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Boomer Bio: Patty Gasso
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Inside look at OU's softball coach
Twelve years ago, Patty Gasso was sitting in her Long Beach City College office, wondering if that was all there was to her softball coaching career. After five successful junior college seasons, the young coach was starting to get complacent, a little bored and was looking for a new challenge.
Gasso had never promised herself she would land a Division-I coaching job someday. Then again, she couldnâ€™t see herself spending the rest of her coaching career at the junior college level, either.Â
So Gasso decided to make a trip to the College World Series in Oklahoma City. When she pulled into Hall of Fame Stadium, she suddenly found herself talking to Marita Hynes, an associate athletics director for the University of Oklahoma.
â€śI knew that OU was a program that if there was a way they could get to the World Series, they would do wonderful things for the sport and bring people out,â€ť Gasso said. â€śThat was me as a spectator just thinking that.â€ť
The conversation eventually turned into an interview, which eventually turned into a job offer. So Gasso picked up her family and moved her very pregnant self to Norman.
When she arrived in October â€” two weeks before signing day â€” she found little to build on. Armed with little history and a set of public park fields the Sooners called their home â€śstadium,â€ť Gasso went to work.
One brick at a time.
â€śThey played at Reaves Park. They had no facilities,â€ť Gasso said. â€śThe coach that was the interim before me left me with absolutely nothing and a very small list of players they were sort of recruiting. I wasnâ€™t left with any kind of history or direction or anything.
â€śIt was really me having to figure out what the needs where and how I am supposed to fill these needs on such late notice.â€ť
Somehow, with help from Hynes, Gasso slowly pieced things together.
Nearly 12 years later, the veteran coach has done more than her fair share of filling all of those needs. A national championship and 11 straight postseason appearances have helped mold the OU softball program into a national power.
â€śThe time has gone by way faster than that,â€ť laughed Gasso on the eve of her 12th season at the helm. â€śI donâ€™t relate to it.â€ť
Without a doubt, Oklahomaâ€™s 2000 national championship was a major turning point for the program. From that first appearance, the Sooners have been to five of the last six Womenâ€™s College World Series.
â€śI donâ€™t think there is anything that can change your life any more in coaching â€” from recruiting to just knowing you did it,â€ť Gasso said. â€śIt just opens up new respect from the softball community. Fans are so thrilled that money starts coming more toward your program. You get new facilities or additions to your facilities.â€ť
Now those coaching clinics that Gasso once sought out during the summer in her junior college days are the same ones that feature her as the main speaker.
A lot more of those engagements will be waiting if she can craft this yearâ€™s version of the Sooners into a title contender.
Ten of 18 players on OUâ€™s current roster are underclassmen. Pitching ace Kami Keiter, who won 32 games last season, was lost to graduation, and for the first time in a long time, Gassoâ€™s team has more questions than answers.
â€śThe last eight or nine years, Iâ€™ve pretty much known what to expect,â€ť Gasso admitted. â€śThis year is kind of a year of unsettled anticipation. I donâ€™t have any idea what is going to happen this first month. I know the talent. I know weâ€™re learning a lot. I know we have great potential.
â€śI just donâ€™t know who it is weâ€™re going to be counting on.â€ť
A game program will be handy this year. No big names are leftover from those past tournament teams. As February began, the Sooners had no less than five pitchers vying for the title of starter.
Senior Nicole Denes was the odds-on favorite to claim the spot, but she has been pushed hard by sophomores Stacy Braddock and Jadyn Smith.
The Sooners will likely be rough defensively early on, but Gasso likes the makeup of her team.
And more than a decade into the deal, Gasso sees no signs of complacency.
â€śI guess what Iâ€™m going to be looking for is when Iâ€™m not effective any more, when Iâ€™m not getting my point across,â€ť Gasso said of what the future holds for her. â€śRight now, I feel like Iâ€™m still learning and feel like Iâ€™m in the prime of my career. Really, wanting to win another national championship is what I want to do.â€ť
(Editor''s Note: This story appears in the Feb. 2006 issue of Sooner Spectator.)