New Oklahoma State basketball coach Steve Lutz embraces Cowboys’ tradition

Published 3:14 pm Friday, April 5, 2024

By Cliff Brunt, The Associated Press

New Oklahoma State basketball coach Steve Lutz embraces the expectations that come with leading a program that has won two national titles and featured Hall of Fame coaches Henry Iba and Eddie Sutton.

The Cowboys have reached six Final Fours, but none since 2004. The 51-year-old Lutz looks to carry the banner as Oklahoma State tries to recapture its past glory.

“We have lofty, lofty goals,” Lutz said Thursday during an introductory news conference at Gallagher-Iba Arena. “Legends have played on this court. Legends have practiced on this court. Legends have coached on this court. And I understand the importance of all of that. And I absolutely understand the magnitude of being the steward of this program. And I don’t take it lightly.”

Lutz takes over for Mike Boynton, who was fired after going 119-109 in seven seasons, including a 12-20 mark this past season. The Cowboys reached only one NCAA Tournament under Boynton as he dealt with the fallout from an NCAA investigation. Athletic director Chad Weiberg thanked Boynton for leading Oklahoma State through the COVID-19 pandemic and the infractions case.

Lutz was an assistant under Purdue’s Matt Painter and Creighton’s Greg McDermott – two of the top coaches in the college game over the past decade. After that, he spent two years as head coach at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and a year at Western Kentucky, compiling a 69-35 overall record and reaching the NCAA Tournament all three years.

Lutz plans to keep his run of success going by drawing upon his experience turning programs around. Western Kentucky went 17-16 in 2022-23 and 22-13 this season. The Hilltoppers won their first Conference USA title and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013.

“That was a tremendous time period in my life, and those guys invested in me and they invested in our program like none other,” Lutz said. “And with that being said, we were able to take that and turn that into excellence. And that’s got to be our our goal here. This program has done it before.”

Before taking over at Western Kentucky, he made Texas A&M-Corpus Christi one of the nation’s most-improved teams in 2021-22, jumping from 5-19 to 23-12 and ending a run of four straight losing seasons.

Now, Lutz could make his mark leading a big-name program. He said he would need help and appealed to fans to show up at games and support the team. Attendance has suffered in recent years at a venue historically known for being among the loudest in the Big 12.

“If we’re going to get there and when we’re going to get there, Gallagher-Iba has to be the fiercest place in the Big 12 Conference to play, and that does not start without the support of you guys and the support of our students,” Lutz said. “And so I challenge our students to be at every single game and be loud and be proud.”

The way Oklahoma State plays will change significantly. Under Boynton, the Cowboys were defense-oriented and often slowed the tempo. Lutz considers himself a defensive coach, but he likes his teams to shoot in the first 12 seconds of the shot clock if the defense isn’t set. Western Kentucky led the nation in adjusted tempo this season while leading Conference USA with 80.6 points per game.

“At the end of the day, I would like to be aggressive,” he said. “I’ve always been aggressive in everything that I do.”