NORMAN, Okla. — Patty Gasso knew little of Oklahoma as a state before accepting OU softball's head coaching position.
She knew it was home to the Women's College World Series but she never could've guessed she and the Sooner State would become intertwined.
Gasso, who's coached softball at OU for 25 seasons and brought the school four national titles, will be inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame along with six others.
The Transcript spoke with Gasso ahead of Monday's ceremony to discuss her Hall of Fame path:
It's quite a huge honor, especially being a woman because I know that there are maybe only 10 women in the history of the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. That's a big deal for me to represent the female side. But this really kind of makes you sit down and look back and the idea when I first came here, I was not expecting that I would live a third of my life here.
It was just like, 'Wow, let me get into DI, see what it's like, and then head back to California. See if I can find the same thing back there.' But to look back and what has happened in my life where I had my second son here, I raised my family here. Love the people here. Love the university. And now I have two grandkids that were born here. I just never in a million years thought that so much of my life would be lived here. And it's been some of the best times of my life.
Oklahoma has been a huge part of my life and to be acknowledged by those that live here to have done something worthy, makes me feel very honored. At the same time, I feel unworthy because the players are the ones that do this. I'm just like the orchestra leader. I don't play the instruments. I just wave my wand. I lead them. But they're the ones that make the magic. It's more about what they've done to take our program there.
I grew up in Torrance, California, and my backyard gate opened up to a park that had four softball diamonds, a gymnasium. So, it was just play, play, play. I played all the time.
My mom [Janet Froehlich] was a single mom. She didn't have a lot of money. And so our babysitter was the park pretty much. And we just got home from school and we'd go and play. And there were people looking out for us, but not labeled our babysitter. So, I have an older brother and a younger sister. And my mom coached me when she'd get home from work.
I always wanted to make my mom proud, because if she could live the life I'm living right now, I don't think she ever thought it would be possible that I could be doing what I'm doing. But she was, back in her day, someone who would have been a phenomenal coach, but it just wasn't for women. It wasn't accepted for women, it was more her being brought up with raising kids and being a mother and then once the marriage failed to have to go to work and just try to take care of her kids the best she could. So I really wanted my mom to feel, I tried to include in her in so many things that I was doing because I wanted her to live it the best she could through me.
It was pretty surreal [landing OU's head coaching job]. I would say that my whole life, I just knew California and family and beaches and sun, and I didn't know much about Oklahoma, except just coming out to the World Series and watching some of that way back in the late '80s, early '90s. So, for myself to be considered and accepting the job, I don't think I knew what I was stepping into. But the fact that it was a Division I opportunity was really, in my mind, all I needed. I just wanted to prove something. So, it was shocking, yet exciting at the same time.
Having grown up with not a lot of money, if I wanted something, I had to work for it. I valued it so much more when I work for it and raise some money for it. That was who I was. That was who I am still. It's an appreciation for things that I worked hard for. So when I got to OU, that's the only thing I knew. And without question, it's probably one of the No. 1 things that have built our program to what it is today. It's just the idea of outworking your opponent and appreciating what you have and valuing it. And I think now, that's a big outlying reason for where we are today.
Did I expect us to be winning a national championship in our first five years?No. I probably didn't believe it could happen. But it never stopped me. I kept believing that we could, that was our driving force. But prior to that, we were playing Arizona, we're playing UCLA, and we're getting pummeled. And I just remember … it felt like it was women against girls.
I just remember that one moment, it was at Arizona, and we're getting run-ruled. It was like 17-2 or something and we were getting crushed. And sometimes run rules could be the greatest, it's very humbling but it could be eye-opening. And it was. And it changed my whole approach to I've got to get the players that can compete. And more of the girls that can understand what I'm looking for in an athlete and not be afraid to compete.
I loved the players that I had when I first got here, and a lot of them were junior college players, I went back and got a lot of kids from Long Beach City where I came from — Long Beach City College in California. Because they knew who I was. I just wanted people to buy in to what I was trying to create. And they weren't the greatest athletes, but I knew that they were going to buy in and understand and they weren't going to be afraid.
I was looking for that blue-collar, hard-nosed player. And in 1999-2000 is when we really started to find the right elite-style athlete that stood into the system. But what I got prior to that were kids that weren't quite as a leader on challenges athletically, but they were buying into the system and winning games. So it was really finding the elite athlete that could understand what we're doing. And I think that's really what got us started on this road to championships from 2000 and on.
• Age: 57
• Hometown: Torrance, California
• Occupation: Oklahoma softball coach