By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
ENID, Okla. —
Family always comes first for Burlington’s Randy Turney.
That’s why his 600th career boys victory Saturday — a 41-31 win over Buffalo in the third-place game of the Cherokee Tournament — took a back seat to what coaching daughters Tasha and Tana did.
Tasha’s Pond Creek-Hunter team won the girls championship 57-45 over Burlington. Tana’s Kremlin-Hillsdale’s girls won the consolation title 45-38 over Covington-Douglas.
Turney’s dad, John, a retired coach, was in the stands, too. Everybody was together, too, when Turney had his 500th- career boys win a few years ago at the Northwestern Oklahoma State Prep Classic.
“That was nice,’’ Randy Turney said. “It’s tougher watching them coaching myself. It’s like it was when I was watching them in college. You get into it, but there’s nothing you can anything about it but watch.’’
Turney sat in the corner watching Tasha play his employer. Turney’s wife, Robyn, a one-time assistant to her husband, asked out of doing the books for Burlington.
“Family is the most important thing in my life,’’ he said. “I told them ‘you guys are my family, but you’re not my blood family.’’
That philosophy was driven home even more last summer after Turney’s younger sister lost a 12-year battle with breast cancer.
“That’s when you start realizing how valuable each year is,’’ he said. “You never know how much time you’re going to have.’’
Robyn Turney’s father, Bob, was a legendary football coach at Balko. She once was named the state assistant coach of the year by her peers.
“She can talk about games in a different perspective than most spouses can,’’ Turney said. “She was the most valuable player at the national tournament when they won it at Northern. She knows as much about basketball as I do. We could share things together.’’
Turney’s dad and stepmother often split up between the Turneys (Randy, Tasha and Tana) games. Turney tried to talk his daughters out of coaching, but was unsuccessful.
“There’s so much stuff that goes on behind the scenes,’’ Turney said. “I spend more time as a counselor than I did 20 years ago helping kids with their problems on and off the court.’’
Turney went to six different schools in 12 years as a coach’s son, the last four at Wakita, where the Warriors won a state championship in 1971. With five children, the elder Turney had to look at the business side.
“Whenever he could get a raise, we moved,’’ Turney said. “One school said ‘We can’t pay you any more money, but we can pay for your kids’ lunches, he said ‘I’ll take the job.’’’
Turney has a 600-241 record as a boys coach and 185-43 as a girls coach. He has coached 34 years, 31 as a boys head coach. He took two years off to watch his daughters play college basketball.
“I’m afraid it’s a sign of old age,’’ he said about reaching 600 wins. “Out of those 600 wins, I didn’t score one basket. That’s a tribute to the players.’’
He never left the area with stops at Drummond, Dover, Burlington, Enid, Medford and Cherokee, before returning to Burlington a few years ago.
“I think God puts you in places at a particular time for a particular reason,’’ Turney said. “I’ve been blessed to have good kids and good support. Basketball was important at all the schools I’ve been at. The board and administrators were always supportive of my program.’’
He credited hard work for his success.
“It was important for me to set an example for the kids,’’ Turney said. “If they saw me working hard, they would work just as hard as I did. We put in a lot of extra time.’’
Turney had double fusion back surgery last summer after going through the 2011-12 season in extreme pain.
“I could hardly walk,’’ he said. “My back is great. I can’t complain about my health. The doctor at OU Medical Center is one of my best buddies.’’
That has allowed him to be his old self — stomping the floor with his foot in rhythm.
“I could hardly get up last year,’’ Turney said. “I’m making up for it now. I’m an ultracompetitive person. That’s the way I’ve always coached. I hope the kids play the same way.’’
Once the game is over, Turney is calm and collected.
“When the competition is over, it’s time to be a gentleman,’’ he said. “If people just watched me on the sidelines, they don’t know what kind of person I am, The kids know I care about them. That’s the most important thing.’’
Actually, he might remember the 241 boys and 43 girls losses more than the wins. He remembers the back-to-back seasons at Burlington where he won five and six games.
“Nobody believes me when I tell them that,’’ Turney said. “Burlington has the tradition of always being a winner, but I still remember.’’
He said he doesn’t know how much longer he’ll coach, but says he won’t be chasing the numbers of a Joe Gilbert, who has coached for more than 40 years.
He is seeing more and more of his older colleagues such as Timberlake’s Brent Rousey, retire from coaching.
His goal went he started was to get one team to state. Turney has taken 11.
“The feeling you have when you take a team to state is something you can’t explain to people,’’ Turney said. “People don’t realize how difficult that is. It’s something you never forget.’’
He just hopes in two weeks all three Turneys will be getting trophies at the Cherokee Strip (Randy and Tana) and Skeltur (Tasha) like they did last year.
“That’s a neat deal,’’ Turney said.
Even neater than 600 wins.
Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.�