After 33 years under the same coach, the Oklahoma Christian University Athletic Department handed the keys to the men’s basketball program to former head coach Dan Hays’ successor, Cory Cole.
Cole, 44, is an Oklahoma Christian alumnus and former Eagle basketball player under Hays, joined university officials on Tuesday to announce his new role as the new men’s basketball head coach.
Following the announcement, President John deSteiguer said in a statement that not only does Cole’s coaching résumé make him a perfect fit for the job, but his character too.
“We had many strong local and national candidates for this head-coaching role,” deSteiguer said. “Cory brings strong Division I coaching experience, a great rapport with student-athletes and a very strong spiritual emphasis. All of this, and he was an OC hoops star not too many years ago. Coach Cole will be an excellent impact leader on the OC campus and for our basketball program.”
Cole, who married a former Oklahoma Christian soccer player, Cristi, said that filling the shoes of his former coach is a challenge he is eager to face.
“It’s a huge opportunity following Coach Hays, a legend,” Cole said. “I love that pressure, expectation and opportunity. Our goal is to be the best. I think I can come in and duplicate that success the Oklahoma Christian basketball program has accomplished in the past, but in my own way.”
According to junior guard Jordan Rutherford, Cole’s own experience on the court for Oklahoma Christian will bring a new energy to the team.
“Coach Hays is a living legend and following that is a tough act to follow,” Rutherford said. “I think Coach Cole will inject that passion and tenacity that he played with into us through his coaching and practices. Games and practices should be lit next year, which will definitely be more enjoyable to watch. Hopefully, it will translate into better results.”
After a short stint playing professionally in England, Cole opted out of his club contract to join Hays’ coaching staff as an assistant. A year later he moved to Oklahoma Christian Women’s Basketball Head Coach Stephanie Findley’s staff, where he served for 10 years.
Cole served as the associate head coach of the women’s basketball program for the past seven seasons at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, which is currently transitioning into NCAA Division I.
During his time at GCU, Cole specialized in recruiting, defensive coordination, player development and opponent scouting. Cole’s GCU ‘Lopes allowed only 58.7 points per game from their opponents in the 2014-2015 season, the lowest in the conference.
Success will come for the team through an active partnership between the players and the coach, according to Rutherford.
“Coach offers a fresh perspective and new life into the program, and now it’s just on us to go out there and get it done,” Rutherford said.
Cole said he understands what the university expects of him, and that his team will be ready to compete.
“The spotlight is on us every second,” Cole said. “Pressure, when you’re prepared, is not pressure. I wouldn’t go to OC if there wasn’t that expectation. Any coach in America wants to win.”