The Norman Transcript

February 8, 2014

Max Marquardt remembered fondly

By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Max Marquardt operated in a different time. 

He was a state-championship winning basketball coach at Norman High at a time when running the Tiger program and the one on the nearby university campus wasn’t necessarily so different.

Norman was a smaller, one-high-school town. The Tigers were followed in the community in a way they and their contemporary Timberwolves’ counterparts can hardly begin to understand.

Marquardt ran the NHS boys program from 1964 to 1984, won it all in 1970, put strong teams on the floor throughout, and was a

celebrated “old-school” coach before the term had even been coined, likely because it was the only school.

Friday, the day he died, Marquardt, who was 78, was being remembered for his utter friendliness, loyalty, ability to serve up side-splitting conversations and as the guy who taught so much of Norman how to drive.

“In the hospital,” his son, Brent, said “a quarter of the people would say, ‘Hey Max, you taught me how to drive.’”

Fred Rice, who played for Max and alongside Brent — the only father-son combination on NHS’ Wall of Fame — in the middle 70s, has very clear memories of Marquardt’s coaching style.

“He was very strong-willed,” Rice said. “He was fair, very fair, but tough … His way of showing appreciation to you was through playing time.”

Brent saw it simply.

“If he wasn’t yelling at you, you knew that you weren’t worthy of the effort,” he said. “You weren’t qualified.”

That hard-nosed approach unveiled itself in the way the Tigers played under Marquardt’s direction, too. 

“He was very aggressive,” Rice said. “He taught a very aggressive form of screening and blocking out. He was a Tiger.”

Said Brent, “When the clock started ticking, we started pressing. We were pressing as soon as they came out of the locker room. We’d get after them.”

One of the first people Brent told of his father’s passing Friday was Matilda Mossman, the former Norman High girls coach, who now runs Tulsa’s women’s program. At NHS, Mossman may have called her first press in the parking lot.

“She always took an average team to greater levels,” Brent said, “and that’s what he did.”

Playing for his father, before going on to star at Oklahoma Christian, Brent received no favors. In fact, said Rice, “We all looked at Brent and thought, ‘That poor guy.’”

Long before he was playing for his father at NHS, Brent and Max had already created a profound bond staying up well past midnight, even on school nights, talking basketball.

“I was listening to the analysis of every game, and we would re-enact every game until 1 or 2 in the morning,” Brent said. “Every game. I knew all of his players.”

It didn’t have to be a game night. Or, at least, an NHSgame night.

“We ate and breathed basketball night and day,” Brent said. “Our entertainment was to go anywhere and watch a game for free. You could go to OU and say, ‘I’m a coach’s son,’ and get into the game for free. We’d go in together or I’d beat him to the door.”

If Marquardt’s players saw one side of him, his contemporaries and fellow coaches got to see another.

Jack Harvey took over the NHS baseball program in 1982, overlapping with Marquardt for three years, even sharing a small office.

“You could sit down with him and talk forever about any number of things,” Harvey said, “and by the time you were finished your side would be hurting, you’d be laughing so much.”

David Gore, who taught and coached at West Junior High from 1969 to 1986, remembers Marquardt as though he were Will Rogers, with a basketball rather than a lasso.

“Max is one of those guys that he didn’t meet anybody that he wasn’t a friend to,” Gore said. “Even if he didn’t know them before, he’d talk with them like he’d known them all his life.”

Eventually, even Marquardt’s players would come to understand their old coach’s generosity.

“He was from the old school and he made kids work awfully hard … But when it was all said and done, he had your back,”

Gore said. “He never forgot the kids that played for him and would do anything he could for them.”

That’s the way Brent saw it, too.

“For all the fear he put into everybody, he still had so much faith in everybody … He made everybody feel like they were worth a million bucks,” he said. “When you left talking to him, you felt so good about yourself.”

Marquardt did not go quietly into the last 30 years of his life.

He stayed on at NHS teaching driver’s education until retiring from the school system. Later, he owned The Kettle restaurant on Lindsey Street. Until just a few short weeks ago, he was still delivering cars for Reynolds Ford.

Marquardt may have been famous in Norman for one thing. Friday, he was remembered for everything.

“He’d buy you shoes if you needed shoes. He’d give you his last dollar out of his wallet,” Brent said. “On the court, he wanted to win.”

Clay Horning

Follow me @clayhorning

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