ENID, Okla. —
Welcome back Bruce Hendrickson.
The state’s all-time winningest football coach (351 wins) is back in the northwest Oklahoma area for the first time since he left Seiling after the 1997 season for Wynnewood.
He is returning to Seiling trying to rebuild a program which failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006 last season.
His return is a breath of fresh air. His quotes are colorful. Lou Holtz could take lessons from him — the more he downgraded his team, the more you better look at.
At 67, he’s coming back to coaching because he was bored with retirement and he felt renewed after having knee replacement surgery, noting he felt like he was 25 again.
He emphasized he didn’t return to coaching to further build his resume. Hendrickson has the distinction of winning three state championships at three different schools — Texhoma (1971), Okeene (1981) and Seiling (1988).
He had a 132-21 record at Okeene from 1972-83 before going to Seiling, where he went 141-34 from 1984-97.
Hendrickson is in the Oklahoma Coaches Hall of Fame and will be one of the speakers at the coaches clinic during All-State week.
“That (wins) never crossed my mind,’’ Hendrickson said. “Who knows, it might take two or three years before we win a game. I won because I had some outstanding players and some outstanding assistants. I had one (Jim Sander) with me for 25 years and another one (Sam Whitworth) for 14 years. I will have some new coaches and some new players. Hopefully, we’ll get things in the right direction.’’
Northwest Oklahoma, he said, “has the best people and the best fans in the world ... I love it, it will always be home.’’
Hendrickson had tired of playing golf.
“I kind of lost all of my golfing buddies when I moved to Cordell from Wynnewood,’’ he said. “There’s so much golf that you can play. This is the first time in two years that I have something to look forward to. The only other thing I had to look forward to before August was a birthday party.
“I looking forward to getting back in the swing of things. I’m already planning summer camps and summer workouts.’’
Retired Hall of Fame officials Norman Lamb, Guy Hays and Worry Hays singled out Hendrickson as the one of the coaches who were the easiest to work with.
Ditto for the media.
One of his most famous quotes came after the Whippets lost to Fairview 30-14 in a non-district game in 1979.
“We’re still going to be playing football when they’re playing basketball,’’ he said.
That drew the ire of Fairview fans, some of whom still bringing it up at a game some 25 years later. But he was right —Okeene went to the playoffs and the Yellowjackets were bringing out the basketballs after a 5-5 season.
Okeene beat Fairview 51-0 the next season.
“He was the world’s greatest on downgrading his team,’’ then-Waukomis coach Mike Felder, who played for Hendrickson at Okeene, told the News & Eagle in a 2005 story. “He’d tell the paper someone beat us 100-0.’’
One year, before a game against a physical Shattuck team, Hendrickson told a reporter three of his players got hurt just watching film on the Indians that Saturday.
“I think it’s all been in good fun,’’ said Hendrickson in a 2005 story.
He could be a little ornery. Before one playoff game, he changed the numbers of his team around confusing both opponent and the newspaper reporters covering the game.
No one was more accompanying than Hendrickson to the media. He once did a radio interview in the announcers booth at halftime of a game.
He’s never coached 8-man, but he likes challenges. His biggest strength was that he could adjust to his talent. He’s won with the Wishbone and he’s won with the passing game. He’ll learn the eight-man game. Football is still football.
He might join old friend Lyle Welsh as a coach who won titles in both 8-man (Pond Creek-Hunter) and 11-man (Fairview).
“I don’t know about that,’’ Hendrickson said with a chuckle, “but that certainly is one our of longterm goals.
Six of Seiling’s 10 opponents are old rivals from his 11-man days (Medford, Waukomis, Garber, Canton, Pond Creek-Hunter and Laverne).
He always had a good sense of timing. He knew when it was time to leave at both Okeene and Seiling.
He was one of those who could take his team and beat your team and then take your team and beat his team.
At Okeene, he was 11-1 against Seiling. At Seiling, he was 10-4 against Okeene. He missed the playoffs only once at both Okeene and Seiling. Those seasons, he still was 7-2-1 and 7-3.
Too many of our iconic coaches are retiring — Randy Turney, Steve Hoffsommer, Larry Nance, Brent Rousey, John Boeckman, just to name a few.
Nothing wrong with a little old school. He has the advantage of coaching the sons of former players and kids whose mothers were pretty good basketball players at Seiling.
Of course, old school might be changing a little. He’s not for certain if he will continue his old practice of three-a-days.
“We’ll play that by ear,’’ he said. “I’ll assure you that we will get the work done and put in the time that it takes to be successful and get things headed in the right direction.’’
Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.