During her first news conference, Jennie Baranczyk wasn’t shy about her first task as Oklahoma’s head women’s basketball coach.
“My next step is to build a coaching staff that will not only maximize the talent that we have right now, it will also bring the next wave of Oklahoma Sooners,” Baranczyk said. “The Big 12 is a beast of a league, and there is talent everywhere. But our goal is to win championships and to compete for championships.”
Nine days after making that statement, Baranczyk introduced the first two assistant coaches to her inaugural staff.
The former Drake coach didn’t have to go far to find either, including one she didn’t even have to leave the city limits to reach.
Michael Neal, Norman High’s girls basketball coach until a few days ago, will join Baranczyk’s first staff. Chantel Osahor, who’s spent the past two seasons as an assistant at Arkansas, will come along as well.
Neal, the former Sooner men’s basketball sharpshooter, leaves NHS after seven seasons at the helm of the program, where he won two state championships (2019 and ‘21) and accumulated a 109-65 record.
Near as I can tell, if the birthday on his Wikipedia page is accurate, Kellen McCoy was 9 years old when I showed up in Norman, turning 10 in April 1997, about five weeks after I moved in from Ardmore in March.
“It has been a joyful ride to watch Coach Neal lead the NHS girls basketball program the past five years,” said Norman Public Schools athletics director T.D. O’Hara. “The impact he has made will be felt for many years to come. While the University of Oklahoma is getting a good coach, they are getting an even better person.”
The Tigers were crowned Class 6A state champions last month, claiming a perfect 19-0 record and taking a 41-game winning streak into the offseason.
Neal developed the likes of senior guard Kelbie Washington and forward Chantae Embry.
Washington will be joining Neal at OU next season. She signed with the Sooners last November before leading the Tigers to the program’s sixth state title.
Neal will soon have to game plan, however, for Embry, who signed with Big 12 foe Texas Tech.
Neal’s other pupils included Florida commit Myka Perry and Kansas State pledge Mikayla Parks, both of whom will be seniors next season. NHS freshman Zya Vann and sophomore Aaliyah Henderson also have Division I offers but are undecided.
Perhaps Neal will bring a few more of his former players to his next stop.
Meanwhile, Osahor has worked for Baranczyk before. She served as a graduate manager under Baranczyk at Drake for two years before leaving for Arkansas to coach alongside Mike Neighbors.
Osahor was an accomplished player at Washington, where she earned 2017 All-America honors and became the Huskies’ all-time leading rebounder. She was drafted 21st overall in the 2017 WNBA Draft, traded and went into coaching after she was cut from her training camp roster.
The Razorbacks went 24-8 in Osahor’s first season as an assistant. This past season, Arkansas finished 19-9 and secured a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Baranczyk was not made available for comment as she looks to add a third assistant coach to her staff.