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Longtime Oklahoma coach Billy Tubbs dies at 85 after cancer battle

Ryan Young
·Writer
·3-min read

Longtime Oklahoma and TCU basketball coach Billy Tubbs died on Sunday morning after a lengthy battle with cancer, his family announced through the program.

He was 85.

Tubbs had entered hospice care earlier this week near Lake Texoma on the Oklahoma-Texas border. He had been diagnosed with leukemia in 2015.

“Though his passing represents a tremendous loss for everyone close to him, our family is comforted by the knowledge he lived an extremely spirited life full of outstanding accomplishment in and out of sports,” his family said in a statement, in part.

“Many are aware of his remarkable achievements as a basketball coach, but we will remember him for way more than all of his wins, conference titles and NCAA tournament success. He was a fierce competitor in everything he faced, and that was never more evident than in his final days.”

Tubbs led Oklahoma to 4 Big 8 titles, Final Four

Tubbs got his start at the collegiate level with Lamar, where he spent four seasons in the 1970s. He led the Cardinals to three Southland Conference titles and two NCAA tournament appearances before jumping to Oklahoma in 1980.

The Tulsa, Oklahoma, native had just one losing season with the Sooners, finishing his first year with a 9-18 record in the Big 8 Conference. He then led them on a remarkable stretch, winning four regular season conference titles, three conference tournament titles and reaching the NCAA tournament nine times before he left in 1994.

Tubbs also led the Sooners on a Final Four run 1988. After knocking off Arizona in the semifinals, Oklahoma fell just shy of the championship to Kansas.

After the 1993-94 season, Tubbs landed at TCU, where he stayed until 2002. They won one WAC regular season title and reached the NCAA tournament in 1998.

He then returned to Lamar for three final seasons before retiring in 2006 with a 609-317 overall record. Tubbs also served as Lamar’s athletic director, too, and helped bring back football to the school.

“The love expressed by his former players and staff members has been amazing and is a reflection of how he coached,” his family said. “He had been gone from the University of Oklahoma since 1994, but it’s hard to express how much our family has always revered and continues to love OU. Just last night, he was wearing his ‘Cheer Like a Champion’ shirt while watching the football team’s big win.

“Wherever Billy Tubbs was, he made it the best he possibly could. And we know that’s true right now, too.”

Former Oklahoma coach Billy Tubbs
Head coach Billy Tubbs of the Oklahoma Sooners looks on against the James Madison Dukes during a game on January 5, 1991, at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. Tubbs coached at Oklahoma from 1980-94. (Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

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