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Littell reflects on OSU career, isn't retired from basketball

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Jim Littell

Jim Littell didn’t have to stop to talk.

His hand was on the door handle of the Pistol Pete lobby in Gallagher-Iba Arena. He was on his way out into the chilly March afternoon after practice .

But he stopped.

Almost as if he wasn't quite ready to leave.

He said he had a moment to talk, waving his arm away from the lobby and back into an almost empty Gallagher-Iba Arena. He sat with one leg crossed over another on the courtside seats forming the Cowgirl basketball bench, the place minutes ago he sat listening to the Zac Brown Band's “Homegrown”  play over the speakers, doing his best to soak it all in.

“It’s hard to realize that this was my last day in Gallagher,” Littell said.

Monday, it was announced Littell, OSU women’s basketball coach, and athletic director Chad Weiberg were mutually parting ways. The Cowgirl basketball team is 8-19 overall this season and 3-15 in conference play.

As he sat in the place he has coached the past 17 years, Littell reflected on his career. He coached 2A high school basketball in Kansas, spent time at Seward County Community College and has been at OSU since 2005.

But most of all, he reflected on the people important to him.

“(I’ve got) some mixed emotions on some things and thinking about opportunities that basketball has given me, places I’ve been able to go and relationships I’ve been able to develop over the last 45 years,” Littell said.

Basketball has given him opportunities but has also stolen things from him.

Littell spoke of the sacrifices he has made to be a coach. He missed his daughter Jaci’s first high school basketball game because OSU played the same night. He was not able to watch his son, Jerame, throw a touchdown as a freshman to beat Muskogee in the playoffs. He missed watching his other son, Jon, play baseball in the Clemson regional on OSU’s way to the 2016 College World Series.

“I’m thankful to my family for the sacrifices they made over the years,” Littell said.

Littell said he was also thinking about past players, coaches and staff members, the people he called his basketball family. He said he exchanged texts with former Cowgirls Andrea Riley and Taylor Hardeman among many other players and coaching colleagues.

Littell’s courtside conversation Tuesday afternoon was briefly interrupted by staff members walking out of the gym pausing to give him a pat on the knee. One manager said she loved him, and the sentiment was returned.

“It’s just the relationships you have and continue to have that go back 20, 30 years, so that’s what coaching is about,” Littell said.

Littell said it all happened fast. A 17-year OSU coaching chapter abruptly came to an end.

“I haven’t had time to soak it up,” Littell said. “All this happened Monday and we’ll get turned around and play on Thursday so…that’s why I tried to sit in here a little bit, look around, and remember some of the games and some of the players.”

He specifically mentioned the Bedlam wins, beating Texas A&M the year the Aggies won the national championship and the six WNIT games that led to OSU claiming a championship four months after coach Kurt Budke was killed in a plane crash.

Littell’s position as coach will expire as soon as this season ends, most likely during the Big 12 Tournament, which starts Thursday.

The reality of not having a job is something Littell said all coaches need to be comfortable with, but something he hasn’t faced in a long time.

“I was sitting in my office today and I was thinking as quick as this weekend I can be waking up and not knowing what I’m doing and not having a plan,” Littell said.

Littell said since seventh grade his whole life has been regimented in basketball and for the past 45 years, he has woken up knowing what he was going to do and had a plan to do it.

“I’m going to have a new chapter in my life,” Littell said. “Haven’t figured out what I want to do.”

Littell’s attention remains on OSU’s upcoming game in the tournament against Texas Tech, apparent by the game notes resting beside him. He said he hasn’t had time to reflect on his future or where he is headed.

He was asked if he is ready to be done.

“I haven’t retired, no,” Littell said. “I have not retired.”

He said it has been tough on his family to realize he and his wife, Barb, may no longer be in Stillwater. All three of his children were raised in Stillwater, moving there before they were teenagers.

“The bulk of the life that they know has been in Stillwater,” Littell said. “So, it’s been difficult.”

The Littells have made friends in the Stillwater and OSU community. Littell said those relationships are the things that matter most and will last after basketball. He said since Monday at 4 p.m. the number of messages he has received has overwhelmed him.

“The last 15 hours the outpouring of texts, phone calls from people have helped me understand that I’ve done it the right way for a long time and nobody mentioned anything about wins,” Littell said.

sports.ed@ocolly.com