The 12-1 Class 4A state semifinalist Cougars lost 22 highly skilled seniors after the season. Then they lost another shortly thereafter when at the end of the semester assistant coach Greg Mitchell finally answered a phone that had been ringing for several years.
The lure of championship gold was finally outweighed by black gold. Friends and contacts in the oil patch had called on Mitchell through the years, and he finally answered the call.
Crescent Services, among other services, searches out water rights in areas where SandRidge Energy and others will be drilling. That’s Mitchell’s job. He jokes that his office is in north Oklahoma City, but his real place of business is his vehicle.
His road map is not unlike road trips on the charters and the Yellow Dawgs — Guthrie, Woodward and points north into Kansas.
“I work with lots of different kinds of folk from the rigs to the board executives at SandRidge,” he said.
“Do I miss it? Sure I do. And I know it will get worse as another season approaches. I coached for 15 years, and I felt like I was able to make a positive impact and I met a loyal of loyal friends,” Mitchell said.
He will not, of course, miss the teacher/coach paycheck, saying it was the occupation switch was "just the right thing at this time, the right thing for my family.”
From GA at his alma mater, Velma—Alma, to coaching there, then head coach at Kingston and the three seasons as assistant at Ada in two stints, the memories are engraved.
“We went to the finals twice at Velma. I’d say those two years and last season at Ada were the most special,” he said.
During games, Mitchell was one of the invisible coaches. While most of the staff stomped the sidelines, offensive coordinator Mitchell & Co. of three more coaches had a bird’s-eye view from the spacious confines of the press box at Norris Field. Or at away games, some with equal facilities, some rivaling shanties, or even outdoors, even when the weather was dear.
The season can be wrapped up in one word — fun. Often the press box crew was more visible as the Cougars were kicking by halftime, and the foursome saw no need to return to the box after meeting with the sideline coaches at the half.
Spread it out and hurry up
The spread offense was nothing new. The Cougars had played against it in recent years ... four, five wide receivers, only the quarterback in the backfield. Hurry up, no huddle — the QB and WRs all looked to the sideline for signals from the coaches.
A fellow in the press box at Harrah remarked on the Ada offense, “I have never seen a team have so much trouble remembering the play.”
Mitchell chuckled when he recalled he and head coach Matt Weber being somewhat amused by the seemingly unorganized spreads they had seen. But after the 2011 season as they pondered the offense for 2012 — and quickly realized all signals pointed to the spread — the race was on.
“We spent all the off-season trying to figure out how best to use what we had. We knew we had a lot, but what to do with them. Once we decided, we spent countless hours researching it everywhere, talked to everyone. We knew that with the drop to 4A and the district alignment that if we could just get by Ardmore in that first game, we would have a real good shot at being undefeated,” he said.
And so it was, until the semifinals and the run-in with old rival Clinton, the eventual state champ.
Ada opens the 2013 season at Norris Field against arch-rival Ardmore. Yes, Mitchell & Son will be there.
“I know that if I ever go back to coaching, I will never be able to find a job like I had there in Ada. The kids were great, the coaches were great, the support was great ...," Mitchell said.
Mitchell, a 1994 Velma-Alma grad and ECU grad in ‘99, put in a year each as an assistant at Cache and Nowata before returning to his alma mater for a 2001-07 stand. Then to Ada for a year on Weber’s first staff. Then a shot at being the head man at Kingston.
The lure of becoming a head coach was furthered by his old high school mentor, legendary Glen Pool, setting the hook and reeling him in. Pool, who had retired in the Kingston area, would come out of retirement to serve on Mitchell’s staff.
“I think he is one of the best eve,r and the opportunity to work with him again was great,” Mitchell said.
The W-L ledger did not match up to expectations, however. After going winless at 0-10 in 2009, his team did make the playoffs the following year but wound up a lackluster 4-8.
The 2011 season back at Ada was not exactly the welcome home he had hoped for — 5-6 with the fourth straight elimination in the first round of the playoffs for the Weber reign. But, like the rest of the staff, Mitchell saw great things coming for the Cougars with the drop to Class 4A and the senior season of a special group.
From his view from the press box, 2012 and its 12 wins, 11 blowouts, watching was F-U-N.