University of Oklahoma head women’s basketball coach Sherri Coale was introduced as a member of the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2020 last week.
The Healdton native will be formally inducted in August, joined by six other accomplished sports figures being honored for their achievements, gratitude and humility. The 2020 class will be among almost 200 other legendary Oklahoma sports figures enshrined in the hall of fame.
“It’s obviously a huge honor and I feel very fortunate to have had some amazing staff members and players through the years,” Coale said. “That’s the only way something like this happens so I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by some amazing people.”
However, this isn’t the first time Coale’s extensive achievements have been acknowledged. In 2007, Coale was inducted into the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame and in 2016, she was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
As a 1983 graduate of Healdton High School, Coale said she never could have imagined this level of national and state-wide recognition back then. “I didn’t even really know that much about (basketball), I just knew I loved the game and wanted to be able to play it to the best of my abilities.”
In basketball, it’s just you and the ball, she said — that’s all it takes to get better. Dribbling and ball handling can be practiced almost anywhere — off the side of a house, in a parking lot, in the driveway.
“A goal was great but you didn’t even have to have a goal to get better,” Coale said. “It was a fantastic way to control your own destiny to a certain extent. There was never a limit on it. You could get as good as you wanted to get based on how much time you wanted to put in with it.”
Ever since fifth or sixth grade, Coale said she practically spent every single day in a gym. The support from the small town community was pivotal in the development of her work ethic and some of the most influential people in her life were her coaches and teachers.
“A lot of people are about the right things and you’re just surrounded by people who are working hard and are expecting that from one another,” Coale said. “Believing in you and supporting you.”
While studying at Oklahoma Christian College in Oklahoma City she played on the school’s Lady Eagles basketball team and after graduating she began coaching at a high school level in Norman.
Coale became the University of Oklahoma head women’s basketball coach at the age of 31 and is now in her 24th season at Oklahoma. “When I began coaching college basketball— I never thought about anything like this. Just coaching my team and trying to get better everyday and working.”
Under her guidance, the once struggling program has become a major college power.
Since her appointment as head coach, Coale has guided the Sooners to a 501-278 record, including 19 NCAA Tournament appearances since 2000 and three Final Four berths.
Coale has also led her teams to six Big 12 regular season championships and four Big 12 tournament titles, earning the title as Big 12 Coach of the Year four times.
“As I look back through the years, I’ve been very, very fortunate to have committed young women who love the sport of basketball and they were passionate believers,” Coale said. “Together we were able to do some pretty remarkable things and it’s been very rewarding to be a part of some special teams.”
However, she’s not done yet. Coale said she still has many things she wants to accomplish. “I want to win a national championship, I want to get our program back to the top of the Big 12 conference and there are lots of things I’d like to do beyond basketball when all of this is said and done. Life is too short.”
Joining Coale in the 2020 Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame Class are former Oklahoma State University wrestler and coach Tommy Chesbro, University of Central Oklahoma athletics director and former wrestling coach Eddie Griffin, former OU men’s basketball All-American Stacey King, former Oklahoma City University basketball standout Hubert F. “Hub” Reed, former NFL coach and OSU graduate Buddy Ryan and Lee Allan Smith, who has brought many major sporting events to the Oklahoma and Oklahoma City metro area.