It’s always an experience to talk with Terry Scott.
Scott’s been out of coaching for a few years – a trail that started back at Oral Roberts, wound through Tulsa Washington and Tulsa Central before finishing here in Muskogee as boys basketball coach, starting in 2008. Those in-season interviews were always fun if not entertaining.
They’ve continued over the years. One I remember started when the Muskogee girls were knocked out of the semifinals in 2016. Scott was at the Big House in Oklahoma City with his family, but keeping up with the game at the Mabee Center on his phone. The post-game analysis started in the ORU parking lot and ended five minutes after I had parked outside the Phoenix office.
I consider him a true friend.
Kids today should consider him a lesson in life.
Let this be a Black History Month lesson, not just for blacks but all people, especially kids.
Off the court I remember him walking the halls of Muskogee, enforcing class attendance. Note that as we go down his memory lane. He relived it, again, earlier this month when he was at his alma mater, Middle Tennessee State, recognized as part of Black History Month as a True Blue Pioneer.
Scott, who still lives in Muskogee, grew up in Cleveland, Tenn., about a half-hour outside Chattanooga, Tenn. After playing at the all-black College Hill High School for two years, he entered Bradley Central High as a junior. He was immediately eligible because College Hill was not a member of the state high school association at the time. Several of his brothers and sisters followed him there over subsequent years.
He played basketball and ran track at Bradley and helped lead the basketball team to the 1966 state tourney. Ken Trickey, then the coach at MTSU, recruited Scott there.
“It was the furthest I’d ever been from home (130 miles). I thought I wasn’t going to like it. Trickey said there were about 50 students from my high school that were going to Middle Tennessee and convinced me classmates would help me adjust.”
One of those was his roommate and former teammate, Derry Cochran, who happened to be white.
It’s hard to think this — I mean if you know Scott now he’s far from reserved — but he admits to that point in his life he wasn’t “much of a communicator.”
He changed his major from PE to business management and those classes along with some public speaking classes “opened up a whole new world for me,” he said.
“That’s when I began to exert myself with my mouth,” he said.
I couldn’t help but laugh at that remark.
He joined ROTC — partly because his draft number was high just entering college. He finished at MTSU, playing basketball and running track. Even had a part in a musical, he noted.
The ROTC in college would make him a second lieutenant on that route. But at Fort Bragg, N.C., while in basic training, a stigmatism in his eye discovered on a shooting range got him an exit from military exercises.
“I unloaded the gun and didn’t hit a thing,” he said.
At that point, he called Trickey, who was then at Oral Roberts.
“Coach you said when you left, no matter what, you take care of your players. I need a favor. I need a job,” Scott said, recalling the conversation. “He told me he’d get a meeting with Oral Roberts himself and would send me an airline ticket in the next couple days.”
Scott became part of the men’s staff, then the women’s staff, and later an academic advisor after getting his master’s degree from Tulsa University. He coached as a graduate assistant while getting his master’s and taught PE there. He would become one of the first black faculty members at ORU and coached the men’s freshman team from 1972 to ‘74.
“I had never thought of coaching and there I was,” he said. “I remember when I got certified, and I had to go back to take classes because my bachelor’s was in a non-teaching field, My adviser at TU was also on the state certification board for teachers and told me I was the first person he’d ever advised that had a non-education degree but an educational master’s.”
That business and public speaking classes still played well into his future.
“I came from a fund-raising school (ORU), so I was used to that environment,” he said. “When I came to Muskogee, we got a $6,000 budget for basketball. I went out and raised $35,000. We had four sets of uniforms. When we’d travel, I wanted the kids to eat in the best restaurants and stay at the best hotels. I wanted these kids to experience what life would be like for them if they got a well-rounded education.”
Which explains why he’d roam the halls, getting kids in the classroom.
“I was a straight-A student at my all-black high school. When I got to a more diverse situation at Bradley, I realized the bar was set a lot higher and I didn’t want to be characterized as a person who couldn’t be successful in that environment.
“I’d tell kids today, take classes you are sure you can use in the future. Not just because your friends are taking them.”
Doing that makes you different friends anyway, and connections that might help later.
Just imagine him today as a reserved kind of fellow.
No, I can’t either.
It’s just not him, and he’s right — don’t cheat yourself by not being well-rounded. Scott’s faith, something instilled in him as a kid, and accented through his journey at ORU, and tested during a recent bout with cancer, refined that well-roundedness.
Later this month, Chattanooga will induct him into the Greater Chattanooga Hall of Fame.
That well-rounded life of learning got him there, to be sure.