ROFF — Roff Tigers basketball coach Kale Simon has never wanted to compare seasons due to the relationships he has built over his coaching career. However, there will be something that stands out when he looks back at the 2009-10 season.
“The ending was the most memorable for me,” Simon said about his team winning the Class B state championship. “It feels good knowing that the hard work the team put in, no matter what the outcome, is always worth something. A state championship is a tangible reward for the effort you put in as a team.”
For the second time in three seasons, Simon is the Ada Evening News All-Area Boys Coach of the Year, and it is the fourth time a Roff Tigers coach has won the honor since 2004.
Simon, whose Tigers went 27-4, said the team truly believed that a gold ball was eminent, even back in preseason practice in October.
“When we did get started, we knew that we kind of controlled our own destiny,” he said. “If we put in the work, the time and the effort — and all the things that went with it — that we had the chance to end the season with the gold ball.”
The Tigers averaged winning games by scores of 68-37, so sometimes it may not look like there was any need to improve upon things when that wasn't the case. That’s where the Tournament of Champions over Christmas break came into play. The Tigers left for Tulsa late last December and returned home with a trio of setbacks.
“If I had to define a turning point in our season, I would say the Tournament of Champions,” said Simon, whose team lost to Putnam City (72-50), Garber (51-48, which also beat the Tigers in February at Carl Albert High School by a score of 46-39) and Pawnee (56-39). “Even though we lost all three games, we needed that as a team — and I needed that as a coach — to humble us. And we needed to see areas of improvement where they needed to be made. And I give a lot of credit to the bashings we took. When you’re winning by 20, 30 or 40 points, it’s hard to see areas for improvement. I know it’s hard for me, and I know it’s got to be hard for 14-, 15-, 16- and 17-year-old kids to see that there’s improvement areas. So, sometimes you need that tangible factor for that point to get across, and the Tournament of Champions was that tangible factor we needed.”
But in the end, the Tigers never suffered a postseason loss and capped the dream season with the state championship with a 51-44 victory over Red Oak — which suffered a 63-29 loss to the Tigers in the Class B Area Tournament title game the weekend before at McAlester’s Southwest Expo Center. And while winning state is thrilling, Simon sees it with a different mindset.
“It’s more of a relief than anything,” he said. “I don’t want to say that it wasn’t enjoyable, because it was enjoyable. But the way I view things, it’s not the fact that we won, but it’s the fact that we didn’t lose our last game. To me, that’s where the enjoyment comes from. Winning is good, but to me when you lose it’s so bad that it makes winning that much better.”