His time at USAO changed the course of one alum's life, leading him on a somewhat unexpected but successful path.
Rick McCormick, a 1979 USAO graduate, came to USAO to play basketball straight from a junior college in Texas. He came to play under Coach Archie Porter in 1977.
But in April of 1978, Porter suffered a fatal heart attack. The Drovers hired Coach Gene Davis, and Davis recognized that McCormick didn’t have the raw talent – at least not on the court.
Davis took McCormick under his wing and made him a Student Assistant Coach, something that wasn’t commonly done in the late 70s. McCormick spent his senior year scouting, picking up recruits and helping coach the Drovers.
“I was a kid who always wanted to coach, and I thought I’d go out and be a small-town high school coach,” he said.
But Davis had different plans for the young graduate. Davis helped get McCormick a job as a graduate assistant at Oklahoma City University after graduation in 1978. There, he went on to get a masters degree in education.
“And that started the whole career into college coaching,” he said. “From there, I wanted to become a college head coach. That was the dream.”
McCormick quickly moved on to become an assistant coach and psychology teacher at Conners State College before finding his first head coaching position, just five years removed from college. At 27, McCormick became the head basketball coach at North Dakota State College of Science.
Just a few years later, he had the opportunity to coach at one of his favorite schools – Oral Roberts University – under one of his favorite coaches – Coach Ken Trickey, who he’d coached under at OCU.
In 1989, McCormick took a job as head coach at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. In his five seasons there, he led the team to become a powerhouse in the NAIA. He led the team to their first national tournament in 34 years.
“My biggest learning experience was probably those five years,” he said. “That was a tremendous experience in a lot of ways.”
McCormick had a few other coaching jobs until he had to face his alma mater for the first time. As head coach at Panhandle State University in the late 90s, he took on – and beat -- USAO twice.
In 1998, McCormick found himself in his first administration position as athletic director and basketball coach of Cedar Valley College. McCormick spent five years there, helping the team achieve its most wins in the history of the school and leading the players to their first conference, region and national championships.
In 2006, he left his head coaching position at Divison II’s Arkansas Tech University to return to Oklahoma for his wife, Marie. That’s when McCormick officially launched his administrative career.
He quickly found a job working in Student Services at Conners State College, but the following year, took his current position – Director of Alternative Education at three high schools: Wellston, Agra and Carney.
But McCormick wanted to stay in basketball, so he became co-owner and co-editor of Southwest Hoops, a scouting and recruiting service. The company has about 100 subscribers, many from major NCAA college conferences including the Big 12 and the SEC.
“The timing was perfect,” he said. “It has allowed me to stay in basketball.”
He said the key of the business is to know the coaches, how they coach and the type of players they look for. A player he’s scouting might be good enough to play for one of his subscribers, but he also must consider the type of player and match that with the right coach.
McCormick said he’s happy to be in Oklahoma and working in the jobs he has, so he isn’t exactly looking for the next opportunity. He did say, however, that he would be interested in taking a position in athletic administration.
“I’ll always be a basketball coach, and I’ll always do basketball things, but I’ve made a clear transition from athletics … to administration,” he said.
Regardless of what McCormick does between now and retirement, it’s clear that Coach Davis and McCormick’s decision to attend USAO dramatically shaped where his career led.
“For me, certainly, I have memories of the education I received and the classes I took, but for me it was more the relationships,” McCormick said. “Without those relationships, who knows … how the last 30 years would have gone. I was a small town kid, who wasn’t a very good player.”
Rick McCormick’s Coaching Timeline
August 1979 – Graduated from USAO, BS in Health, Physical Education and Recreation
1979-1981 – Graduate Assistant at Oklahoma City University, earned masters in education
1981-1984 – Assistant Coach, Conners State College
1984-1987 - Head Coach, North Dakota State College of Science
1987-1989 – Assistant Coach, Oral Roberts University
1989-1994 – Head Coach, Union University
1994-1996 – Assistant Coach and Recruiting Coordinator, Northwestern Louisiana
1996-1998 – Head Coach, Panhandle State University
1998-2003 – Athletic Director and Head Coach, Cedar Valley College
2003-2006 – Head Coach, Arkansas Tech University
2006-2007 – Associate Head Coach and Administrator, Conners State College
2007-Present – Director of Alternative Education at three high schools, State Education Department; and Co-Owner/Co-Editor, Southwest Hoops