Every college sports program has its ups and downs. Its transfers and its 2-stars that turn into all-conference players. Its good losses and bad wins. Its long droughts and short apexes. Its changing of the guards and its golden eras.
This is as true of Oklahoma State as it is with Auburn and Oregon and Boston College and Georgia Tech. However, it’s also true that the first three years of the Mike Boynton era have been rather unusual.
From an FBI interjection to a global pandemic and pretty much everything you can imagine between those two incidents, the first 36 months of Boynton’s tenure have been an absolute roller coaster. The governor on that coaster wears No. 2 and will enroll at Oklahoma State in the next few months, but it doesn’t change what a wild ride it’s been since Boynton took the job three years ago yesterday.
I asked him on Tuesday what he would go back and tell himself on March 24, 2017.
“If all the things that have happened are still going to happen then I’m going to tell that guy, ‘Buckle up, buddy,’” said Boynton. “It’s going to be a rocky ride. I’ve enjoyed 99 percent of the first three years of being a head coach here.
“Mostly because I’ve had unbelievable support from an administrative standpoint. Our fans, for the most part, have been understanding that some of the decisions I’ve had to make have been to put our program in the best light for long-term stability.
“Recruits have been really responsive.”
Boynton went on to tell a story about how Carson Cunningham asked him a question in his first year about why he’s so convinced high-level recruits were going to come play for him. He said he believes passionately that hard work ultimately wins.
“I remember thinking at that moment — I couldn’t say his name — but I’m recruiting the kid who’s going to be the best player in the country, and we’re going to do everything we can to get him here. That’s why I was optimistic. It wasn’t that things were going to turn around immediately, but I felt like we were moving this thing in the right direction and identifying the right people to be a part of it.
“They were believing in what we were talking about, and that’s what ultimately gives you a chance. I would say a lot of our plan is moving along the way I hoped it could, but there’s been some potholes along the way, and there’s been some disappointing moments and certainly some adversity. I’m as excited about where we’re going, and I know we’re in a much better place now than we were three years ago.”
Anytime you have the best player in the nation coming to school in the fall, you’re likely in a much better place than you were three years ago. And I, too, remain optimistic about the future of Oklahoma State basketball.
The first three years have not gone as swimmingly as anyone would have liked for them to, Boynton most of all. But with Cade Cunningham, Rondel Walker and friends joining Ice, the Boone bros, Avery Anderson and whatever we get from Yor Anei in his junior year, it does seem like there’s a light at the end of this very long and very dark tunnel.
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