‘I understand how a cynic would see it:’ What Doug Gottlieb is doing for OSU

‘I understand how a cynic would see it:’ What Doug Gottlieb is doing for OSU

At the invitation of coach Mike Boynton, Gottlieb has been consulting for Cowboy basketball in 2024. Both sides say they have learned from each other.

Sam Hutchens

By Sam Hutchens

| Feb 24, 2024, 7:00am CST

Sam Hutchens

By Sam Hutchens

Feb 24, 2024, 7:00am CST

(Sam and Ben Hutchens’ OSU newsletter hits inboxes every week. Subscribe here for the latest)

Doug Gottlieb knows cynics will assume ulterior motives.

Shortly after agreeing to work for Fox Sports as an analyst in March 2017, Gottlieb interviewed for the head basketball coaching job at Oklahoma State. Despite campaigning for the job and drawing reported interest, Gottlieb was passed over for current coach Mike Boynton. Now, as OSU is tied for last in the Big 12 at 12-14 (4-9) and home attendance has declined, Gottlieb is back in the picture, operating as an unofficial consultant.

“I fully understand how a cynic would see it,” Gottlieb said. “And you’re allowed to see it however you want to see it.”

The reality, Gottlieb says, is that he and Boynton are two friends who love OSU and want the best for each other. Gottlieb still wants to be a head coach, but right now, he wants to help a friend. 

Besides, Boynton is the guy who started this whole thing by asking Gottlieb to be a consultant before the 2023-24 season.

“It’s kind of an unusual deal,” Boynton said. “Doug and I have become good friends over the years. We’ve always shared ideas. Obviously, he loves this place and loves this program. I thought that he could lend some external support to our staff.”

Gottlieb lacks traditional coaching experience but has the knowledge to be an asset. 

He played point guard for Eddie Sutton’s OSU teams from 1997-2000 and is still the Cowboys’ all-time assists leader with 793. He played professionally in Israel, France and Russia and has coached Team USA in the Maccabiah Games — an international competition open to Jewish athletes — and the Stillwater Stars, OSU’s alumni team in the Basketball Tournament three years ago.

Even as he helps Boynton, Gottlieb still has a day job. He hosts a daily Fox Sports Radio show and commentates on college basketball games across the country. Still, he remains tightly connected with his alma mater, a fact apparent in his travel plans.

There’s an airport seven minutes from his house in Orange County, California. He usually flies from there to Stillwater through a connection in Dallas. 

When in Stillwater, Gottlieb stays at seven-time MLB All-Star Matt Holliday’s house. Sometimes Gottlieb can get a bed, but he has no problem sleeping on the couch. 

It’s more fun than a hotel, too. The Hollidays host a Bible study for athletes, and coaches pop in and out. It’s a hub for OSU athletics, and oftentimes a pickleball match or poker game is going on.

So what, exactly, does Gottlieb do as a consultant for OSU basketball? 

He accesses film from each game and practice through an email dropbox. OSU sends him advanced analytics. He’s in Stillwater about twice a month but does most of his work virtually, phoning Boynton occasionally to talk about what he sees.

There’s no official contract, but Gottlieb is being paid. 

“It’s not a lot of money,” Gottlieb said.

The free-flowing agreement is by design. That is how it was intended when Boynton and Gottlieb discussed it with OSU athletic director Chad Weiberg. An end date hasn’t been specified. Gottlieb would be happy to help OSU evaluate transfer portal targets after the season.

Gottlieb said the coaching staff treats him with respect, which he appreciates. He said Boynton is one of his best friends, and he’s known assistant Keiton Page since the fourth grade. He goes back “basically since birth” with assistant Scott Sutton, so conversations about things such as playing small ball or late-game personnel are not laborious.

Offensive basketball is Gottlieb’s specialty. He has bonded with Boynton over their shared love of analyzing how European basketball influences the game stateside.

At this stage in the season, Gottlieb tries to listen more than anything. He’s using his chance to impart knowledge as a learning opportunity to see “how the sausage is really made” coaching a Big 12 team.

Gottlieb has done similar consulting work at schools such as Texas and Baylor, but this will be his longest stint. 

There are limitations. The NCAA specifies “countable coaches” as those who provide technical or tactical instruction related to the sport to a student-athlete at any time; make or assist in tactical decisions related to the sport during on-court or on-field practice or competition; or engage in any off-campus recruiting activities.

That limits Gottlieb from feeding shooters rebounds in practice and sitting on the bench at games. He operates mostly in the realm of OSU’s coaches.

What type of impact has Gottlieb had on the program?

An OSU athletics official deflected that question when asked to senior guard Bryce Thompson and freshman guard Connor Dow on January 18, saying it was a question best left for Boynton to answer.

“He’s helping for sure,” Boynton said. “Not in any kind of official capacity. And it’s just kind of infrequently throughout the year.”

Boynton said people who aren’t emotionally invested in the day-to-day work see things that coaches may miss.

Lon Kruger, a 35-year college coach most recently at Oklahoma, has yet to bring a consultant on officially but thinks doing so is a wise move.

“You always have people that you talk to and bounce things off,” Kruger said. “But if I had to do it all over again, I think it’s a great idea. Just to get an outside perspective not influenced by anything.”

Kruger recruited Gottlieb twice and knows Boynton from their five years on opposite sides of the Bedlam rivalry. He said it’s not uncommon for former job-search competitors to become friends.

“People in the profession understand that one guy is gonna get the job and others that were interested aren’t,” Kruger said. “So if you lose 10 other friends every time, it can become kind of costly.”

That is the story of the friendship between Gottlieb and Boynton. Inevitable awkwardness has been smoothed over in the years since OSU passed on the former for the latter.

​​“Mike never had anything bad to say about me, and I never had anything bad to say about him,” Gottlieb said. “They just chose to hire him, not me. That’s not his fault.”

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Sam Hutchens covers Oklahoma State sport for Sellout Crowd. He interned for The Stillwater News Press in 2021 and The Guthrie News Leader in 2022, where he won a first-place OPA award for in-depth reporting. He has also covered sports in southwest Oklahoma for The Lawton Constitution. He strives to tell you the OSU sports stories that you want to tell your friends about. You can email him at [email protected] and connect on Twitter (X) @Sam_Hutchens_

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