The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 31, 2013

Coale represents best in state pride

By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Forget Sunday’s 74-59 loss to Tennessee Sunday. Here’s a vote for Sherri Coale as the best coach on the University of Oklahoma campus.

Nothing against football coach Bob Stoops, or softball coach Patty Gasso or gymnastics coach Mark Williams, all of whom have national championship rings during their tenure at Norman.

Part of it is you just feel like she is one of us (native Oklahoman). She talks like one of us and is the same old country girl who graduated from Healdton High School in 1983.

Always liked her sense of humor, such as making note of disappointing “George W.’’ when the former president Bush was in the stands when OU won at Baylor in 2009.

Probably could still teach English like she did at Norman High.

We in Enid might feel a little special kinship. We knew who Sherri Coale was before she was Sherri Coale.

And that’s in the literal sense.

As Sherri Buben, she was a guard for the then-Oklahoma Christian College Lady Eagles, which played against Phillips University in the Sooner Athletic Conference.

In her last regular-season game as a Lady Eagle, she scored nine points in OCC’s 99-76 victory over the Fillies. She was the team captain of the SAC champion Lady Eagles.

We saw her at the beginning of her career as an assistant at Edmond Memorial. She and the Lady Bulldogs were 1-3 against Enid in her two seasons there (1987-89). She then went to Norman as the head coach, where she went 147-40 and won two state championships.

The Pacers contributed to that record. Coale was 15-0 over seven seasons against EHS, the closest game behind a 46-44 overtime decision in 1990.

She drew attention because of her looks, but she could coach. Her final two Norman teams were a combined 53-2. In the 1994-95 season, her Lady Tigers beat EHS by scores of 56-25, 63-19 and 63-37.

Before Coale, Enid had a 6-7 record against the Lady Tigers.

We even saw Coale at the 1995 All-State games in Enid chasing her young son in the stands. She would laugh about that when reminded of that during a visit to Enid.

Then-OU athletic director Donnie Duncan raised some eyebrows when he hired Coale to direct the Sooners after the 1996 season.

There might have been some doubters when Coale’s first two teams went 5-22 and 8-19 and were a combined 5-27 against conference opponents.

Boy, were those people ever wrong.

OU was making its ninth Sweet 16 appearance under Coale when the Sooners played Tennessee Sunday afternoon in Oklahoma City.

Despite losing four starters to injuries, the Sooners took a 24-10 record into the game. OU has had its share of injuries under Coale, but never has suffered through a recession.

Coale has adapted. Courtney Paris, the most decorated player in the Coale era graduates, and the next season the Sooners return to the Final Four with a more up-tempo style of play.

The injured players, instead of feeling sorry for themselves, have stayed on the bench to provide leadership and guidance.

That shouldn’t be a surprise. Coale’s teams are known as much for their character and community service as they are for their basketball ability.They have made trips to Haiti and have participated in the Sooner Big Sis Program, a program that enables players to volunteer their time as mentors and teacher aides to elementary schools in the Norman area.

They have volunteer at food shelters, Habitat for Humanity, the Children’s Miracle Network, Special Olympics, Race for the Cure (breast cancer) and Norman Women’s Resource Center and Battered Women’s Shelter.

She was a NAIA Scholar Athlete at OC. Going into this season, her teams had a 3.0 grade point average or higher in 25 of the 32 semesters Cole has been at OU.

She’s a role model for all.

Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.쳌