POSTED ON JANUARY 2, 2013:
A Year of Change
Looking back, looking forward
With 2012 now in the history books, it seems fitting we take a quick look back at Oklahoma sports from the past year. What began as a year of uncertainty and change became a year of progress and development for many of Tulsa's favorite sports organizations.
Here's a look back at the past year, and an idea of what to look forward to in 2013.
The Tulsa University football program enjoyed a great deal of success in 2012, as head coach Bill Blankenship continued to build on the highest winning percentage for a Golden Hurricane coach since the 1940s. Last year, Tulsa went 10-3 on the season and knocked off Central Florida in the Conference USA Championship Game to give Tulsa its fourth overall conference title and its first since 2008.
Not to be outdone by the success of the TU football program, TU basketball made significant changes in 2012 in hopes of returning the once proud program to glory. After a swift decline in attendance, an increasing lack of interest among Tulsa residents, and a seventh consecutive season without an NCAA tournament berth, the university began the year by firing former head coach Doug Wojcik. Just two weeks later, the school welcomed former University of Kansas standout and NBA All-Star Danny Manning as Wojcik's successor.
Despite a total overhaul of the program, Manning has led the Golden Hurricane to a respectable early season record of 7-5, including a dramatic 72-68 win over local rival Oral Roberts University for the PSO Mayor's Cup.
In a year that began with seemingly incessant mediocrity, the TU basketball program looks to be primed for a return to glory under the guidance of Manning.
2012 also saw the Major League Baseball debuts of two former Owasso High School stars, Baltimore Orioles pitcher Dylan Bundy and St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma. While Bundy saw only limited action for the Orioles, Kozma played an integral role in the Cardinals' postseason success, delivering in key situations in the National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals.
Prospects are bright for Kozma and Bundy, as well as a number of other local talents, including Broken Arrow's Archie Bradley, who continues to ascend through the ranks of the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. If the early success of these rising stars is any indication of things to come, Tulsans could have a lot to cheer for during 2013's MLB season.
In perhaps the biggest success story of the year, the Oklahoma City Thunder gave Oklahomans something they'd never experienced before, hosting two NBA Finals games against the Miami Heat back in June. Though the Thunder fell 4-1 in the best-of-seven series, their brush with the NBA's highest prize gave fans the feeling that something truly special had been assembled in a state that hadn't experienced major league sports until 2008.
Several months later, fans of the Thunder experienced another first. Only this time, it was the sad realization of the business side of professional sports that captivated fans, as one of the Thunder's key components, James Harden, was traded to the Houston Rockets.
Through a little more than a quarter of this season, however, the Thunder looks as if it hasn't missed Harden all that much, compiling the NBA's second-best record at 21-6. From the look of things, it seems as if Oklahoma may once again be hosting an NBA Finals showdown in 2013.
Unfortunately, 2012 wasn't a success for every local team. The Shock experienced their third consecutive losing season since moving to Tulsa. The 9-25 record did, however, mark the best record the WNBA franchise has experienced in Tulsa to date, and in 2013 the Shock will look to boost what has been a relatively slow building process.
The Tulsa 66ers also found themselves losing more often than not in 2012, amassing a 23-27 record and missing the NBA D-League playoffs for the first time since arriving in Tulsa.
This season, new head coach Darko Rajakovic looks to lead the Sixers back to the playoffs with the help of recent Thunder acquisitions Perry Jones III and Daniel Orton.
With such a successful parent club, the 66ers could be one of the most exciting local teams to watch in 2013.
Of course the biggest news in 2012 was the hiring and firing of Tulsa University Athletic Director Ross Parmley. Amidst allegations of gambling, Parmley was suspended indefinitely in November, before ultimately being fired by university president Steadman Upham.
Investigation into Parmley's gambling activities has linked the former athletic director to big-time Oklahoma bookie Teddy Mitchell. Additionally, the FBI was also informed former Tulsa Talons owner Paul Ross placed bets with Mitchell in 2011.
Needless to say, investigation of Mitchell's activity continues, and Parmley may not be the last big name added to his list of clients.
Hopefully, the organizations and personalities of Tulsa's sports scene can continue along the paths they began carving out in 2012.
For most local teams, 2012 marked the beginning of a renaissance, and with new leaders in place and new visions in sight, 2013 has the potential to be a special year.
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