In the Loop: Firing Mike Boynton would be a Band-Aid solution

Feb. 16—Mike Boynton, for many fans, is the singular problem for Oklahoma State's shortcomings.

He coaches the worst basketball team in the Big 12 and is a below .500 (93-94) coach with zero NCAA Tournament selections in the six seasons he doesn't have Cade Cunningham.

And the comments he made to the Tulsa World earlier this week seem to be the last piece fans needed to justify his termination. In responding to a column that questioned his future with the program, Boynton had a clear message: Cowboy basketball won't be as competitive as it should be — under any coach — if there aren't more donations toward buying players with NIL dollars.

Of the 14 current Big 12 programs, Boynton said, there are at least six operating with more than $2 million, another three or four between $1 million and $2 million, while OSU ranks last with barely more than $500,000.

"This is about talent acquisition and retention," Boynton told the Tulsa World. "... The roster is where it is because the college recruiting landscape is different. ... I didn't make a (strategic) decision to suddenly start recruiting guys from low-major programs."

Boynton will have to answer to players such as John-Michael Wright, Mike Marsh and Jarius Hicklen, who transferred in from High Point, Jacksonville and North Florida, respectively. Are those the players he wanted, or the ones he wanted that were affordable?

Fans and donors will have to wrestle with that distinction, too.

Boynton said he never had challenges with recruiting until recruiting became bidding.

"What I had to do to get Cade Cunningham here was way more difficult than what it takes to get players on campus now," Boynton said at his Thursday press conference. "It took four years of making sure I was there more than Bill Self, and making sure I was there more than Roy Williams.

"I had never coached a guy in the NBA as a head coach. I hadn't coached in the NCAA tournament. But over time, the relationship mattered enough that he believed that I was gonna do the right thing by him. I can't work that hard anymore. Not when you can say, 'Hey, here's $500,000 to spend nine months over here.'"

For those that simply look at the recruiting rankings, the sentiment falls on deaf ears. Boynton in 2023 signed the No. 3 class in the Big 12 and the No. 14 overall.

But that's where talent retention comes into play. The team's best players are young — too young — and they need time to develop.

What will happen when another school offers Brandon Garrison, who Boynton said people are probably contacting, a dollar figure that OSU can't match?

The same thing that happened when Tyreek Smith didn't want to leave.

"He came in my office three times and asked what we could do for him," Boynton told the Tulsa World. "He went to SMU. We can't beat SMU to keep our player?"

Should OSU be good enough to beat Abilene Christian and Southern Illinois? Of course.

And Boynton has accepted culpability for the things he can control at every turn.

"We got to coach better," Boynton said. "But the way you get players now is totally different than the way you got players four years ago."

It may not be the message fans want to hear, but they shouldn't shoot the messenger.

The Cowboys need to be better, but they need help. Supporters want to help, but they won't until the team is better.

Something has to give, but it probably won't.

Athletic director Chad Weiberg can go to the boosters and ask for $6.67 million this April for Boynton's contract buyout, which would signal he believes there's a coach that can do more with what Oklahoma State already has.

If that happens, Boynton surely would have liked to see that money go toward NIL over the past three years, and the new coach might feel that way, too.

Marcus Trevino is a sports reporter for The Stillwater News Press. He can be contacted at