November 11, 1923 - September 30, 2012 OKLAHOMA CITY Coach Bob Stevens was born November 11, 1923 and passed away September 30, 2012 at the age of 88. Bob Stevens was the kind of person who loved a challenge. He had lifelong dreams fulfilled because of his persevering spirit. He is survived by his daughter Nancy Barcellus and granddaughter Christine Barcellus of Norman, Oklahoma; son Robert Stevens of Costa Mesa, California; nieces and nephews of Syracuse, Indiana. He was preceded in death by both parents and a sister Mary Stevens. Bob was born on a short horned cattle farm to musicians Alys and State Senator Floyd Stevens in Sydney, Indiana. He was a farm boy forming a work ethic that would continue throughout his life. While going to high school, each day before dawn he worked picking up large cans of milk from surrounding farms and delivered them to the dairy, then go home to do his chores before school. Of course he played Hoosier basketball. Their eighty foot cattle barn had basketball goals at either end where kids from all over came to play. Bob set and held a record at Sydney High for his fast play, scoring more points in less time than any other player. He dreamed of playing on the college level and was recruited by Michigan State College. His playing days were interrupted because of WWII. Always a competitor, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1942. He ended up overseas with one of the first Marine units to go into Nagasaki after the U.S. dropped the atom bomb. After the war he returned to Michigan State where he met Jo Bennigan an Indiana girl in a health science P.E. class. After graduation they were married and returned to Indiana in order to fulfill his dream of being a Hoosier basketball coach. They both worked at the same unified school in Milford, Indiana he as the all sports coach and she the first grade teacher. In 1952, since he remained in the US Marine Corps Reserve he was called up and deployed to the front lines of the Korean Police Action (war). After more than 30 years of service, he retired from the US Marine Corps reserves as a Colonel. Several years later the couple returned to their alma mater MSU where he completed his Master's degree. They were blessed with amazing children, Robert and Nancy. More good fortune unfolded, Bob became a graduate assistant freshmen coach under famed coach Pete Newell and thereafter assistant coach to Forddy Anderson. In 1957 the Michigan State Team went to the NCAA Final Four in Kansas City. They lost to North Carolina in a triple overtime game which spoiled their chance of playing Wilt the Stilt Chamberlain of Kansas University in the finals. This led to the fulfillment of another dream the head coaching position with the Gamecocks of South Carolina University. Gordie Stauffer another Hoosier and dear friend was his assistant. While coaching there he was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year. In 1962 Oklahoma's Bud Wilkinson hired Stevens to coach the Sooner Basketball team. Bob not only found a job but found a haven where he wanted to spend the rest of his life. He loved Oklahoma and its "great people". Gordie Stauffer, Bud Cronin, one of his South Carolina players and John MacLeod assisted him coaching O.U.'s team. There were changes in the style of basketball played in the old field house at O.U. As you entered the gym you immediately saw an oversized banner hanging from the scorer's table describing his fast break offense. It read Go, Go, Go!!! At a coaches' meeting Henry Iba put his arm on Bob's shoulder and said, "Son, you're not supposed to get up and down the court and have fun like you think you're going to do". Steven's players will attest to grueling arm strength fitness drills Stevens included and endless practices rebounding and throwing the ball to the wing man before their feet touched the deck, not allowing the defense to get set. The Sooners did win bedlam in what was known as "Henry's House". Bob ended his coaching career working for Henry Bebe and the Oklahoma City Cavalry. Henry called him "Go". In 1983 to 2003 Bob ran the Waterford Athletic Club in the Edmond area. He was working for the Oklahoma County Health Department until one month before he passed away, which is indicative of his enduring spirit. He especially enjoyed coaching, being with friends, music, flying and driving his boat, "Fast Break" on Lake Texoma. Everyone young and old knew him. He was referred to as the "Legend of the Lake". For more than 30 years he rarely missed a weekend with his beloved Lake Texoma family. "COACH" will truly be missed. Since a funeral was not desired, there will be a celebration on October 26, 2012 from 7pm - 9pm at the Hilton Garden Inn on Memorial Road in Oklahoma City.
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Published in The Oklahoman on Oct. 14, 2012