The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

March 11, 2014

Basketball still a simple game, retiring coach says

Coaching basketball at every level, Larry Gipson has learned one thing.

Basketball is basketball.

“I played Division III. I’ve coached junior high, high school, junior college, Division I, Division II,” he said. “It’s still a matter of you have to defend, you have to rebound, you have to take care of the basketball and you have to get good shots. It’s a real simple game, and if we get more good shots than you get, then we’re going to beat you. And if we make more mistakes than you do, you’re going to beat us.

“Things have changed, but I’m not a guy who thinks kids have changed or the game has changed a whole lot. I think the core fundamental elements of basketball are the same.”

Gipson, former coach at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, announced on Feb. 16 that he was retiring as Northeastern State’s men’s basketball coach after this season.

“I had been pondering it,” Gipson said at last week’s MIAA Postseason Tournament in Kansas City. “There were some things that had gone on this year from the standpoint of my wife and I with health issues. My wife has MS, and it’s pretty well documented that I had prostate cancer (causing him to miss most of the 2011-12 season). ... My health is pretty good. I’m not out of the woods yet, but I’m probably as healthy as I’m going to be — as we all are probably.

“I had reached the point that I could retire, and I thought this is as good of a time as any. Tony Duckworth (NSU athletics director) and I talked about the appropriate time to announce it, and our schedule was such that we finished the season with three straight games on the road. Tony felt I ought to announce it at least in time for the last home game so people who have watched us play would maybe come out to that game rather than (making the announcement) at the end of the season.

“I’m really at peace with the decision. I feel like it’s the appropriate decision for me. ... Bottom line is — very few coaches get to choose when they want to end their career, and I’m fortunate enough to be a guy who did.”

Gipson’s career ended last weekend with two exciting games at historic Municipal Auditorium. The RiverHawks, as the No. 9 seed, knocked off top-seeded Central Missouri 84-82 in the quarterfinal round. The next day NSU lost to No. 5 Central Oklahoma 61-60. The Bronchos took the one-point lead on two free throws with 4.8 seconds left, and the RiverHawks missed a guarded 3-pointer, and a tipin came after the buzzer.

Gipson finished with a 277-199 record in 17 seasons at NSU, highlighted by the 2002-03 team that went 32-3 and won the national championship. Before coming to Tahlequah he was 68-73 in five season at Toledo and 217-87 at NEO from 1982-91, headlined by n NJCAA championship  in 1989.

“I have so many wonderful memories of NEO,” Gipson said. “The No. 1 thing is the people in Miami. They’ve been extremely good to me, extremely good to my brother (Randy, former NEO women’s coach and now NSU women’s coach) and our families. We have so many close friends there. ... Without a doubt it probably is the happiest time of my life when I was coaching there. Part of it is I was young and looking forward to every day, to the future. I enjoyed the administration. I enjoyed all the kids and teams I coached there, especially the people in Miami. It’s a unique community and I enjoyed my time very much.”

Gipson, a native of Ohio, relocated to Oklahoma when Tulsa coach Nolan Richardson hired him as the restricted earning coach. During that time Gipson met college basketball icon Henry Iba.

“I was 29 years old when I met him,” Gipson said. “He took me under his wing, and we talked basketball countless hours. He really taught me how to think about the game and how to put the game together. I was like a young person searching for religion ... you want to be a Christian and suddenly you discover the Bible. I was like a young person coach-searching and he was the gospel.”

Now that his career is over, Gipson knows he will miss the game, but he won’t miss things beyond the basketball court boundaries.

“I’m certain there will be moments that I regret not being able to go to another practice,” Gipson said. “I think when I see Northeastern State next year win a game at the buzzer or win an exciting game, I’ll go home and think I’d really like to be a part of that. I’m going to follow them closely because my brother is still there.

“And then I think when they get beat on the road at Missouri Southern or Missouri Western or someplace on a tipin at the buzzer and they have a long bus trip home, I’m going to say, ‘I’m going to bed.’ ”

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