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The Top Five Moments of the Mike Boynton Era

From sweeping Kansas to Cade dropping 40.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

Many of the questions surrounding Cowboy Basketball today and this week will be about what is next.

But in the wake of Mike Boynton’s firing after seven seasons in Stillwater, I thought it could be fun to look back. Here are my takes for the top-five moments of the Mike Boynton era.

5. Sweeping Kansas

The general sentiment when Boynton was hired was “who?”

Then in his first season as a head coach, Boynton took the Cowboys to Allen Fieldhouse … and won. Then the Jayhawks closed the regular season with a game in Stillwater … and Boynton won again.

KU hadn’t been swept by a Big 12 team since 2001 before that. OSU hadn’t swept the Jayhawks since 1983 — pre-Eddie.

OSU went nuclear from 3 in Lawrence, making 12 of its 27 attempts. Kendall Smith had 24 and a sophomore Cam McGriff dopped 20.

It was more of the same in KU’s return trip to Stillwater, as OSU went 10-for-24 from deep as Smith put up 25.

The Jayhawks did end up getting their revenge in the Big 12 Tournament — a game that probably would’ve put the Pokes in the NCAA Tournament had they won it.

4. Taking a Blow Torch to the NCAA

The NCAA threw the book at Oklahoma State on Nov. 3, 2021, and Boynton threw it right back.

OSU received a postseason ban and scholarship sanctions for the role it played in the FBI’s probe into college basketball. OSU was one of many schools caught up in the mess, but OSU’s wrongdoings were minor compared to most. But where OSU seemingly went wrong was cooperating with the NCAA, just for the organization to try to make an example out of the Cowboys.

What’s worse, the postseason ban affected a coach and players that weren’t even there when the wrongdoings took place. The NCAA was essentially punishing a bunch of kids who were barely in high school at the time of the offenses.

Through tears and gritted teeth, Boynton called the NCAA out for all its stupidity.

“I’m disappointed, disgusted, appalled, frustrated, but somewhere in Indianapolis there’s a group of people celebrating,” Boynton opened with. “Stan Wilcox gave a directive. He sent Jon Duncan and a team to save face. They won. Our players don’t deserve and shouldn’t have to deal with this. Russell Register and Sherika Montgomery came here and interviewed everybody they could, and they uncovered nothing. The FBI did its job, and so did we.

“There was a single NCAA violation. One player received $300. One player. Not a recruit. Not a future recruit. Not a family member. One current player received $300, and in and of itself because it was self reported by us, it’s a secondary violation to which the punishment is you pay the money back, you serve your suspension, which the kid did, and you move on.”

Boynton went on to name drop a handful of NCAA staffers involved in the case — staffers that were already listed at the bottoms of press releases from the NCAA. The NCAA then reprimanded Boynton for mentioning all those names. The NCAA held OSU accountable for employing Lamont Evans but was upset at Boynton holding NCAA personnel accountable for its overuse of force.

If you haven’t taken the time to watch Boynton go to bat for the program and his players, it’s not too late.

The NCAA has since made amendments in an attempt to not punish student-athletes that weren’t involved in infractions. It’s hard to imagine Boynton taking a stand against the organization didn’t play a part in that.

3. The Trae Young Game/Owning OU

A common question you get as a sports writer is “What’s the best game you’ve ever covered?” For me, that answer is still the Bedlam Trae Young game in Stillwater.

That game had it all: A future first-round pick scoring 48 points, a bitter rivalry, overtime and the home team winning. In some ways it felt like a new era’s Kevin Durant game. It was obviously not as big a deal, but it was that type of atmosphere.

The moment of the game came with OU up 3 in the final minute. Young dribbled the ball past half court before Mitchell Solomon, of all people, poked the ball loose. Solomon took to the court as Young preserved his well-being, going Cam Newton in the Super Bowl. As Young was complaining to the officials for a travel call, Solomon popped the ball up to Tavarius Shine for a dunk.

A forgotten play for the game came a few moments later. The Cowboys were down 73-70 with less than 10 seconds to play when Kendal Smith (who was so clutch in his one year with the program) hit a pull-up 3 to send the game to OT.

Jeffrey Carroll and Shine each hit a 3 in OT while Young went 0-for-3 from deep, and the Cowboys won 83-81.

Carroll finished with 23. Smith had 20. And Solomon had the stat line of all stat lines: two points, seven rebounds, five assists, two blocks and three steals. He willed the Cowboys to a win.

That was far from the only win Boynton had against the rival Sooners. He finished his time in the Bedlam rivalry with a 9-7 record against OU — a record that looked a lot better before going 0-2 against the Sooners this season. Before this season, Boynton had won seven of eight against OU.

2. The Cade Cunningham Experience

I was sitting in my car outside of Boone Pickens Stadium when Cade Cunningham committed to Oklahoma State.

From the moment Cunningham, in that announcement video, said “blood is thicker than water” to the moment the Detroit Pistons took him with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, it was a heck of a ride.

He was the No. 1 prospect in his recruiting class who in one year earned First Team All-America honors. He averaged 20 points a game and shot 40% from 3. He dropped 40 points in his first Bedlam game. He had the hype and lived up to it.

The pandemic was a downer for a lot of reasons — a lot of very serious reasons — but a minor reason it was a downer was that OSU didn’t get the full Cunningham experience with a bouncing GIA. Could you imagine the juice that building would have had when OSU beat Kansas that season? Or the Bedlam game just two days after he dropped 40 in Norman?

1. Mike Boynton, the Person

Mike Boynton might’ve not been an “OSU guy,” but he flung himself head first into Oklahoma State and Stillwater as a whole.

I was in college working for The O’Colly when he got hired. There was sort of a get-to-know-ya media availability for him in GIA shortly after his hiring because … well, no one knew him. I was there, and I was at his final news conference as OSU’s head coach Tuesday. I have also seen him at numerous practices, availabilities, softball games, Remember the Ten runs, shoot I see him at Walmart every so often. I say all that to say that there have been plenty of opportunities for him to show me the face he puts on for the public is just an act, but it isn’t. That’s just who he is.

I’ve never seen a coach so self-aware and understanding. He knew he needed to win games to keep his job, and yet despite results not going his way, he was still so graceful toward the end. It surprised me a little when he discussed OSU’s NIL deficiencies a few months back, but it appears that is a very real issue the program is facing right now. And all the while in that news conference he again stressed the need that his group needed to play better. When he said last week that he didn’t have reason to believe he wouldn’t be back next season, he said the first thing that needs to change is he needs to become a better coach.

Stillwater mayor Will Joyce also shared some classic Boynton stories following Boynton’s dismissal. Just hours after Boynton’s Cowboys lost at the buzzer to OU a few weeks ago, Boynton went to an event honoring the 1958 state championship team from Stillwater’s then-segregated Washington High School. Joyce said Boynton didn’t speak or pose for photos. He just went there, shook hands and congratulated the players. Boynton is a good person because he is a good person. He isn’t a good person to earn some sort of clout.

He didn’t win enough basketball games. That much is clear. But he was as good an ambassador as there has been for OSU.

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