Larry Callison had no desire of becoming a coach 42 years ago.
Hard to believe from a coach that has produced four state championships.
Even more difficult to believe from a recently selected hall of famer.
“I never wanted to be a coach when I started out,” he said. “I kind of got thrown into it right off the bat.”
Instead, Callison wanted to be a teacher, and when time allowed, tread hunting grounds and fling bait into the water.
That all changed. He became devoted.
“I went to the state tournament with my first team, so I was hooked,” he said.
That team was Gore, and Callison was just getting his feet wet at 22 years old.
Now, over four decades later, he’s positioned himself as one of the all-time greats and reached the pinnacle.
Nominated into the Oklahoma Girls Basketball Association Hall of Fame.
A selection into the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Two hall of fame inductions in the same year.
Impressive credentials from a coach that initially didn’t want to coach.
Callison was in elite territory before his arrival at Sequoyah High School in June of 2013.
He guided the Ketchum boys to a state championship in 1995.
He led three other teams to state runner-up finishes.
He compiled 753 wins and a .788 winning percentage with a 552-117 won-loss record as a boys coach and a 201-86 record on the girls side.
He went to 15 state tournaments, including a stretch of eight straight with the Ketchum boys, and he coached 13 All-Staters.
Established would be an understatement.
But his recent run as Lady Indians’ head coach as catapulted him to the mountaintop.
His three state titles in five years, including back-to-back championships in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, secured his hall of fame status.
Callison, who was on the OCA Hall of Fame ballot for three of the maximum five years before being elected, says being nominated has lingered in the back of his mind since his run at Sequoyah.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t something that I thought about, especially in the last several years,” he said. “The longer you’re in it, if you win a few state titles and have been there several other times, you think you have a chance of getting in.
“I think that’s the way every coach would want to end their career. I think I’ve done everything there is to do and I’ve gotten every award there is to get. This was the icing on the cake.”
“It’s been an unbelievable year, that’s for sure,” Callison added. “It’s been an unbelievable run here [Sequoyah]. It’s just been amazing.”
Looking back, it wasn’t the life journey he envisioned, but it was a choice he won’t soon forget.
“I’ve been in it now for almost 40 years so it’s just amazing how it’s all turned that way for me. The good Lord has been good to me, I can say that.”
Sequoyah Athletic Director Marcus Crittenden, along with the recommendation from superintendent Leroy Qualls, hit jackpot with the decision to hire Callison in 2013. It came during a scandalous time for the program.
“At the time when we were looking for a coach, our program really needed stability,” Crittenden said. “We had been through a rather tumultuous year and we needed a veteran coach who was available and would bring stability and immediate credibility to the position.
“I was still very new as an athletic director and didn’t have a very broad network of coaches that I knew. Mr. Qualls had known coach Callison for quite some time, in fact they coached some games against each other through the years. He had a lot of respect and admiration for his coaching ability. That’s where I first heard the name, Larry Callison. Mr. Qualls brought it up.”
Callison, who has also had other coaching positions at Eufaula, Stilwell and Boynton, fell into Sequoyah’s lap and the the program immediately reaped the benefits.
It was a good landing spot for Callison. It was a program with an already rich tradition.
“You’ve got to be at the right place at the right time and things have to happen for you,” Callison said.
Noteworthy numbers followed after his hire.
He guided the Lady Indians to records of 25-3, 23-6, 22-6, 27-3, and went 27-3 this past season. He has carried them to state tournament appearances in each of his five years, and has 124 victories, equating to an extraordinary 85.5 winning percentage.
“We’re very blessed to have coach Callison here,” Crittenden said. “We’re extremely fortunate that he chose to come this way in the first place, and he instantly did exactly what we were needing. He knows his stuff as a coach, cares about the kids and cares about the school. He knows how to push the right buttons.”
All of Callison’s accomplishments at Sequoyah nearly never happened.
He put the brakes on coaching in 2005 after two years at Boynton and was ready to retire.
He wanted to be on the golf course.
But he returned to coach at Eufaula from 2007-08, and then went back to Ketchum for a two-year stint in 2011-12 prior to his arrival at Sequoyah.
“He’s tried to retire two or three times,” Crittenden said. “Thank goodness he hasn’t stuck with any of them. He had a pretty good gig going into retirement that involved a golf course.
“We were able to persuade him both out of retirement and off the golf course.”
Callison believes he would be on the outside looking in had he not committed to take the Sequoyah position.
“If they hadn’t contacted me about this job, I would’ve never been in the hall of fame, especially for the girls,” he said. “The five years I’ve been here is the reason, no doubt, that I got into the girls’ hall of fame.”
Callison, currently sitting at 877 career wins, isn’t alone in his success as Lady Indians’ head coach.
He’s had the players, including All-State selections Jhonett Cookson (2015) and Cenia Hayes (2017), and the support staff.
“There’s a lot that goes on in building a strong program,” he said. “It’s not all about the players and the head coach. When you’re winning and winning state titles there’s got to be all of those other things behind the scenes that goes into it, from [assistant coach Jon Minor] to all of the things the parents do.
“You have to have those people in the background to give you what you need to coach. Everybody here does their job extremely well. It’s a family atmosphere and we kind of look at in that way. If you can have that, a lot of good things can happen.”
Crittenden and Qualls made the splash hire, and Callison delivered a winning formula to rescue the program.
The perfect blend of resources at Sequoyah and a competitive fire to win has opened hall of fame doors to Callison’s journey.
“I don’t take losses very easily,” Callison said. “I’m a competitor and I want to win, that’s what it’s all about.
“I went from 1995 to 2015 between state championships. I never thought I would win one in the first place, and then I never thought I would win another.”
He also didn’t think he would ever become a coach.