executed our game plan to perfection — defense and possession basketball. To say we were disciplined would be an understatement.

Next was the regional finals versus Durant at Tishomingo and we had no problem. Our team was doing great, but I was still disappointed by our situation.

And, then it happened. In the gym foyer after the game, I was alone and was approached by Byng School Board president Riley Young. He was very professional and complimentary of how our kids played and said when the season was over, Byng wanted to discuss Kim and me coming to work at Byng.

"For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord".

The next week we lost to Millwood at ECU in the Area finals and had to play Byng again, but now it was in their backyard. Didn't matter. We were not a team of shooters and couldn't score in an arcade with a pocket full of quarters, however, we were a team that played 'possession basketball' and mother-in-law defense (constant pressure and harassment).

We won 33-29, ended Byng's season, and we went to state.

The following week, we lost at state to Wewoka and the next week Byng called and asked Kim and me to come up to talk to them. They treated us like royalty. Bobby Johns took us to Bob's BBQ and we signed contracts. All Mr. Stokes said was to "Work the players hard, make them act right, and winning would take care of itself".


Additionally, two men made a lasting impression on me and that was Riley Young with his warmth and genuineness, and Bobby Johns with his homespun humor. They were also respected, Christian men in the Ada area. I love you guys.

"For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord".

In June of 1980, I was baptized, but HE had plans for me long before that occurred. I just didn't know it at the time, but I'm thankful that I went back inside the Baker Hotel to use the bathroom that July day in 1973.


— Alan Simpson