By JASON ELMQUIST
STILLWATER — The best coach out on the floor Saturday in Gallagher-Iba Arena had just five players with him — Eddie Sutton.
Perhaps it was the worst time to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Oklahoma State’s Final Four team during halftime of Bedlam.
Having the ex-Cowboy coaching great and former players like Joey Graham, John Lucas and Tony Allen on the court was a stark reminder to how far Oklahoma State’s program has fallen these days.
Oklahoma State has seen a player dismissed after being arrested twice — once for possession of marijuana and another “outraging public decency” — in just over a month’s span. One week to the day after Stevie Clark’s second arrest, NBA prospect Marcus Smart was suspended three games following an incident in which he shoved a fan late in a game at Texas Tech.
And now, a team that had preseason hopes reminiscent of the 2003-04 Cowboy crew that reached a Final Four in Texas lost it sixth straight — seventh of its last eight — and this year’s Final Four in Dallas is growing to look like a distant dream.
Since that special run with several NBA-caliber players — with Allen and Lucas still in the league — Oklahoma State has earned four tournament berths. The program hasn’t even made it to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament since the 2004-05 campaign.
That sad stat will no-doubtedly be extended another year with OSU’s steady decline nearing the end of the season.
Under Cowboy coach Travis Ford, Oklahoma State is 1-3 in the NCAA tournament and 1-1 in the NIT — with one year not even receiving a postseason invite.
Sadly, everybody is to blame for the current state of the program. From players being dismissed or suspended, to coaching (whether it be current or predecessor), to a lack of dedication by an OSU fan base that couldn’t even fill an arena for its hated rival — all of which shines on the program poorly across the country.
But quite possibly the saddest revelation of the disarray of the Oklahoma State program, is that there are student-athletes in this program that bleed orange no matter the circumstances, and they don’t get nearly the praise they should during these hard times.
Sitting behind the Cowboy bench Saturday was post player Michael Cobbins, who has been sidelined since early January when he tore an Achilles tendon to end his season. Decked in orange, the redshirt junior from Amarillo, Texas, was barking out directions to teammates on defense — even though it would be impossible for them to hear at the other end of the court.
Walk-ons like Christien Sager and Mason Cox, who recently found himself in the limelight for his performance in a blowout at Texas, are still diving for loose balls, going up for blocked shots, sacrificing their bodies for the Orange and Black uniforms they wear.
Then there’s senior Markel Brown. Poised to be one of the first of his family to graduate from college, Brown returned to OSU to not only finish his degree before going to the NBA but also with the hopes of having a special senior season possibly ending at the Final Four. Now the highlight-reel ready to happen looks beat up, worn down by a season that can’t seem to end soon enough.
Perhaps for the program to start it’s turnaround it shouldn’t start with the removal of its coach as countless OSU fans have expressed on social media, but instead with the fans themselves. Make Gallagher-Iba Arena a place of pride because it’s filled to the brim even during the lowest of lows, instead of just adding to the national perception that all seems lost with the men’s basketball program at Oklahoma State.
Do it for the players that are out on the floor, wearing uniforms that don the name of your favorite university, or your alma mater, or your current college. Do it for Oklahoma State.