Mike Boynton’s mentors couldn’t give him an instruction manual.
Boynton, 37, absorbs wisdom from a group of experienced coaches. Each day, he talks to Mike Holder, the Oklahoma State athletic director. He stays connected with Eddie Fogler and Dave Odom, his coaches at South Carolina. George Raveling, a former college basketball coach and member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, advises Boynton.
Although Boynton, the OSU men’s basketball coach, continues to learn about leadership from them, they couldn’t easily relate to him when he asked about a bizarre, unthinkable circumstance.
“Have you ever coached seven players through a season?”
He was experiencing a situation many seasoned coaches hadn’t. Boynton called his confidants after he dismissed Michael Weathers, Maurice Calloo and Kentrevious Jones on Jan. 16 for breaking rules. His roster decreased to seven scholarship Cowboys who regularly play, along with Trey Reeves and walk-on Luke Major. After the dismissals, Reeves broke his right foot.
“It’s obviously a unique season in a lot of ways,” Boynton said.
OSU faces Texas Tech at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Gallagher-Iba Arena. Through the Big 12 schedule, Boynton is improvising and adjusting to unexpected situations. He is adding walk-ons to the roster and ensuring his scholarship athletes have the strength to play more minutes. He can’t turn to OSU history to learn how to handle these obstacles. He has no choice but to venture through uncharted territory with his reduced but dedicated team.
The Cowboys (9-14 overall, 2-8 Big 12) have lost six straight conference games, but Boynton maintains optimism.
Lindy Waters III, a junior guard, said Boynton’s words are particularly helpful for younger teammates.
“Me, Thomas (Dziagwa) and Cam (McGriff), we’ve been through it,” Waters said. “We know what to expect. We know how to overcome these things, and Coach Mike’s been right there with us the whole time. It’s just our job to include all the younger guys.”
As Boynton encourages his players, he finds reassurance in support from fans and administrators including Holder.
“No one’s happy that we’re not winning right now, but I think they understand where we are and how we got here,” Boynton said. “And that we’re doing things to try to get us back to where we can have sustainable success over a period of time because we do things the right way along the ride.”
To break the losing streak, the Cowboys can’t let the Red Raiders’ dynamic defense fluster them. Texas Tech defeated Oklahoma 66-54 on Saturday in Norman, and redshirt senior Tariq Owens blocked four shots.
The Red Raiders (19-5, 7-4) lead the conference in scoring defense, holding opponents to an average of 57.3 points.
“What they try to do is they try to make you play at the speed offensively that they want you to play at by pressuring the ball, really getting after you, causing deflections, taking charges, kind of frustrating you into tough shots,” Boynton said.
Regardless of the result against the Red Raiders, Boynton is finding positives in adversity. He is focused on persistent recruiting and showing signees that high standards matter at OSU.
His experiences are creating the instruction manual he needs.
He doesn’t plan to keep the advice to himself.
“I’ve learned a lot about how to manage crisis, really,” Boynton said. “Probably the biggest takeaway is I think when I retire, I’m going to go into giving seminars on crisis management.”