Tubbs accepted Adams' offer of a make-good scholarship and started at guard for two seasons before moving to Lamar Tech (now Lamar University) in Beaumont. Within two years after graduating from Lamar, he became an assistant there, handling tickets, concessions and the jayvee, and getting the players and the technicals. "In my spare time," he says, "I ate lunch." The Cardinals finished at better than .500 eight times during the 11 seasons he apprenticed under Jack Martin. When Tubbs left in 1971 to become head coach at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, Lamar didn't have another winning season until 1977-78, a year after Tubbs had returned as head coach.
At Lamar he won Southland Conference titles three of the four years he had the head job, bouncing Detroit from the NCAA tournament in 1979 and Weber State and Oregon State the next year. Those wins made Tubbs one of the hottest coaching prospects around. Enter Oklahoma, whose coach, Dave Bliss, had just left for SMU, walking out on a new arena and an ample budget just two years after winning a Big Eight title. He was sick of fighting football.
Whereas Bliss stubbornly focused his recruiting on Indiana, having served as an assistant under Bobby Knight for four years, Tubbs has been more than satisfied with local kids. He starts two Oklahomans (Tisdale and Overton) and two Texans (Jones and Little) with a Hoosier holdover (Barnett). And football's O.K., too. "I never liked to tackle anybody, but I've always liked to watch," says Tubbs. "Football at Oklahoma gets nothing more than it deserves. If we do our job well, we'll get our share. I may envy them, but I'll never resent them."
Shortly after Tubbs's hiring, Switzer literally went out of his way for the new basketball coach. He passed up the OU Club of Tulsa's annual football banquet, flying off to a vacation isle and leaving the dais to Tubbs. That night Tubbs told his audience about a player he'd seen for the first time only three days before, at an amateur tournament in New-Orleans. The kid was from right there in Tulsa, and Tubbs had to have him.
Tubbs has said that he puts recruiting before everything, including his family, and Tisdale became as much a surrogate son as NCAA rules would permit. Tubbs saw 25 of Tisdale's games over the next two seasons, reminding him with each appearance, if not by actual contact, of the challenge and nucleus of solid players he'd find awaiting him at Oklahoma. "For us to have any credibility in this state, we had to go out and get Wayman," Tubbs says. "If someone had told me last year I could have any player in the country, Wayman's the player I'd have picked."
Never mind that many other coaches, given the same choice, would have picked Tisdale, too. "He was the best player for us," Tubbs says. What others say and think has never counted much with Tubbs. "They said it was a dumb move to stay at Lamar 11 years as an assistant," he says. "They said it was a dumb move to go back there as a head coach. They said it was a dumb move to go to a football school. I can't wait to see what my next dumb move is."
The impresario says this with his eye always on the house. "Our crowds aren't as big yet as they will be," he says. "It's what we've said all along: You've got to put players on the floor who'll win, but also capture people's imaginations. Wayman has that charisma."
Reach 'em and teach 'em, son of a preacher man.