By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
Cory Pitts might be the happiest coach at the Cache Team Girls Basketball Camp this week.
The newly hired Medford girls coach has a different perspective after going on the “17-year plan’’ after his graduation from Henryetta High School in 1991.
He returned to college in 2004 after being unhappy in a series of jobs.
“It (coaching) was going to be the only thing that was going to make me happy as far as things work-related were concerned,’’ Pitts said. “Other than that, the other things were a job that I had to force myself to go to.
“I was telling my wife when I was walking from the gym to the classroom yesterday that this is the greatest life in the world. She said just wait until you lose a game. I said that doesn’t matter. They can put all kind of pressure on me and I wouldn’t have a problem with that. I really enjoy it.’’
Pitts has wanted to be a coach while in high school, “but it took me a few years to mature.’’
He was inspired by his wife, Leetha, who returned to school to get her degree and teach. Leetha will be the fourth-grade teacher at Medford.
He got a touch of reality while working as a painter for a manufacturing company in Henryetta. Two kids straight out of high school were hired as welders for more money than Pitts was making.
“That turned the light on,’’ Pitts said. “The day those kids were hired, I took off for OSU Okmulgee and enrolled.’’
He got his associate’s degree at Okmulgee and his bachelors degree at Northeastern Oklahoma State before returning to Henryetta as a high school boys assistant. He was at his alma mater for four years.
He was the office manager of the Okmulgee YMCA while going to school.
“The jobs that I had before the YMCA were manual labor type stuff,’’ Pitts said. “I wasn’t built for that. It made me appreciate what I’m doing now.’’
He hopes his story is a “motivator’’ for his players. He jokes he was on the “17-year plan’’ before graduating from college.
“I reflect on that a lot,’’ Pitts said. “I could have been a coach for 20 years now. I try to teach that to my kids.’’
Pitts had been coaching his daughter Madeline — a freshman — in youth sports. She, too, was an inspiration for him to apply for the Medford head job.
“I knew by the time she was a freshman, I wanted to be a head coach,’’ Pitts said. “I’ve coached her since she was four years old. She and I enjoy it, but I think I enjoy it more than she does.’’
Pitts said Madeline has handled being the coach’s daughter.
“She’s a hard worker and is self motivated,’’ Pitts said.
Pitts feels he’s ready to move up after coaching under veteran Jerry Ward at Henryetta.
“He taught me more than anything else to work hard and how to get the most out of your kids,’’ Pitts said. “I was really blessed to be under him.’’
He didn’t know anything about Medford. He had some concerns that a Class A school wouldn’t be able to offer his daughter the same things 3A Henryetta did.
“Once I got here, I was really impressed with the school and the administration,’’ Pitts said. “Everything my daughter was interested in, they have her. It’s a really good school.’’
His daughter, Pitts said, has been immediately accepted by her teammates.
“The people have been unbelievably friendly,’’ Pitts said. “My daughter and another girl in her class got hooked up on Facebook and they became best friends even before we got to Medford.’’
He took the Lady Cardinals to a camp at Fort Supply last week. He chose to go to Cache’s camp “because we’ll see a lot of teams we won’t see during the season ... it’s good competition.’’
“It’s been a good chance for me to bond with the girls and for my daughter to get to know the girls,’’ he said. “We’re getting accustomed to each other. There won’t be any surprises once we start practice.’’
Pitts likes an uptempo game and a pressure defense.
Medford graduated four seniors from last year’s 10-16 team which lost to Arapaho-Butler in the regional losers bracket semifinals.
Senior Trista Cripe, who averaged in the 15-point range, has made a strong impression on her new coach.
“She is going to be the leader of this group,’’ Pitts said. “The team fits around her. She is a good Christian girl and a great role model for kids. It helps me more than anything else having a girl like her around.’’
The job has been everything Pitts hoped for.
“It’s more than I expected it to be,’’ he said. “I love it. The town has been so supportive.’’