, Muskogee, OK

Local News

November 18, 2012

OKIE – Coach student of the game

Career skills came as Ken Hayes studied from bench

Ken Hayes never claimed to be a great basketball player, or even a good one.

“At NSU, I was the 20-point man,” Hayes, 79, recalled. “If our team got 20 points ahead or 20 points behind they sent me out. I played very little.”

Young Ken Hayes watched. He had plenty of time for that.

“I stayed on the bench and studied the game while the rest of the guys were out playing,” he said.

Studying paid off.

After graduating from Northeastern State University in the mid-1950s, Hayes embarked on a 42-year career coaching basketball. It took him from a tiny southern Oklahoma school district that doesn’t exist anymore to top college teams such as the University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts University. He retired in 1997.

“When I retired, I wasn’t impressed with my coaching, but I did ride some good horses,” he said.

Hayes spent his first four years coaching at a tiny school called Bradley. From there, he spent a semester at Stilwell before landing a job at what was then Bacone Junior College. He said he had wanted to take advantage of a chance to coach at the college level.

“I was hired on a Tuesday and had a game on Thursday,” Hayes said. “I didn’t even know all the players’ names. At a game with Eastern State College, I’d say ‘You go in for him.’”

Bacone finished its 1964 basketball season third in the nation and played at a national finals tournament in Hutchinson, Kan., he said.

After that winning year, Hayes went to a community college in California to coach baseball, his favorite sport.

He later left his $13,000-a-year job and took a $6,500-a-year job as assistant basketball coach at the University of Tulsa.

“I did not want to raise a family in southern California,” Hayes said. “It was a period of social unrest and California was in the middle of it.”

Hayes spent 10 years at TU before going to New Mexico State University, which he called “a dream situation” because basketball was a hot sport in the Rio Grande valley.

“Football was something to do until basketball season started,” he said.

He went on to spend three and a half years at ORU, then “14 wonderful years” at NSU.

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