By BEN JOHNSON
Retirement in Claremore was suiting Larry Callison just fine. That was until he received a call from Sequoyah superintendent Leroy Qualls and athletic director Marcus Crittenden.
There was a pitch made to Callison about becoming Sequoyah’s new girls basketball coach. That led to Callison taking on slightly more responsibility during his retirement phase.
On Monday, Callison was named Sequoyah’s new girls coach, taking over for interim coach Larry Shade. The school announced the hiring on Tuesday.
“I talked to Leroy Qualls about the job, and I didn’t even know about it,” Callison said. “I thought it sounded exciting, and now I’m excited about the challenge.”
Callison, 58, takes over at Sequoyah after having been out of coaching last season. He had spent two seasons (2010-2011 and 2011-2012) at Ketchum — where he also coached from 1985 to ‘97) — coaching the boys before his son, Grant Callison, took over. In 28 years of coaching both boys and girls basketball, Larry Callison sports a 743-205 mark.
“We’re excited to have Coach Callison join our coaching staff,” Crittenden said in a statement released by the school. “His credentials are outstanding. He has high expectations for our girls, both on and off the court. We are confident that his style of coaching and depth of experience are a good fit for our team.”
Callison will take over a Sequoyah club that went 20-9 during the 2012-2013 season. The Lady Indians also made it to the Class 3A state tournament before being eliminated by Adair in the first round.
The only player that won’t return for Sequoyah next season will be Courtney Jones, who graduated and is set to attend Crowder College (Mo.). Four starters, Loren Young, Audrey Ballou, Kelsey Leach and Baylee Ratliff, will return as will Feather Pacheco, Jakkie Wright, Taylor Owl and Tahlequah transfer Jhonett Cookson — who will be eligible to compete in February.
“The right mixture is there,” Callison said. “There are some good, quick kids. We have some guards, and we’ll have a couple of post girls that can play.”
And much like Sequoyah teams of recent memory, Callison’s team will employ a quick tempo and press a vast majority of the time.
“My philosophy has always been an up-tempo game,” Callison said. “We’ll get up and down the court and do some pressing. We should be pretty deep and could go nine or 10 deep, if we have to.”
As for Shade and his role with Callison as the new coach, Crittenden said assistant coaching assignments had not been decided upon yet. Callison, though, was quite certain of one of the assistants on his staff.
“Cassie Moore will definitely be my assistant,” Callison said. “And John Minor, an assistant on the boys team and who played for me at Stilwell, has helped fill me in on the girls that are returning.”
While he’s geared up about his new coaching gig, Callison did say his new venture does have a down side.
“I live in Claremore — that’s the only bad part,” he said. “But I don’t have to be there until the afternoon.”
Callison said he’ll still be retired and direct the girls basketball team while being a lay coach — a non-fulltime employee of the school.
“I don’t know how long they’ll want me,” Callison joked, “and I guess that’s the advantage of being retired.”
Callison’s first order of duty this summer is taking his team to camps across the state.
“Right now, the problem is just getting adjusted,” Callison said. “I likely won’t get many of the players until after softball, but we’ll go to Oklahoma State camp and others.”
Come the wintertime of 2013-2014, Callison will have a choice to make. Sequoyah is slated to take on Ketchum, so Callison will be forced to choose a side with his son coaching against the Indians.
“That’s a good question,” Callison said when asked who he would cheer for. “However, I do know blood is thicker than water. It’ll be interesting going back there after spending several years of my career there.”