Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso was inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame Monday night. Below is her full speech.
I appreciate this. It's very surreal. Twenty-five years ago, I was pregnant with my youngest son who is about to turn 25. And we would come out to the College World Series when I was at Long Beach City College. And there was probably about 1,200 people. And I thought it was the greatest thing I've ever seen.
So as a young girl who played softball, I would go to the World Series and watch and think one day as a coach, maybe I can be there. But I'm a junior college coach at Long Beach City College. I got to meet Marita Hynes, who was running the tournament, and she called my administrator at Long Beach City College and suddenly I'm coming in for an interview, and I'm thinking, "I'm pregnant, and they're not gonna hire me." So I came in the interview with my husband. We knew no one here, our entire families are back in California, literally living like four blocks from the beach.
So I tell my friends that I'm going on an interview, and they say Oklahoma — they didn't say it with an exclamation point. More of a question mark than an exclamation point. And they didn't think that I would last and I got the job. And Donny Duncan hired me. The wonderful President Boren hired me as well. Marita Hynes was my overseer, I so appreciate them and getting me here. Twenty-five years later, we're still here — a wonderful place to raise a family. The state has been wonderful, the University of Oklahoma has been phenomenal with their support of myself.
I also — let's just kind of jump around a little bit. I really appreciated the opportunity to meet the other inductees. I feel very honored to be part of them. They're great guys, really excited about coach Stoops and being in with him as well. He became a good friend, who I could call and he would give me great advice. I'd bring in my recruits, he'd always spend time with them. I remember at times, he would want to know how big the recruiting class was, like are these big time players. He'd always know about them, talk to them, knowing where they're from. We would be on the sidelines during their warm up time. And when the team would go in the tunnel, he would come running over to shake the hands of our recruits. And the girls thought, "Oh, that's really cool." The dads are like ready to go. They were just like amazed that coach Stoops would come over before the game. So I just so appreciate him and I do miss him being at OU. But I know that we'll still see him.
But it's a great honor. I would tell you that the hardest part of this job was when I first got here. I came from a junior college. When I came to OU, Don Jimmerson picked me up from the airport with my husband. And we're driving to Norman and I'm from LA. So I'm looking around like, "Where do the people live? Where are they? Why aren't they on the sidewalks running? Where are they?" I think we came down Newcastle, the back way. "This is a dream. Where are we? I don't understand where the people live. Where are their houses?"
The first person I met was Kelvin Sampson. And he was wonderful to work with as well. I got into the job, and it was more work than I ever anticipated. And my kids were very young back then. So I remember our first game was in Texas, like Arlington, and I would coach a game run back on the bus, feed DJ my youngest, change his diaper, run back out for the next game. This was going on throughout like my first five or six years and I thought, "I can't, I can't do this."
But I've also had extreme guilt in being a woman, having children and trying to do a big time job, and I'd come home and I'd have to be on the phone with recruits. I would put my son to bed and I'd start reading the story. And he's like mom wake up, wake up. So he starts reading me the story because I just couldn't stay awake. I was so tired, and that was wearing me out. And now, 25 years later, my boys are both with me in the dugout coaching with me, so this has come full circle. And it's been really awesome.
And then also, I'm happy that I can be kind of a role model for these young players, who want to go into coaching, because many of them say, "I don't think I can do it." But that's one of my biggest joys, I think, is watching our players go into coaching. Samantha Ricketts, the older sister of Keilani Ricketts, just got the head coaching job Mississippi State. So some of these players are going out and getting big time jobs, and makes me believe that they watched and they said, "I want to do what coach Gasso did. I can do it." So I'm really honored by that.
And I'm also just really humbled for this honor. What I feel like is I am like the orchestra leader. And the players are the ones that play the beautiful music. I don't play the music. I couldn't hit the ball the way you saw. I can't do those things anymore. I couldn't even do it when I could. To be honored just to orchestrate them — I always look at an orchestra leader and go, "Why is everyone clapping for him? He didn't do anything." And my players, they are tremendous. And they they make the music and that's why we are where we are. So I'm so appreciative to them.
And I wanted to make sure that some came tonight. So I want my three, Nicole Mendez our centerfielder, our starting catcher Lynnsie Elam, and last year our captain the Kelsey Arnold, can you guys stand up? Because you're not used to seeing them dressed up. But I'm really happy that they're here. Because they do make the wonderful music.
I also would like to thank Joe Castiglione for the nice words, it's been wonderful to work for him. He has done things that no other AD I can imagine would do for his coaches. One year, we were on our way back from the Big 12 Championship. It's pouring rain. And it's probably around midnight and we drive up on the bus and I'm like, are you kidding me? Who is waiting? I just want to get in my car and go. And the umbrella is down low and it's Joe standing in the rain waiting for our bus to pull up. And that's the kind of guy — those are the things that he does for not just myself but the support of the players. Also Kenny Mossman who oversees what we do. Larry Naifeh has been with me since I got here, I think we might two of the longest standing employees at OU. And my right hand, my director of operations, Jackie Livingston is here tonight. I'd be lost without her. She's the glue that makes things go.
And last and certainly not least, my family who is my support. They are my glue. They are what I do this for. My husband gave up his career to allow me to chase mine. So when I was at the World Series looking at teams winning national championships, and back then it was UCLA and Arizona. He said let's do this. And so he gave it up to allow me to do this. So grateful for them. Can you guys stand up? I've got two grandkids that look just like these guys.
Jen Rocha is my pitching coach who can't be here tonight, but also I got to give a shout out to my longtime assistant Melissa Lombardie, who was named last year the head coach of the University of Oregon. She played for me and has been with me for over 20 years. But especially proud of my sons, and particularly JT, who works with our hitters.So if you're looking at the hitters on the spring, he's developed the swings for that.
But I can't tell you what a joy it is to be working with my family, to be working for the University of Oklahoma and the state of Oklahoma. What made us stay here are the wonderful people who took care of us, took care of my kids when I needed help, with a lot of support a lot of friends and family. So I will tell you that I don't ever look at Oklahoma as a question mark from this day on, as we stand in front of you right now, it's definitely an exclamation point.