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NCAA

Billy Tubbs Helped Pioneer Oklahoma’s College Hoops Explosion

The charismatic architect of OU's high-octane style and the school's rise to college basketball's elite dies at 85.

Image Credit: Sooner Sports

Former Oklahoma Sooners head coach BillyTubbs has passed away at age 85. His long list of accomplishments are well noted and he’s one of the unforgettable characters of the game and influencers of the rise of basketball in that region during the 80s.

According to soonersports.com, the Tulsa native “was hired on April 1, 1980. The then-45-year-old Tubbs was tasked with one of the most daunting turnaround projects in college basketball history. Oklahoma had reached the NCAA Tournament just once over the 32 seasons prior to Tubbs’ arrival and held a combined winning percentage of .471 from 1950-80.

Tubbs reached the NCAA Tournament in just his third season in Norman and went on to make eight consecutive March Madness appearances.

Under Tubbs, Oklahoma reached four Sweet 16s, two Elite Eights and the 1988 Final Four and national championship game. He directed his squads to No. 1 seeds in 1985, 1988, 1989 and 1990, and his 15 NCAA Tournament wins are the most by an OU head coach.”

From 1983-90 he accumulated a 220-45 (.818) record and was an astounding 108-2 at the Lloyd Noble Center (Home Arena), including five undefeated seasons at home. His 71.6 winning percentage remains the best in OU history.

During his prime, Tubbs’ Sooners also had a 51-game winning streak and spent 33 weeks in the Top 5 of the AP Top25 as he built the football school into a basketball powerhouse with All-Americans and future NBA players such as Wayman Tisdale, Harvey Grant, Stacy King and Mookie Blaylock, Darryl “Choo” Kennedy and Tim McAlister, just to name a few.

Only Duke, UNC and Georgetown spent more weeks ranked over that time frame.

The Sooners entered the 1989 NCAA Tourney as the ranked No.1 team in the country in the AP Poll. Had it not been for the greatness of Danny Manning, Milt Newton, and The Miracles while being coached by LarryBrown, Tubbs would have won the 1988 National Title.

His mighty Sooners lost 83-79 to the Kansas Jayhawks in a game that was tied at 50-50 heading to the half. They swept the Jayhawks during the regular season, proving once again the hardest thing to do in sports is beat a team three times in the same season.

Tubbs’ influence on 80s and 90s hoops and his influential hand in elevating a football state to elite status on the college hoops stage is a permanent part of college basketball history. You can’t write about the evolution of college hoops without mentioning Billy Tubbs and his high-scoring Oklahoma Sooners squads

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