By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
For 25 years, Glencoe boys basketball coach John Lazenby has been chasing one thing — the gold ball.
Lazenby has had his fair share of chances to take home the gold ball, even getting a chance to hold one after Agra won it in 2008 — a year after he left for Glencoe.
“I left Agra in 2007 and then the following year they actually won the gold ball,” Lazenby said. “I went in the locker room afterward and I touched and kissed their gold ball, then I said, ‘Guys, this will be the closest I ever get to one of these.’”
But after 25 years of chasing a dream that always seemed just out of reach, that dream finally came true this past year as Glencoe won it’s first state championship since 2006.
“I’ve been in the State Fair Arena and watched the gold ball ceremony so many times that I couldn’t even begin to guess how many times,” Lazenby said. “To finally get to experience it, I’m extremely blessed.
“When you set your goals high and then you achieve those goals, it’s kind of a surreal experience. ... It’s just one of those things you wish everybody could experience at one time as a player or coach. I’ve been chasing this gold ball for 25 years and when you finally reach that goal it’s like ‘Wow!’”
It’s often said that some things are worth the wait — and that was definitely the case for Lazenby. While the game is still a blur in his mind — a whirl of whistles, buzzers and plays — Lazenby said when the final buzzer sounded and the team dogpiled on the court it was exactly like he pictured it.
“It’s hard to explain,” Lazenby said “But it’s a humbling experience because you think back to all the coaches you’ve encountered — great coaches who have achieved this and great coaches that haven’t. It just makes you humble to experience something like this.”
Even more humbling is the fact that Lazenby can’t go anywhere without somebody recognizing him and what he and his team has done for the tiny town of Glencoe.
“I saw some of my friends from back home and everybody was just congratulating me,” Lazenby said. “I know in small-town Oklahoma — Class A and B — basketball and the school is the center of the community. When you have almost 100 schools that are chasing a gold ball, when you obtain one it’s a huge thing for the whole community.”
It’s that sense of pride and community that kept Lazenby coming back year after year, despite the heartbreak. It’s also that sense of pride that has him already looking ahead to next year.
“I’d always told everybody that if I would have ever won a gold ball, I would think that would be the time that I’d step down and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to quit while I’m on top,” Lazenby said. “The funny thing about it is like I was telling coach (Stephen) Castlebury and coach (Allen) Hick. It just shows how greedy as people we can be. I told them, ‘Now that I’ve got one, you know what I want?’ and they said, ‘Another one.’ That’s exactly what I want.”
And after getting his first taste of his own gold ball this season, Lazenby is just hoping it won’t be another 25 years before he kisses his next gold ball.