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Five Thoughts on Oklahoma State Basketball’s 2023-24 Season

On Boynton’s job status, the roster moving forward and more.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Cowboy basketball fans got put out of a season of misery on Tuesday.

Oklahoma State fell to UCF 77-62 in the first round of the Big 12 tournament, ending the Pokes’ season at 12-20. Rather than supply five thoughts on a now meaningless game, here are five thoughts from the 2023-24 season as a whole.

1. Boynton’s Future

The topic of the offseason as it pertains to OSU basketball will undoubtedly revolve around Mike Boynton’s future.

This is the second time in Boynton’s seven-year tenure the Cowboys finished 12-20 — the other being the 2018-19 season where he held midseason walk-on tryouts just to field a full team. Through these seven seasons, Boynton is 119-109 with the Cowboys in his first head-coaching gig. There have been highs: the Cade Cunningham season, sweeping Kansas in his first time of asking, a rock-solid record against Oklahoma. But there have also been plenty of lows.

The portion of the fanbase ready for the Boynton Era to end without question grew this season. Just look on social media, at the season record or at the attendance (or lack thereof) toward the end of the season. GIA housed a season-best 11,370 for the final Big 12 Bedlam game, but the Cowboys lost on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer and fell to 12-15 on the season before not winning again. In the two home games after that momentum-halting loss (the Cowboys won two straight going into that game), there were 5,044 people watching a grotesque game against UCF and 6,023 in house to watch the Pokes play Texas Tech.

As poor as the year was, there are also reasons to retain Boynton. The one that will likely carry the most water at this point is his buyout. Assuming the powers that be wait until at least April 1 to make a move, Boynton is owed a $6.67 million. Money is needed everywhere in modern athletics. Boynton this season pointed to OSU’s need to be more competitive in the NIL landscape. Is it worth paying a coach $6.67 million to go away and only to turn around and find more money to boost the Cowboys’ NIL backing? Those are questions people with millions of dollars will have to ponder. It’s easy for the common fan to say one way or the other, but money will decide that dilemma.

Another aspect to the money is football NIL. Would whatever donor who has the financial backing to facilitate such a move rather buyout a basketball coach or bring in some monstrous pass rusher?

Then there is the aspect of roster retention. On the surface, potentially whipping the slate clean might be an OK prospect considering this team just went 12-20. But this roster does have good pieces to it. Javon Small is a blossoming star. Brandon Garrison was a state-grown McDonald’s All-American who showed flashes of just how good he will be multiple times this season. Eric Dailey Jr., another freshman, had an even more consistent year than Garrison and will be a great college player with time. Jamyron Keller, another freshman, came on late in the year.

Is blowing this thing up worth losing pieces like that? With the portal, one could rebuild a roster rather quickly, but, again, without proper NIL backing that’ll be difficult to do.

“I still believe in Coach Mike,” Small said after Tuesday’s game. “I feel like our defensive principles — even though we weren’t the best defensive team this year — I still believe in them. Then at the end of the day, I know that that’s a coach that will always believe in me. I feel like we have a really good relationship and I trust him. He trusts me.”

Last week Boynton said he didn’t have any reason to believe he wouldn’t be back next season. Since, the Cowboys have suffered a 14-point loss to BYU and now a 15-point loss to UCF. In that same discussion last week, Boynton stressed the need for the Cowboys to be a no-doubt NCAA Tournament team next season. The past four days have made that hard to imagine.

Boynton again spoke about his job status after Tuesday’s game.

“I know that’s a topic out there — I don’t know,” Boynton said. “I’m not in position to give an answer to that. And I really haven’t, honestly, at this point, today, thought about it at all. My whole focus was trying to win this game and get back to the hotel and hopefully be preparing right now to figure out how to beat a team we just lost to Saturday.

“So, there’ll be a time for that — no doubt about it. I don’t know when that time is. It’ll come soon. But today, I’ve not given an ounce of consideration to it.”

2. Retention

I already hit on this a bit in that lengthy first thought, so let’s make this one quick.

In no particular order, the OSU program — no matter who is running it — will likely battle hard to retain the services of Small, Garrison, Dailey and Keller. Bryce Thompson, perhaps a forgotten man because of his injury this season, also has another year of eligibility to play should he choose to use it. That’s a solid core to build around, but it could be a challenge keeping it together. This likely wasn’t the year any of that group expected to have, and on top of that, Boynton has already made reference about other programs already reaching out to players on his roster.

A handful of opposing coaches in postgame interviews have gushed about Garrison’s potential.

“He’s gonna be a force in this league,” West Virginia coach Josh Eilert said. “Folks here in Stillwater better do what they can to hold onto him.”

About this time last year, Boynton warned of a potential portal exodus. When asked whether he had a feel for what this offseason could bring, he said things were less clear.

“Since then a lot has changed within the industry, right?” Boynton said. “Two-time transfers are a real thing. We thought that was under wraps. It’s a totally different animal, if you will. So, I don’t [know], in all honesty. But obviously we need to get to a place where we can start having some answers soon.”

3. What This Team Needs

For the first time in a long time, the Cowboys will have a full 13 scholarships available in 2024-25 after finally getting past those sanctions spawning from the Lamont Evans situation.

The Cowboys will — at the least — have four scholarships to work with if they return everyone who could return, plus the addition of signee Jeremiah Johnson. Outgoing transfers would obviously add to that number.

Need No. 1: More of a paint presence. The Cowboys got slaughtered in the paint this season. Garrison will get better in that aspect, but when he struggled or got into foul trouble this season, the Cowboys were bare in that area. Isaiah Miranda left the program but had as much college experience as Garrison anyway. Mike Marsh was the Cowboys’ only other player taller than 6-foot-8, and he played 10 or more minutes in only four Big 12 games.

Obviously, a Moussa Cisse-type would help this team, but even an athletic, defensive-minded rebounder like Tyreek Smith would’ve helped immensely. With youthful struggles this season, it’s hard to imagine OSU going after a freshman for that role, so it’ll likely be the portal.

Some of the Cowboys’ paint issues, though, spawned from the perimeter. I’ve already touched on this in thoughts this season, but many of Boynton’s recruits before the past two years have been long, defensive-minded guards. Penetration to the lane was too easy at times this season. It put the inexperienced Garrison in unwinnable situations. With how much Boynton’s previous teams struggled from 3, there is an argument to be made that he overcorrected with smaller-framed shooters the past few years who simply didn’t have the length to stay in front of people.

So where’s the middle ground? 3-and-D-types cost a premium in the NIL landscape. That’d obviously be the ideal fit, but every team in the country would say that. With a limited NIL allowance, maybe instead of a B+ 3-point shooter/C- defender, a B- 3-point shooter/B- defender is the type of player the Cowboys should be after. That’s easy to identify if you’re playing NBA 2K; it’s different in real life.

4. What Areas Were Better

As difficult as this team was to watch for large portions of the season, there were areas the Cowboys went forward in this season — particularly on the offensive end.

The Cowboys averaged 71 points a game this season — that’s the most OSU had since 2020-21 (the Cade Cunningham year). A lot of that can be contributed to the 3-point shooting. Percentage-wise, the Cowboys tailed off from deep toward the end of the year, finishing the year making 33.4% of their 3-point attempts. But in total, OSU hit 260 3-point shots this season to the 247 it made last year.

The Cowboys were also just generally more of a threat to shoot the long ball last year. That opened the floor for the rest of the offense — and particularly Small.

There were games the Cowboys couldn’t hit water from a voyaging cruise ship and defensively couldn’t stop a nosebleed, but the offense certainly looked more fluid this season than it has in some time.

5. Thanks for Following Along

This might be obvious by the 12-20 record and all the noise surrounding his job status by season’s end, but Boynton said this season has been the toughest he has experienced as the Cowboys’ coach.

His reasoning was because the Cowboys couldn’t right the wrongs that consistently popped up — namely finishing games/poor starts to second halves.

It’s obviously more frustrating for the players and coaches involved than anyone else, but holy smokes writing five thoughts 31 games (Kyle Cox filled in on thoughts for the Sam Houston game) about the same thing basically happening over and over again was maddening.

Readership was expectedly down for much of the year, and that is understandable and quite alright. But if you did hang around, I just want to say thanks. Aside from the fine work of The O’Colly (check out their stuff from Tuesday here), PFB was the only regular beat writer that followed this team to Kansas City. On top of that, I promised my wife I’d go to a concert in OKC with her on Monday night, so I had Devin Wilber (our photographer) hop in a car with me at 5 a.m. Tuesday to make this trek. Our goal is to bring coverage to OSU fans rain or shine (boy, it was pouring this basketball season).

If you’ve followed the Oklahoma sports media landscape as of late, you’ll know that this industry is tough and unforgiving. For as long as we’re able, though, we’ll continue to grind out news and takes for you guys.


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