Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
Behold the great Patty Gasso
Without losing herself in the process, the Sooner coach has thrived like no other
Patty Gasso’s like the rest of us.
Well, sort of.
Good chance the rest of us couldn’t put together a program capable of winning three straight national championships, five in eight years and seven in 24.
Perhaps some of us could occupy the third base coach’s box, as she continues to do when her team’s at the plate, but the rest of it?
Still, she’s like the rest of us in the most endearing ways, which makes her not like many other coaches who’ve enjoyed the same success.
It was on display about 45 minutes after Oklahoma dispatched Florida State for its latest Women’s College World Series crown, after the Sooners had finally been brought to the interview room and after the players had had their say.
“It is incredibly hard. I don’t know how to explain it. I just can tell you the way I feel right now is free, because the expectation is overwhelming, the pressure is overwhelming,” Gasso said. “[The players] have each other to laugh with. I’m standing here by myself.”
She said other things, too.
She said Sooner fans are “fantastic” but it can “begin to feel like your’e getting smothered a little bit because everybody wants something.”
“Like,” she said, “I just want to go to Costco and shop and no one care that I’m there.”
Maybe you can imagine John Wooden saying those things; all but the Costco part, his entire UCLA coaching career predating the retail giant.
But Nick Saban? No.
Kim Mulkey? No.
Geno Auriemma? No.
Mike Candrea? No.
Bob Knight? No
Pat Summitt? No.
Each of them, had they never reached the top, might have burst into flames.
Each of them, not wining it all was never an option.
Each of them, mostly, have and had two gears: wild success and insufferableness.
For her, apparently, not only can she do her own shopping, but the national championships just sort of come out in the wash.
She’s detail-oriented, complete, even hard charging, but not a jerk.
Competitive to the point of wanting to win every game, but not like her life depends on it.
Seems like it might.
Later in the interview room, leaving out the particulars, Gasso referenced an impasse her squad needed to get beyond to find itself, become a team and enter the chase for another crown.
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“The first time we got together, we kind of clashed pretty immediately,” she said. “They didn’t like something that I was doing [and] I didn’t like their response …
“I remember walking away and feeling really upset and really hurt. But I had to understand that they wanted to be heard and wanted me to know them.”
Wooden wanted to know his players, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton for two, but I’m not so sure about the rest, at least in the way Gasso described.
You can win with single-mindedness, of course. We’ve seen it our whole lives. But you can win, too, by being the opposite: bending and accepting and realizing you don’t have every answer.
Like the rest of us don’t.
“If I look like my clothes are fitting a little bit tight, it’s because I took each one of them out to breakfast or lunch or dinner, each one of them, and sat with them and talked to them,” Gasso said. “Actually, I didn’t talk. I wanted them to talk. I needed to listen.”
Also, it worked.
Indeed, Brent Venables and Porter Moser, if they’ve not picked Gasso’s brain about the fine art of head coaching, should demand she take them to breakfast, lunch or dinner, too.
By the end of the season and certainly the last week, Gasso and her players became the subjects of something they’d heretofore not endured.
They get all the calls, some said.
They have a huge home-field advantage, many more said.
They celebrate too much, some noted, even upon drawing an intentional walk.
They’re bad for the game.
I don’t think they got all the calls.
Yes, they have a home-field advantage, but where else would you have them play and how many fans are you prepared to turn away.
Sure, singing from the dugout and celebrating every base gets tiresome but it’s their dugout and their diamond.
The Sooners stand in the breach, blocking parity, but they’re also the keyhole the rest of the nation will eventually pass through, bringing a bigger and better game to all of us, coast to coast.
Right now, a fantastic transfer portal pitch for Florida State, Stanford, Tennessee and Texas would seem to be, “You can be the piece that finally puts us past those title-hogging Sooners.”
Or something like that.
But against either backdrop, the one where OU wins another three straight titles or the one where Stanford adds hitters and begins its own dominant reign behind the fantastic pithing of NiJaree Canady, isn’t it nice to have Gasso leading your program?
She’s built both to remain on top and, if no longer there, begin another march toward it.
Dealing with all of it.
Selling her soul for none of it.