Dan Hays received a phone call Saturday evening at his home in Edmond, knowing already what the caller had to ask.
The former Oklahoma Christian University coach heard about his former assistant Robert Foreman’s predicament. Foreman had accepted the head coaching position at Mustang following Terry Long’s resignation early last week – two days into preseason practice – and Hays knew his comrade would need help.
So Foreman dropped the question, and had his answer in no time.
“The bottom line is I want to help out my friend,” Hays said of joining Foreman’s staff this winter as an assistant. “He got put in an unusual situation at an unusual time… He probably doesn’t need any help and it’s not like this is new to him, but when he got the news he called me and we ran some ideas back and forth. I told him I’d come out that Friday and offer some suggestions.
“One thing led to another and I checked with my wife. Low and behold, I’m back in the saddle.”
Foreman’s and Hays’ situations are rare. It’s not every day a current principal takes over for a coach the likes of Long. It’s also unusual for a coach of Hays’ pedigree to step into the high school ranks as an assistant. But Mustang’s new head man understands just how lucky he and his players are and the luxury of having friends in high places.
“He’s the first guy I called after I called my wife,” Foreman said. “That’s how much he’s meant to me.
“The amount of experience he will bring is invaluable. There’s no better offensive mind than Dan Hays. His mind for the game of basketball and having him in practice will go a long way with the kids. What a great experience for these guys to be coached by him.”
Hays has seen it all during his storied career, including the most wins ever by a men’s college coach at a four-year school in Oklahoma – more than Billy Tubbs, Eddie Sutton and Henry Iba. He’s been an assistant for two gold-medal winning teams, including then-Florida and current Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger’s 1991 World Championships team and at the 1990 U.S. Olympic Festival under Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. At OC, Hays guided the Eagles to six Sooner Athletic Conference regular season championships and the school’s only SAC tournament title. He reached the NAIA Division I “Sweet 16” five times and was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1998.
His resume is historic and his legend is widespread. And although he hasn’t coached at the high school level since 1973, Hays is sticking with the same concept that helped build a Hall of Fame career.
“Basketball is basketball. Simple as that,” he said. “There will not be a transition. Robert is more than qualified for the job. I’ve known him since helping him get a college scholarship and he’s an outstanding coach. I think we’ll be able to teach the kids basketball in a fundamental way and get them to believe in the little things. It’s a team game and a game of nights. You do the right things and you’ll stay in games. That’s the way it’s always been.”
Hays said he has never closed any doors since leaving his post at OC last season. His only prerequisite for the final stages of his career is continuing to live at home in Edmond. There’s still basketball to be played and he’s still inclined to be a part of it, even if he’s not the one leading the charge.
“It’s something I didn’t script,” Hays said of his return to coaching. “I said in every article that I was not retiring from basketball, I was just leaving OC. And nothing has changed. It’s going to catch some people by surprise, but it’s something I love to do and it’s a great opportunity to help out a friend.”
He should feel comfortable in Class 6A as well.
“I know every one of them,” Hays said of his relationships with the coaches throughout the league, including Foreman. “Several are former players of mine and there’s not a coach that I haven’t watched his team play. Basketball is a community of people. If you handle it right, there’s respect. And hopefully I’ve handled it right.”
It has been an unprecedented week for Mustang’s program after an unprecedented four-year run under Long. But with a new era on the horizon, the school’s players, their parents and the school system can rest assured in the luxury of Foreman’s and Hays’ philosophies and experience.
“Wins and losses aren’t always how you determine success,” Hays said. “All these trophies and plaques that surround me and boxes of trophies in my garage – those are just things.
“It’s about the players and the relationships. That’s what has always made basketball great.”