NORMAN, Okla. Former Oklahoma men's basketball standout Stacey King was on hand, albeit briefly, for OU's game against Texas A&M on Saturday, Feb. 17, as OU welcomed back more than 100 former players and coaches as part of its 100-year-celebration reunion weekend.
King, who announced the Missouri at Oklahoma State game earlier in the afternoon for ESPN Plus, arrived at Lloyd Noble Center with just minutes remaining and participated in postgame festivities. It marked his first trip back to Norman in more than a decade.
A consensus All-American in 1989 when he averaged 26.0 points and 10.1 rebounds a game, King also helped take the 1988 Sooners to the national title game. His 28.5 points per game led the NCAA Tournament that year. The left-handed center ranks as OU's No. 5 all-time scorer with 2,008 points and his teams posted a four-year 115-29 record, good for a .799 winning percentage.
SoonerSports.com caught up with King following OU's game against the Aggies and asked him a variety of questions, mostly about his time as a Sooner. His responses are below.
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On what he's doing these days:
"I live in Chicago with my wife and three sons - ages 15, 14 and 11. I'm in my third year as one of the analysts for the Chicago Bulls for Comcast SportsNet television and I'm also in my first year working with ESPN as a Big 12 analyst. Other than that, I'm just watching my kids grow up, coaching AAU teams in the summertime, staying busy with them and getting them going in the right direction."
On his time as a student-athlete at OU:
"I think my four years here were the best four years I could possibly have. Being a kid from small-town Lawton, Okla., it was a big deal coming to big university like this and to such a prestigious basketball program that Billy Tubbs had turned around. My experiences here really helped me prepare for what I was going to face when I left. I came here as a boy and I left as a man. The people I met here and my experiences here were invaluable. I look back at all the people that touched my life and all the things that I did to touch other peoples' lives and it's an amazing thing. I was transformed from an ugly duckling to a swan in my four years here. I can name so many guys before me - Alvan Adams, Al Beal, Gar Heard, David Little, Chucky Barnett - I can go on and on. It makes me feel good that my name can be mentioned in the same breath as the guys who came before me."
"I think about that game all the time. I've always said that if I could give one of my NBA championship rings away for an NCAA ring, I would. No one really knows how hard it is to win a national championship. It's one game and you're done. The best team doesn't always win and whoever is hot at the end of the season is probably going to be the team that wins it all. That year we had the best team and, in fact, we were one of the best teams in college basketball history. I'd say that team probably ranks somewhere in the top 20 of all-time in terms of talent and what we were able to accomplish. To not win a championship means we didn't validate how great that team was. If we play Kansas 10 times that year we beat them nine times. That particular night just didn't fall our way."
On what he remembers most about his playing days at OU:
"I remember the rivalries we had in the Big Eight with teams like Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma State. Beating Oklahoma State has always been a pleasure of mine because they were our rival, and they still are. Missouri could match up with us athletically. They were one of the top teams in the country at that time but we always found a way to beat them. The Big Eight was a prosperous league at the time. There were six or seven really good teams back then. Colorado, for example, was not as good but they were decent. They weren't a team that you could just walk in and beat up on - they could beat you on any given night.
"There were some great personalities that came through the league. Mitch Richmond, Danny Manning, before that Norris Coleman at Kansas State, (Steve) Stipanovich and (Jon) Sundvold at Missouri. I didn't play with some of those guys but I remember seeing them and they were the reasons I wanted to come play in the Big Eight. There were always great players. Wayman Tisdale came here and basically changed my whole thinking. I wanted to be like him. We were both similar. We were both scorers, both left-handed, both from Oklahoma. And we kind of changed the way Oklahoma basketball was played. We showed that big guys could score, could jump and could run."
On other Big Eight coaches:
"My favorite coach to play against was Larry Brown. I was in a recruiting battle with Kansas and Oklahoma when Larry came into my house with his assistants. He was giving me the rundown on why I should come to KU and was saying, 'We're going to win a championship, you're going to play with great players," blah, blah, blah. Then he said something about Oklahoma. 'If you go to Oklahoma we're going to kick your butt every time, you're never going to beat us.'
"That kind of rubbed me the wrong way because Billy Tubbs never said anything bad about Kansas. It was always, 'Come to Oklahoma, you're going to have fun, you're going to score a lot of points.' He never downgraded any other school I was considering. So after that I wanted to go to OU so I could beat Kansas every time.
On if it was tougher losing to Kansas in the national title game or to Virginia in the Sweet 16 in his final collegiate game:
"Ooh, that's tough. That's tough. I would say losing to Kansas because it was for the title. Virginia is a team that we beat in the Chaminade tournament the year before by 50 points, so to lose to them in a game like that was devastating. A lot of things in the Virginia game really hurt us. Mookie (Blaylock) got poked in the eye and couldn't see, I was getting quadruple-teamed. But to lose to KU in the national championship game was tough. That was for all the marbles."
On what it was like to play for Billy Tubbs:
"Playing for Billy was probably the most fun I had playing basketball, and that's including the pros. He allowed you to be yourself, he allowed you to have a personality. A lot of coaches try to harness you, they don't want you to have a personality and you can't be bigger than the team. His philosophy was to allow us to have our own characters. Everyone had a nickname and you were kind of like a superhero. You had 'Sky' King, Harvey 'The General' Grant, Ricky 'Amazing' Grace, 'Mookie' Blaylock.
"We had all these guys with nicknames and that's how people would identify with us. I'm still recognized more for my time in college than in the NBA. I go into these arenas for these Big 12 games now and people are shaking my hand and almost bowing down as if I was one of the greatest players."
On if he ever had any differences with Billy Tubbs:
"Playing for Billy was awesome. We did have some rough times, though, and I even thought about transferring after my sophomore year. He came up to me after our NCAA Tournament loss to Iowa and I had a great game against Pittsburgh the previous game with something like 19 points and 10 rebounds. He didn't play me much in the Iowa game and I was ticked off because I thought I deserved to play.
"We were on the plane on the way home and he sat down next to me. He said, 'Hey, I know you're upset, I know you're mad. You should be. But this is not your time. Your time will be next year. You've got a bright future. Just make sure you're wearing your sunglasses.' Then he got up and left. That didn't make me feel any better at the time because he's talking about next year and I'm mad about now. But then I thought about what he said and the next year I really took off. He came up to me my junior year and said, 'Are you wearing your sunglasses? I told you it was going to be bright.' That's one of my favorite memories of Coach Tubbs."
"It meant a lot to me. It was an emotional time. I got here with just a couple minutes left because I was announcing the Missouri-Oklahoma State game. Getting out there on the floor after the game with a lot of the guys I grew up idolizing was special. You look around the arena and see pictures of them and you see how many points they scored and so forth. Now they're older men. It was special. I hope the athletic department continues to do things like this. I hope we can bridge the gap between the present and the past, and continue to make it a strong link and a family atmosphere. Everyone coming from all over the place was remarkable. And there are a lot more who couldn't make it this time."
On OU head coach Jeff Capel:
"I've always fully endorsed his hire. I think he's one of the top coaches in college basketball and Oklahoma fans should feel really lucky to have him. He's got a positive attitude, he's going to change the personality of the team and he's going to make it fun to watch. And I'm going to do whatever I can to help and support him. I haven't always been able to say that over the years and I think some of the other alumni were kind of the same way. But now I think the alumni will get more involved with the program and make it more a family type of environment like you see with a Duke, a North Carolina, a Kentucky. Oklahoma basketball is just as important as those programs and has just as much history and as many memories. We're an elite program."