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Lincoln Riley Interview (5-8-20)

The Drive with Josh Graham / Josh Graham
The Truth Network Radio
May 8, 2020 3:48 pm

Lincoln Riley Interview (5-8-20)

The Drive with Josh Graham / Josh Graham

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May 8, 2020 3:48 pm

Lincoln Riley Joined The Drive with Josh Graham to discuss learning under Bob Stoops, how close Baker was to transferring to East Carolina after Texas Tech, and where he would play Michael Jordan on a football field.


Me and Lincoln Riley go way back and the head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners now joins us. And coach, I actually shared this story with Coach Rule last week about the first time he had appeared on my radar screen.

It was 2014. You and I were both at East Carolina. The team was ranked and you told me after a late Sunday practice, listen, this guy has something.

He knows defense. And I'll admit, I rolled my eyes merely just looking at Temple's record at the time. But anyway, of course, you were talking about Matt Rule. And of course, Temple pulled off the upset that weekend. And six years later, here I am just to tell you that you were right.

He's done a great job. You could tell in his early years there that they were really progressing, recruiting well. We caught him on probably the worst day ever to play him.

It was a freezing, driving rainstorm. And we didn't play very good. And they played pretty good.

And you could tell they're very well coached. And then, yeah, it's been fun to know him, compete against him in this league. And I'm sort of excited for him with his opportunity with the Panthers.

As you mentioned, five years after that, you guys are competing in the Big 12 championship game this past season. With him being the coach of the Panthers, what do you think from his college resume will translate well? And what do you think he will most have to adapt to? Well, Matt's a good communicator. I think he's organized, has a way about him.

I think he's a good leader. He's obviously spent some time in that league. So I think he's going to do very well.

Obviously, I think it's such a quarterback driven league that the success of Bridgewater and how that all unfolds will be important. He obviously drafted a bunch of really good defensive players. So I know he's going to certainly try to build up that side of the ball as much as he can. But he's got a good start. He's got a really good owner, a great city to do it in. He's got probably the best tailback in the league. And so that's always a good start.

So it'll certainly be fun to see them as they progress. You started there with quarterbacks. And speaking of that, you've had your fair share with Oklahoma.

But there's one rumor I've heard you. Maybe it was Baker Mayfield talking about in regard to your North Carolina days that I want to get to the bottom of. Baker said you almost convinced him to transfer to East Carolina. How close was that to actually happening?

I don't know how close it got. We had some conversations about it. But I think when Baker made his mind up to leave Texas Tech, he was pretty well set on going to Oklahoma. So we had some, I think, intriguing points to him.

But I don't know that that was ever going to trump him going to his dream school. With the last dance documentary dominating much of the sports consciousness the last month or so, we've explored many different angles to the Michael Jordan story. We've recently had Roy Williams on, Hornets coach James Borrego, heck former suite mates with Michael back at Carolina. And I think you have a neat angle here.

Oklahoma is one of just four FBS schools to wear the Jump Man logo. Because of that, have you had a chance to chat with Michael? I haven't. We've had a lot of fun connecting with all of their staff. They've done a tremendous job.

I know there's been some talks of getting that done or getting in down here for a game. But they've been great. It's been a great partnership. It's a tremendous brand. Our players have loved it. They've really done a great job of taking care of our players and staff.

And it's certainly been cool unveiling it and kind of celebrating that with this last dance, which by the way has been absolutely phenomenal. I hear coaches, high school, college, heck even pro, trying to keep their players engaged when they can't be exactly with them at the moment with this documentary. I mean college kids with branding and that seems to be a buzzword the last 10 to 15 years with professional sports at it's even bleeding down the college. Kids think that they're automatically going to be on campus and they're going to be the guy or stepping into an organization. Michael's mentality when you see this guy feeling slighted all the time and his level of determination, are there ways you can try to reach your players through this docu-series that has again dominated much of the consciousness in sports?

No question. I think there's so many lessons from it. Obviously Michael's a very gifted athlete but his success goes so much beyond that. His immediate success, his ability to consistently perform, his ability to block out all the different distractions that were going on when you're a celebrity of that magnitude and still consistently playing a high level, it's pretty amazing. The guy's mindset is determination. He was kind of new school in some ways but as a competitor and his toughness, his mental toughness, he was very old school.

It was almost kind of the perfect combination. I think he's a great example for anybody not just people in athletics of the kind of mindset, how competitive you have to be, how focused you have to be day in and day out no matter who you are. Episode 7 and 8 of The Last Dance Doc going to air this weekend. Lincoln Riley, the head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners with us here on Sports Hub Tryin'. I know you love hoops.

I've seen you courtside at Oklahoma City Thunder's games. You once told me you and Coach Stoops would have put Russell Westbrook at free safety if he played football. But who is your guy, like following NBA or college basketball, who's Lincoln Riley's favorite basketball player? Michael is for sure. Certainly of all time there's no question in my mind. I think he's the best there's ever been because of a lot of the reasons we stated. He's my favorite. I certainly was a big Kobe fan.

Always loved the way he played for a lot of the same reasons. Currently in the NBA, there's a lot of guys that are fun to watch. I'm still certainly a fan of the NBA, excited about some of these new young players that have come into the league. But the era of Michael and Kobe and then Magic, Bird, all those guys, it's just so tough to top.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss those days just a little bit. Do me a favor, Coach Riley. The next time NBA basketball games are allowed to have fans in the stands, find a way to watch Zion Williamson.

You need to do it. He's awesome. He's awesome. He's one of my few guys that I follow.

I like the way he carries himself. If he can stay healthy, he's got a chance to be pretty special. And being behind the scenes on it, covering him at Duke, his one year there, I can tell you everything you've heard, it's even better than that.

And David Cutcliffe, he was with us. I think he said kind of like you were noting with Russell Westbrook, if he had him on a football field, if Coach K allowed that to happen, he would have put him at defensive end. It just would be game over without a doubt. But since Jordan was your guy, prime Jordan, where does he go on a football field? Because MJ is the type of guy, hey, maybe if it wasn't baseball, it might have been basketball. Or it might have been football, excuse me. Yeah, yeah.

No, gosh, a lot of places. I mean, I think the guy would have been an elite receiver. I think another guy that you put back there at free safety and just how physical and tenacious he was, smart, cerebral.

Yeah, there'd be a lot more places you could put him than the opposite, for sure. Reflecting back on your days at East Carolina, before we let you go, I'll let you add on this. What do you think was the greatest lesson you learned transitioning from being the youngest offensive coordinator at FBS when you were hired by Ralph McNeil to then being groomed to be a head coach in your few years as the OC for Bob Stoops at Oklahoma? What do you think, as you reflect back, was the greatest lesson you learned from your North Carolina stint?

Well, I would say just probably the ability to adapt. I think we had different skill sets at East Carolina than we had at Texas Tech or than we've had at Oklahoma relative to our competition. You've got to find your recipe for winning, and that can be different in a lot of ways. I think it challenges in your way as a coach to adapt.

Then also, I would say, I think, as a coach, you're always trying to, like any player or anybody else in this, you're trying to put yourself in the best situation you possibly can. Being able to get really good players and have great staff rounds is important, but having the alignment of the administration, the alignment of a community, of the school, all those things matter if you're going to be really good. We had a tremendous run there at East Carolina where I felt like we had a lot of those things.

Those stands were full. We had a great AD and Terry Holland. We had a lot of support that was really tremendous, and it was a fun run. I hated to see it in the way it did, but I'm also certainly excited about where this thing's headed right now with Coach Houston and Donny Kirkpatrick and a bunch of those guys that we were able to coach with. We always watch East Carolina when we can.

We always keep up, always check the score right after our games, and excited to see them have a chance to build that thing up back to where it rightfully should be. Two memories that stick out mostly for me. You're walking off the field with Chancellor Ballard after hanging 70 on North Carolina, and I think it was you or a guy next to me who said that you put up 789 yards in that game, and you kind of, your eyes kind of dilated. They got big because that number, it's just massive. 70 points.

I don't think you ever expect to do that. And then Virginia Tech, I was just trying to get down and get interviews or whatever, but I didn't know they were holding the elevator for coaches, so you knock off Virginia Tech, who was ranked at the time, and you storm into the elevator, and then it was you and Coach Nickel who turned around and just said, what the hell are you doing here? Yeah, those were two good ones, no doubt. We had a lot of great victories for those years, but being able to win the big one there against Carolina the way we did at the Dowdy Shook on was a lie. And then the Virginia Tech one to me will probably always be my favorite, just because we had a hard time getting over the hump against those guys, and they had just beat up on Ohio State the week before, and to win that one in Blacksburg was certainly probably the pinnacle of our time there, in my opinion.

It was a monster win for our program, and we had a great celebration. Coach, I don't think we've had you on the new show and the Triad, parts of the Triangle as well, where I know there's a strong portion of Pirate Nation residing. Thank you for making the time. It's appreciated. Of course, Josh. Great visiting with you. Got it. See you, Coach.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-11 23:46:53 / 2023-02-11 23:51:44 / 5

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