Dan Hays has worked with some of the biggest names in college basketball. It’s not a stretch to say that, if he wanted to, Hays could be a successful coach at an NCAA Division I school.
But he is right at home in the Eagles’ Nest, where he has worked since 1983 to build the Oklahoma Christian men’s basketball program into one of the NAIA’s best. Hays, who was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1998 and OC’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002, has led the Eagles to six Sooner Athletic Conference championships and eight national tournament berths.
In addition to almost 600 wins as OC’s coach, he has seen more than 90 percent of the seniors in his program complete their degrees. Hays also served as director of Oklahoma Christian’s acclaimed Cage Camp program from 1984 to 2006.
“Especially when I was younger, I liked to get to the office early to do my work and play basketball with my friends every day and teach and coach,” Hays said. “I felt like my niche was in small colleges. I love small-college basketball.”
Perhaps the greatest testimony to Hays’ influence is that more than 30 of his former players and assistant coaches have followed him into the coaching profession. One of his proteges is Sherri Coale, the head women’s coach at the University of Oklahoma.
“I learned so much about the game from him on a deeper level. I had a really unique opportunity in that I got to watch him rebuild that program,” said Coale, who played for the Lady Eagles the first year Hays was hired to coach the men’s team. “I didn’t know at the time what a neat thing that was to be exposed to. There’s a difference from starting and building a thing than to someone who’s just winning and winning.”