Curtis Waltman’s return to coaching brings with it a unique challenge.
Wes Hayes, Haskell’s coach the past seven seasons, died of heart complications in April, making this more than just a coaching opening.
Following two seasons at Colcord running an after-school program and being hired in February as a math teacher at Haskell, it seemed in the end like Waltman was in the right place for the moment.
“It took a lot of thought and prayer as to whether this was God’s leading in this to serve in this capacity,” Waltman said as he officially begins his coaching duties this week.
“I can’t imagine what it is to lose a coach, knowing those I’ve had who had an impact on me, and then the figure Wes was in the community. You really want to do everything for those kids and the community and we talked about that in the interview process.”
Waltman moved to Haskell in May having secured the teaching job and then it became more. He was an assistant in 2015 at Hulbert. He also served under Doyle Rowland at Muskogee before that.
He became head football coach at Colcord in 2016 and had had a couple of coordinator jobs prior to that on the football side in addition to assisting in basketball, but this will be strictly basketball.
“People who have not faced death in their life, there’s a lot of emotions they’ll go through,” he said. “But then you add that this happened in the middle of the COVID situation, you’ve got kids and a community dealing with a death in different circumstances.”
The school and community has yet to schedule a formal remembrance for Hayes. The family had a private service in accordance with COVID restrictions in April.
Through the health guidelines, Waltman got to know parents and players as he settled into the teaching job and now has his players in Summer Pride, along with two of his four kids, both middle schoolers.
Waltman inherits a limited arsenal. Much of last year’s team was seniors who had two near-misses at a state berth, winning a combined 46 games with area eliminations.
“Whatever the situation is, it’s what you handle,” Waltman said. “We’re never guaranteed tomorrow. Things change all the time, kids come and go, and whoever the kids are and the parents and people in the community are now, we’re just going to do our best for them.”