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Tolin Family Adds to OBU Legacy

March 4, 2008

In 2000, Doug Tolin took the helm of the men's basketball team and his son Kyle came to play under him for four years and in 2006 became his assistant coach. After Kyle graduated in 2004, his sister Keely hit the court as a Lady Bison.

But it didn't start there for the father-son combination. Before coming to OBU, Doug coached at Norman High School, where Kyle played under his dad for three years.

"I had been around him and basketball my whole life, so I wasn't really nervous," Kyle said. "There was probably some added pressure feeling like you're the coach's son, you've got to prove you're good enough to be out there playing."

And he did prove himself, helping his team win the 6A state title in 1999 and finish second in 2000 while earning district and state honors, including playing in the 2000 Faith 7 Basketball Bowl.

With his dad as the coach, he didn't get those honors easily.

"I definitely think he was tougher on me when I played through high school and even through college," Kyle said. "There were times where if other kids were doing what I was doing, they probably weren't going to get yelled at or get in trouble or anything like that. And that's a part of being a coach's son, you kind of expect that."

Doug said it was hard trying to treat him like just any other player.

"I'm not sure you can do that," he said. "You want your own children to be successful and sometimes the way to be successful is for you to be more demanding of them, you be harder on them."

Keely agreed that Doug was harder on Kyle than any of the other players, even through college.

"I can remember when I was in high school and it was summer and they were having some kind of shoot-around," Keely said. "My mom and I were at home and my brother came home and we were like, 'why are you home so early?' And he was like, 'well, Dad sent me home because he said I wasn't working hard enough.' This was in the summer, so he just made him go home because he wasn't working hard enough. There were several times like that."

But once they got off the court, it switched from coach and player to father and son; the two didn't talk about basketball at home.

"Part of that was because my mom and sisters always took up for me," Kyle said. "They were always on my side, so he knew it was going to be four against one if he ever got too mad at me."

"He had people in his corner and that was fine, I understood why they were that way," Doug said.

After Keely got to watch her dad coach Kyle, would she want him to coach her, too?

"No. I saw all of what my brother went through and it was rough," she said. "Obviously, it worked out really well and they enjoyed it. But I don't know if I would want to play for him.

"He's so smart and he's such a good coach, but then he's not my coach, but he can still give me pointers or talk to me about stuff."

The move to OBU

Kyle originally signed to play with Sooner Athletic Conference rival Oklahoma Christian after being recruited by OC and OBU. Then OBU hired Doug for the coaching job and Kyle almost immediately decided to follow.

"It was no question whether I was going to stay there or not," Kyle said. "It obviously was a good fit here; he was going to be the coach. I'd known OBU basketball for a long time. I'd come to games and stuff like that."

The SAC waived the rule that students transferring between schools in the conference had to sit out a year to keep father and son on the same team. Good thing they stayed on the same team, too, otherwise they would have faced each other at least twice a year.

"I'm glad I didn't have to see it because that would have been horrible," Keely said. "It would have been really hard. They're much better on the same team, that's for sure."

Both Kyle and Doug had to adjust to the game at the collegiate level and a new team when they came in 2000. But some familiarity helped ease the transition for the Tolins and the team. Nate Boylan played on the state championship team with Kyle and started the next year as a Bison.

"That really helped us be able to get along, maybe faster than we should have," Doug said. "The other thing is, we didn't play a whole lot different and we ran a lot of the same stuff as Coach Hoffman did because he and I were pretty good friends."

Along with having Kyle and Boylan who knew the system, Doug said seniors Travis Burkhalter and Brent Ansel made a difference in having a successful season (25-9, second-place finish in the SAC, NAIA National Quarterfinals finish).

"A lot of it was those seniors, but I think it's fair to say that having guys that knew how you think the game ought to be played and the way to go about things was a factor, too," he said.

But the move from Norman to Shawnee wasn't easy for everyone.

"I was really mad," Keely said. "I told my dad that he was going to be commuting, there was no way I was moving. I loved it in Norman and I was about to start high school. But the best thing for our family was to move here."

Even for her, she said. At Bethel High School, she made it on the McDonald's All-State and Oklahoma Girls Basketball Coaches' Association All-State teams.

And still having Kyle around allowed the two to hit the gym together.

"We always played a lot and worked out together and shot and played H-O-R-S-E and stuff like that," Kyle said. "I never let her win. But she's got to where she's a really good player; she probably could beat me now."

Keely disagreed, saying that she won a few times.

"We always had a lot of fun working out together," she said. "I say always, but sometimes he's pretty hard on me, but it was good for me. We had fun."

Keely joins dad and brother at OBU

When it came time for Keely to choose a college to play for, OBU wasn't the lone option. She also looked at other SAC teams and some junior colleges.

"I didn't know where she'd end up and she ended up here and has played on good teams," said Doug. "That I'm able to see her play every Thursday and Saturday night, I'm pretty fortunate. If she'd been off someplace else, with our schedule, it'd be pretty hard to ever get to see her play. Deep down, I know how lucky we are."

For Kyle, getting to see Keely play was one of the reasons why he wanted to stay at OBU to coach. Kyle said he always knew he wanted to coach and after he graduated, he became the graduate assistant of the Bison after looking at several options and then in 2006 became the assistant coach under Doug.

After Kyle told his dad he wanted the assistant job, Doug said hiring him was not a matter of keeping family at OBU, but getting a good coach for OBU.

"When we looked at a new assistant coach, and we had several pretty good people get interested," he said, "I kept looking at it thinking why should I punish him for being my son? He knows more about this, he cares more about this program than anybody else would, he's willing to work, [and] he wants to be a coach.

"I came to the conclusion that I thought it was the right thing to do, not just for him or me, but for the program."

After all, Kyle ran the point under his dad for seven years, so he might know a thing or two about how Doug wants his team run. Kyle said that it has been a rewarding experience so far.

"I figured out pretty quick in coaching you've got to work for the right person," he said. "There are some guys out there that don't do things the right way, I don't think. It's been refreshing to know how hard he works and he works hard. I don't think people realize how hard [he works] and how smart he is."

With the men's and women's teams playing back-to-back most of the season, the family gets to watch each other's teams play. That 'most of the season' does not include the national tournament because the men play in Kansas City, Mo., and at the same time the women play in Jackson, Tenn. Since they can't watch the games, they listen to the broadcasts.

"It's difficult. And then I think of the alternative-if I'm in Jackson watching her play, then I'm really disappointed. I said I hope I never see her play in the national tournament," Doug said. "Luckily her mother goes; my parents have been able to go. It's worked out OK, she's had somebody there to watch and I'm able to listen to the internet broadcast and things like that, but it's not the same as being there, I know."

The Tolins have added to OBU basketball's storied tradition. The men's team under Doug and the women's team with Keely on it are a combined 311-96 (.764), 18-9 in 10 NAIA tournament appearances. Doug and Kyle's 2002 men's team reached the national championship game in 2002, losing to SAC foe Science and Arts of Oklahoma, and Keely's 2006 team equaled the program's best finish, making it to the quarterfinals.

Every OBU team with a Tolin on the squad or the bench has reached the national tournament, and this year doesn't look any different in Keely's senior season.