The Norman Transcript

October 14, 2012

Bob Stevens


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Coach Bob Stevens, born Nov. 11, 1923, passed away Sept. 30, 2012, at the age of 88. Bob Stevens was the kind of person who loved a challenge. He had life-long dreams fulfilled because of his persevering spirit.

He was preceded in death by both parents and a sister, Mary Stevens.

He is survived by his daughter, Nancy Barcellus, and granddaughter, Christine Barcellus of Norman; son, Robert Stevens of Costa Mesa, Calif.; and nieces and nephews of Syracuse, Ind.

Bob was born on a short-horned cattle farm to musicians Alys and State Sen. Floyd Stevens in Sydney, Ind. He was a farm boy forming a work ethic that would continue throughout his life. While going to high school, each day before dawn, he worked picking up large cans of milk from surrounding farms and delivering them to the dairy, then would go home to do his chores before school. Of course, he played Hoosier basketball. Their 80-foot cattle barn had basketball goals at either end, where kids from all around came to play.

Bob set and held a record at Sydney High for his fast play, scoring more points in less time than any other player.

He dreamed of playing on the college level and was recruited by Michigan State University. His playing days were interrupted because of WWII. Always a competitor, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. He ended up overseas with one of the first Marine units to go into Nagasaki after the U.S. dropped the atom bomb.

After the war, he returned to Michigan State, where he met Jo Bennigan, an Indiana girl, in a health science P.E. class. After graduation, they were married and returned to Indiana in order to fulfill his dream of being a Hoosier basketball coach. They both worked at the same unified school in Milford, Ind., he as the all sports coach and she a first-grade teacher.

In 1952, since he remained in the Marines Reserve, he was called up and deployed to the front lines of the Korean Police Action (war).

Several years later, the couple returned to their alma mater, MSU, where he completed his master’s degree. They were blessed with amazing children, Robert and Nancy. More good fortune unfolded. Bob became a graduate assistant freshmen coach under famed coach Pete Newell and thereafter assistant coach to Forddy Anderson. In 1957, the Michigan State team went to the NCAA Final Four in Kansas City. The lost to North Carolina in a triple overtime game, which spoiled their chance of playing Wilt the Stilt Chamberlain of Kansas University in the finals.

This led to the fulfillment of another dream, the head coaching position with the Gamecocks of South Carolina University. Gordie Stauffer, another Hoosier and dear friend, was his assistant. While coaching there, he was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year.

In 1962, Oklahoma’s Bud Wilkinson hired Stevens to coach the Sooner basketball team. He not only found a job but found a haven where he wanted to spend the rest of his life. He loved Oklahoma and its “great people.” Gordie Stauffer, Bud Cronlin, one of his S.C. players, and John Macleod assisted coaching OU’s team. There were changes in the style of basketball played in the old field house at OU. As you entered the gym, you immediately saw an oversized banner hanging from the scorer’s table describing his fast break offense. It read, “Go, Go, Go!!!”

At a coaches’ meeting, Henry Iba put his arm on Bob’s shoulder and said, “Son, you’re not supposed to get up and down the court and have fun like you think you’re going to do.”

Steven’s players will attest to grueling arm strength fitness drills, Stevens included, and endless practices rebounding and throwing the ball to the wingman before their feet touched the deck, not allowing the defense to get set. The Sooners did win Bedlam in what was known as “Henry’s House.”

Bob ended his coaching career working for Henry Bebe and the Oklahoma City Cavalry. Henry called him “Go.”

He especially enjoyed coaching, being with friends, music, flying and driving his boat, “Fast Break,” on Lake Texoma.

Everyone young and old knew him. He was referred to as the “Legend of the Lake.” For more than 30 years, he rarely missed a weekend with his beloved Lake Texoma family.

“Coach” will truly be missed.

Since a funeral was not desired, there will be a celebration from 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Hilton Garden Inn on Memorial Road in Oklahoma City.

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