Oklahoma State basketball coach Mike Boynton’s seat is warm.
There is no other way to say this. We love the guy, he’s all in, buys into the “Cowboy Culture” and the days of Henry Iba and Eddie Sutton. We all want him to succeed. It appears he has the ability to recruit adequate talent to win games.
But things have gone progressively downhill for his program since he was shockingly handed the reins for the 2017-18 season. Some untimely departures be it by dismissals or transfers have impacted the team, not to mention one of the most untimely illness/injury situations ever. That being said, an old golf coach once said “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”
In his third season, Boynton has had plenty of time to be prepared, and unfortunately it is looking more and more like he is not prepared. The state of the program ultimately rests on his shoulders no matter what the circumstances.
Since OSU joined the Big Eight Conference in the 1958-59 season only one Cowboy coach not named Iba survived a three season stretch of sub .300 record in conference play, and that was Guy Strong. He managed to squeak out a fourth season of sub .300 conference hoops before making way for Jim Killingsworth, who was sent on his way after two seasons that resulted in a 9-19 combined Big Eight record.
Unless the Cowboys win at least three of their remaining 10 conference games Boynton will have a sub .300 Big 12 record for his three seasons and at that point I’ve seen enough to be comfortable with making a change.
But Boynton will absolutely survive based on several huge factors:
- Definitely well-liked among most of OSU’s fanbase
- Clearly handles discipline appropriately
- OSU will win at least one game in Big 12 play
- Cade Cunningham
This list cannot be viewed minus the last entry, and the one before it could potentially trump No. 4.
While it is true he is bringing in arguably the best recruit in the country (that could obviously change because players make decisions), to go winless in conference play for the first time since joining the Missouri Valley Conference in 1934 would be quite the “accomplishment,” in a season where the Big 12 is not quite its usual self, and could most definitely make a recruit of that level wonder if he’s made the right choice.
The more confusing, and troubling, factor is specifically what has happened this season.
Following his first “full” recruiting class that generated some interest and excitement, OSU started the season 7-0 which gave plenty of people hope for the future. Zero losses and the absolute pummeling of Syracuse and Ole Miss by 14 and 41 points, respectively, to win the Preseason NIT tournament, utilizing the entire lot of freshmen, had everyone thinking about the NCAA tournament.
Then Isaac Likekele gets mononucleosis? That’s it? That’s the only thing standing between the 7-0 start and going 2-13 after that?
That screams preparation. Likekele is an important player but he’s basically Marcus Smart with zero outside shot. That cannot be the reason the entire thing goes in the tank. I could see struggling to win games, but not being able to win at all? What happened to the deep bench that was integral in wins over significant D1 opponents?
What’s with bull-headedly sticking with the three seniors who are clearly struggling? I’ll give Thomas Dziagwa a bit of a pass as he is still shooting 39 percent from 3-point range in Big 12 play and 42 percent for the season, but with nobody else able to shoot better than 30 percent and only four players even registering above 20 percent, teams can minimize his impact rather easily.
Lindy Waters’ shot is clearly broken (shoulder?) and Jonathan Laurent, who led the A-10 in 3-point shooting at 46.7 percent last season, can’t throw it in the ocean from behind the arc. The only freshman who seem comfortable pulling the trigger from anywhere right now are Avery Anderson and Chris Harris.
If OSU finished the season 5-5 we would all be shocked, so at this point play the freshmen as much as possible. I get giving the seniors their run, and Laurent is a graduate transfer, but next season is the season if Boynton is going to stay around. Anything less than 8-10 and a postseason appearance with at least a couple of NIT wins would make it a mute point for me.
As for now, just win a game because going 0-18 will require asking the question this March, not next.