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Putting the Puzzle Together: How Mike Boynton Wants to Build a Winning Program



Mike Boynton joined the Pistols Firing Podcast last week to talk recruiting, his expectations for the future of Oklahoma State and why he thinks it’s an elite job.

There was a lot of great stuff in there. You should check it out if you haven’t. But one thing that struck a chord with me was something Boynton said when asked about how he connects with prospects that he’s recruiting.

“Really that’s one of the keys (in) recruiting, figuring out when it won’t work and getting out,” Boynton said. “Because one of the hardest things is spending a lot of time recruiting that kid, never really developing that connection and realizing that you never really had a chance. And now you’ve wasted a lot of time that you can’t get back.”

We call for our favorite coaches to swing for the fences in recruiting and bring in the big names whether it’s basketball, football or tennis. A certain mulleted CEO whose office lies 100 yards and some change west of Boynton’s comes to mind.

But there are no 25-hour days, you can’t be in two places at the same time, and Boynton doesn’t have his own helicopter yet. Sometimes it’s more important to know when to cut your losses.

How do you know which targets to ease off of and when? And how do you decide where to focus your time and energy? Reading the minds of (and in between the lines with) 16- or 17- year olds? That’s got to be one of the hardest things about recruiting.

And it’s why Boynton says he takes a very specific and direct approach.

“That’s one thing I try to be very personable with the kids and I try to be very honest,” said Boynton. “We recruit from a very honest standpoint. We tell guys all the time (that) Stillwater is a special place, but it’s not New York City. ‘If you want arts and big city living and a lot of activity outside of campus life and basketball, this may not be the place for you. If playing in the ACC was always your dream we can’t help you.'”

Being a great salesman is a huge part of recruiting but it’s not everything. You need to believe in what you’re selling, which Boytnon apparently does. If you don’t or you promise kids that which you can’t deliver, they will figure it out sooner or later.

But that doesn’t mean that Boynton is enrolled in the Mike Gundy School of Conservative Crootin’. He’s gone after plenty of big fish and was seemingly close to landing one of them in four-star point guard Courtney Ramey who instead headed for Austin and will face the Pokes twice next year.

Boynton possibly alluded to that situation during the podcast, though he didn’t name names.

“It’s just a matter of being very personal and being diligent,” Boynton said. “We lost a kid who I felt a very strong connection with and I think even guys that we don’t get sometimes when you listen to them talk you can tell the way we’ve recruited in that they felt a connection. And over time you feel good that those things will produce the results that you want.”

But he’s since brought in three-star point guard Isaac Likekele to add to the depth of incoming grad transfer Mike Cunningham and Michael Weathers, who will be eligible this fall after sitting out last season.

In college basketball, especially at a program like Oklahoma State, star power is important, but fit might be more important. This is one of the gripes that we always had with Travis Ford. He could haul in his fair share of blue-chippers but rarely looked like he knew how to build a team. In turn, his squads routinely underachieved from a talent standpoint as well as from the fanbase’s expectation.

“One of the things that we continue to do is put ourselves in position where we want the absolute best players possible from a talent standpoint that we can get,” said Boynton. “But there’s a balance to having five point guards that are really good and having one or two really good point guards and a couple guys who can rebound and some who can make shots because the pieces of the puzzle have to fit together. Ultimately it’s not just about accumulating talent, the talent then has to translate to success on the court.”

Can Boynton build a winning roster? We’re about to find out. This offseason he was tasked with replacing half of his roster. And those puzzle pieces seem to be in place with Maurice Calloo and Isaac Likekele filling his 13th and 14th scholarships for 2018 after both committed within a 24-hour span.

Boynton’s already proven he can coach, and he’s shown the ability to own a room — even one that’s big enough to house 13,611 and is lined with maple. If he proves he’s even nearly as capable at building a roster, he might just get Oklahoma State back to the elite level he says it can be at.


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