By Derek Brown
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Clay Stephens has never been a part of a school the size of Stillwater, even when he was in high school. Earlier this year Stephens was named the new head coach of the Lady Pioneer's basketball team.
The change from a much smaller school in Frontier to a large school in Stillwater is the biggest one for Stephens.
“I went to a small school myself when I was a youngster in high school. Stillwater is by far the biggest high school I've been at,” Stephens said.
The new coach had won three state titles with Frontier before moving to Stillwater. Before his time at Frontier he was at Hennessey where he lead his team to be a runner-up and also made two state tournament appearances.
“I'm very grateful that I've been given the opportunity here at Stillwater,” Stephens said.
Stephens took over the position after Carl Treat resigned. Treat left the Lady Pioneers with a 13-10 record in his final season.
“Coach Treat has done a good job here for several years,” Barnard said. “I know that’s hard for everybody and it was hard for him to make that decision, but it was just something he felt like it was time for.”
Stephens was on a high-note when he came to Stillwater after having a 23-6 season that ended in the state quarterfinals with Frontier.
“When you have somebody who has experienced that kind of success, he can lead the girls through it,” Stillwater athletic director Tucker Barnard said. “He knows what to expect before it happens. He knows some of the pitfalls that come with success. I think he’s going to know some of the obstacles and how to avoid some of those obstacles. It’s just a great opportunity for our girls.”
On top of dealing with a young group of players, Stephens is coming from a class where one outstanding player can make or break a team. The challenge may have been the selling point for the former Frontier coach.
“I’ve been at Frontier for 12 years and it’s gone pretty well,” Stephens said. “As a coach, you’re looking for the next challenge. For me, it’s Class 6A. Can I do that? Will my system work at that level? It’s also a challenge. Coaches are competitive people. I want to be able to go to that level, compete and hopefully be successful. Frontier’s been good, but coaches are always looking for that next challenge and that’s what kind of attracted me to it — just thinking, ‘Let’s go give that a try. Let’s go see if we can do that.’”
Stephens may be venturing to the big city, but he will not be completely lost. Assistant coach Kendra League will remain on the staff, helping to bridge the gap between the old regime and the new one.
“Coach League, who was the assistant for coach Treat,” Stephens said. “I remember her playing in high school. I coached against her, so I’ve known her for a long time. In this transition process, she’s been very helpful.”