Billy Tubbs, former Oklahoma basketball coach, dies at 85
Mike Seals - November 1, 2020 11:06 pm
By CLIFF BRUNT
Billy Tubbs, the colorful coach with the high-octane system known as Billy Ball who brought Oklahoma basketball to prominence in the 1980s, died Sunday. He was 85.
Tubbs’ family said in a statement that he battled a form of leukemia since being diagnosed in 2015. The statement said he died peacefully surrounded by family. A news release from the University of Oklahoma said Tubbs died in Norman.
“Though his passing represents a tremendous loss for everyone close to him, our family is comforted by the knowledge he lived an extremely spirited life full of outstanding accomplishment in and out of sports,” the statement said.
Tubbs took over a struggling Oklahoma program in 1980. The Sooners reached the NCAA Tournament just once —- for most of those years, only the Big 8 champion went to the tournament — over the 32 seasons prior to Tubbs’ arrival and held a combined winning percentage of .471 from 1950 to 1980.
His fast-paced offenses and relentless full-court pressure defenses led to lots of scoring, excitement and wins. His 1987-88 team, featuring future NBA players Mookie Blaylock, Harvey Grant and Stacey King, was upset by Kansas in the NCAA title game. Tubbs also coached Wayman Tisdale, a three-time AP All-American and Olympic gold medalist.
Tubbs had a 333-132 record in 14 seasons at Oklahoma and was four time Big Eight Coach of the Year. In three seasons, the Sooners averaged more than 100 points per game.
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Coach Billy Tubbs,” Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said in a statement. “Billy is one of the most successful, popular and colorful figures in the history of OU Athletics. His passion and vision of the game defined an era of Sooner basketball and forever changed the trajectory of our hoops program.”
Tubbs coached at TCU from 1995-2002 and got the previously struggling program to the NCAA Tournament in 1998. He had two coaching stints at his alma mater, Lamar, and was athletic director there from 2002 to 2011.
In 2011, Lamar dedicated the basketball floor at the Montagne Event Center as “Billy & Pat Tubbs Court,” named in honor of the coach and his wife.
Overall, Tubbs had a 609-317 (.658) record as a Division I head coach. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.
Tubbs was head coach at Lamar from 1976 to 1980 and led the Cardinals to their first two NCAA Tournaments. He was Southland Conference Coach of the Year in 1978 and 1980, and his team reached the Sweet 16 in 1980.