Doug Gottlieb’s passion might be just what OSU basketball needs

Doug Gottlieb’s passion might be just what OSU basketball needs

The Cowboys don't need a head coach now, but if that point comes OSU should take a hard look at the former point guard.

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

| Feb 26, 2024, 7:00am CST

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

Feb 26, 2024, 7:00am CST

STILLWATER — Doug Gottlieb looks natural with a microphone in his hand.

Sounds natural, too.

That was the case from the moment he stepped on campus at Oklahoma State nearly three decades (!) ago, and it remains so today. Whether on his national show on Fox Sports Radio or during a basketball broadcast, the former Cowboy point guard has never stopped saying interesting things. You might not agree with them, but they always make you think.

I was reminded of that a little over a week ago. During the annual reunion of past Cowboy basketball players, a few alums took the microphone to share memories and tell stories, and of course, Gottlieb was among them.

But what he said got me thinking: OSU could do way, way worse than Gottlieb the next time it’s in the market for a basketball coach.

I haven’t been of that mind previously. When Travis Ford was under fire and when Brad Underwood bolted, Gottlieb went public with his desire to coach the Cowboys. I went public with my belief that he wasn’t the right guy for the job.

“Here’s what we know about Gottlieb: he would fire up Cowboy fans,” I wrote back then. “Here’s what we don’t know: if he can coach.

“I suspect Gottlieb has coached at some point during his life. He’s got young kids, and he’s surely been asked to coach their teams a time or two. But his resume is void of any real coaching experience. He’s never recruited. He’s never had to call a play to beat Kansas or Iowa State or Southeastern Oklahoma, for that matter.”

Almost a decade later, Gottlieb still has never coached at the college level, though he is working as an unofficial consultant for OSU basketball and Mike Boynton this season. 

But here’s the thing: the college basketball landscape has changed a lot since then.

Convincing players not to enter the portal while bringing in transfers out of the portal is paramount today. The same goes for rallying boosters to give money for name, image and likeness.

Do those things, and a program can be transformed overnight.

Gottlieb, I believe, can do those things.

Listening to him during that player reunion crystallized that.

He started by speaking directly to the current Cowboys, something NCAA rules prohibit him from doing much in his role as an unofficial consultant. As he spoke, the team was four games under .500 and only had two wins in Big 12 play.

“I don’t think anybody else is going to say this,” Gottlieb began, “but I’m proud of you. This s— is not easy. All these faces … ”

He pointed around the room inside Gallagher-Iba Arena.

“ … all this expectation, all these things that have been accomplished long before you were here, and what’s expected of you is not necessarily reasonable. When people don’t show up, when people don’t give you the respect that you deserve, that’s not your fault.

“So what I want you guys all to know is you’re part of this family. Whether you’re here next year, you’re not here next year, whether you win every game the rest of the way, you lose, you’re part of the family because that’s how family works.”

He mentioned the word mishpachah.

“I’m Jewish, and mishpachah is Yiddish for family by choice, not by blood,” he said. “It’s actually a better thing. It’s actually more connectivity.

“You’re my mishpachah.”

Gottlieb went on to tell the story of a conversation a few months ago with fellow Cowboy alum Daniel Bobik. He was telling Gottlieb how the Bobiks’ oldest son, Jaxton, was soon returning from a two-year mission through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the family was trying to figure out what he was going to do.

“He plays basketball,” Bobik told Gottlieb.

Gottlieb: “Where’s he gonna play?”

Bobik: “Oh, he’s gonna train.”

Gottlieb: “Why doesn’t he go to Oklahoma State?”

Jaxton Bobik is now a walk-on with the Cowboys.

“Family belongs here,” Gottlieb continued. “My daughter is gonna be here in the fall (on the equestrian team). You guys are forever mishpachah. We want you to win tomorrow — you’re going to win tomorrow (and they did, beating top-25 BYU) — but that’s not what this is about.

“You only let us down if you don’t play hard, if you fracture or if you don’t do the right things off the court.”

I looked around the room a couple of different times as Gottlieb talked, and while I couldn’t see every face, the ones I could were locked on him. They were engaged. They were captivated. They were in. 

I believe Gottlieb could connect the same way with players, transfers, recruits and donors, and today, such connections are more important than ever. 

When our man Sam Hutchens asked Gottlieb what he thought his strengths would be as a coach, he brought up two things: coaching offense and building culture. I have no idea about the Xs and Os bit, but the interpersonal stuff? Gottlieb would be a natural.

Personal connections are one of Boynton’s strong suits, too. Players love him. Co-workers love him. Fans love him, though recent comments about OSU’s struggles in the NIL department didn’t sit that well with Cowboy loyalists. And still, Boynton’s teams have struggled so badly that many OSU fans have given up and are staying home. 

The rowdy is gone.

I’m not here to say OSU should make a coaching change this year. I’m on record as saying the opposite. But unless there’s a huge reversal of fortunes, it seems safe to say that sometime in the next few years, a change will be made and a new coach will be needed in Stillwater.

Doug Gottlieb should get every consideration.

We’ve seen how comfortable he looks with a microphone in his hand. 

Maybe it’s time to see if the same is true with a whistle around his neck.

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Jenni Carlson is a columnist with the Sellout Crowd network. Follow her on Twitter at @JenniCarlson_OK. Email [email protected].

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