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Jobe Treasures Years at Oklahoma Christian

Jerry Jobe's face lights up when he hears the words "Oklahoma Christian."

As the school's head men's basketball coach from 1975 to 1983, Jobe accumulated a long list of accomplishments. Four conference championships in five years. Three 30-win seasons. Beating Memphis State by 14 points on the Tigers' home court. Leading the Eagles to the 1982 NAIA tournament.

But it's not the on-the-court glory that causes the 72-year-old's face to shine when he looks back to his time at Oklahoma Christian. It's the relationships, people and family atmosphere that Jerry and his wife Laura Beth say provided the best years of their lives.

"It was the most fun we ever had as a family," Jerry said recently as he took a break from preparing for a fishing trip with his longtime friend, former OC history professor Jim Wilson. "I had the opportunity to coach my son (Kelly) for four years. My wife was a teacher and volleyball coach, and our two girls (Sherry and Terry) were cheerleaders. We couldn't have had as much fun anywhere else."

He was head coach at Southwestern Oklahoma State in 1975 when former Oklahoma Christian athletic director Ray Vaughn, Sr., called to see if Jerry would be interested in coaching the Eagles. Jerry met with Vaughn and former Oklahoma Christian president J. Terry Johnson at an Oklahoma City restaurant.

"It was a tough decision," Jerry said. "We had our twin girls heading into their junior years of high school and our son was about to be a ninth grader. It was a very difficult time to move a family. But Terry had a real genuine way about him. I thought about the decision after that meeting, about the church affiliation and all the benefits of Oklahoma Christian. I wanted to take the job, but we took a family vote and I was down four to one."

But Jerry overruled the vote ...and the rest is history. Oklahoma Christian went 14-15 in his first season, but to say the Eagles turned it around the next year would be a monumental understatement. OC went 30-3 in 1976-77, the first of four 30-win seasons under Jobe. His .790 career winning percentage (211-56) is the best in the history of OC athletics.

That 1976-77 season featured a memorable game in front of 6,500 fans at Oklahoma City's Myriad Arena. Bethany Nazarene (now Southern Nazarene) had a five-point lead (and the ball) with 16 seconds left. Things looked bleak for the Eagles.

"All the smart basketball fans had left," Jerry said. "To be honest with you, I would have liked to have gone with them."

But a steal, free throw and basket by Ed Pipes, followed by a last-second shot by Duffy Holloway, sent the game into overtime. Given new life, the Eagles rode big shots by Keith Pigg and Greg Holloway to an improbable double-overtime victory - one of the greatest comeback wins in Eagle basketball history.

The frenzy on the court and in the stands was typical of Oklahoma Christian's rivalry games.

"Those games were almost indescribable," said Kelly Jobe, who was a standout guard on his father's Eagle teams from 1979 to 1983. "You would walk into the gym at 5:30 and the place would already be packed. There was so much excitement on campus whenever we played Bethany or OBU. It was just an unbelievable atmosphere."

The Eagles' big-game experience paid off on a landmark road trip to Tennessee in December 1979. After winning at David Lipscomb and at Freed-Hardeman, the Eagles had to face NCAA power Memphis State.

The Eagles were more than up to the test. They jumped out to an early lead and switched to a four-corners offense for the game's final 30 minutes.

"Everyone in the place thought we were trying to run the clock out," Jerry said. "But we were in that offense to score points."

And score them they did...especially Kelly, who finished with a game-high 32 points. ("He would have had 52 if he'd hit his free throws," Jerry said).

The Eagles won 90-76, shocking the crowd of 11,500 fans in MSU's hostile Mid-South Arena.

"That game was unbelievable. If ESPN had been around, it would have been the top story, just like Appalachian State beating Michigan in football," Kelly said. "It was a great feeling to beat them. I don't think we realized what we had just done when it was over."

The Eagles went on to win another conference title that year, one of the three they won with Kelly in the backcourt. An NAIA honorable mention All-American in 1980, Kelly left Oklahoma Christian with 1,836 points (a total that still ranks fifth on the Eagles' all-time scoring list) and with school records for most assists in a career and a season.

"It was always my dream to play for my dad," Kelly said. "When I was little, I just knew that was how it was going to be. I never wanted it any other way."

Other Eagle greats such as Rob Mayberry, Kenneth Orange, Ron Webb and Bob Williams also donned the Eagles' maroon and grey during Jerry's tenure.

Jerry baptized Mayberry, a star player who transferred to Oklahoma Christian from Oklahoma State. Jobe's goal "to win as many as possible" went beyond the scoreboard.

"If you could have some kind of influence on them and they became Christians, that's far greater than any basketball game you could win," Jerry said.

Williams, whose son Shelden now plays for the NBA's Atlanta Hawks after starring at Duke University, arrived on campus from a junior college with a less than stellar academic record. After catching wind of Bob's lackluster attendance one day, Jerry intercepted Bob in the gym lobby and promptly took him to the registrar's office to drop him out of school.

"I told him he wasn't going to play for me if he didn't go to class," Jerry said. "We were walking up to the registrar's door when he told me he wanted a second chance."

Williams got that chance...on the condition that he go to class and keep his grades up. He more than capitalized on the opportunity. In January 1977, he set the school's single-game rebounding record with 26 against defending NAIA champion Cameron. More importantly, he went on to graduate and now teaches and coaches in Oklahoma's Mid-Del School District.

"That's special for me because of what he achieved athletically and academically," Jerry said. "To see Bob go on to become such an influential and successful man is a great thing."

Jerry's commitment and loyalty to his players and staff remain clear today. His effusive praise runs the gamut from his All-Americans to "the best walk-on he ever had," Mike Herndon, whose persistence and Christian example made a huge impact on his teammates. Jerry also is quick to credit his assistant coaches for the Eagles' tremendous success.

"I had three great assistants at Oklahoma Christian in David Smith, Jan Handley and Kenny Turner," Jerry said. "They were all tireless workers and they were the biggest reason we had excellent ballplayers enter our program."

After he resigned from Oklahoma Christian in 1983, Jerry went to the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Athletic Association, where he served as associate executive secretary for 13 years. He and Laura Beth (who coached volleyball at Oklahoma Christian for five seasons in the late 70s and early 80s) are now retired and live in Norman, Oklahoma.

"We really had the perfect situation at Oklahoma Christian. We had great administrative support and great faculty support. Our student body was strongly involved with the basketball program," Jerry said. "That's what made those eight years so fun - the relationships we made and the lifelong friends we have. We treasure those years at Oklahoma Christian."

by Dave Seat and Wes McKinzie