By Murray Evans
OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 27, 2013) – Those who sat in Mike Gipson’s biology classes at Oklahoma Christian will appreciate the tongue-in-cheek humor he used in explaining how he set the university’s career scoring record for men’s basketball during the 1960s.
“I shot a lot,” Gipson said. “When I was a sophomore, we were playing at Midwestern (State) early in the season and (then-coach Haskell) Sinclair said to me, ‘Gipson, you set a school record tonight.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘For shots attempted.’ I had shot 28 times. So I shot a lot.”
A lot of those shots went in, so many that Gipson, who played from 1962 to 1966, finished his career with 1,472 points – which was the school record until Dwayne Williams broke it in 1980. Gipson also was a top baseball player in the early days of Oklahoma Christian athletics before going on to a long career as an OC professor.
It took a while, but those accomplishments on the hardwood and the diamond have earned Gipson OC’s highest athletic honor – selection for the OC Athletic Hall of Fame. Gipson and five others will formally be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Feb. 8.
The 6-foot-6 Gipson was one of the foundation student-athletes upon which then-athletic director Ray Vaughn helped build the fledgling athletic program at OC, which didn’t begin competition as a four-year institution until the 1961-62 academic year.
Growing up in Jonesboro, Ark., Gipson didn’t know Oklahoma Christian even existed. Gipson attended the Church of Christ-affiliated Crowley’s Ridge Academy in Paragould, Ark., in high school, and “all of my classmates were going to Harding or Freed-Hardeman,” which also are Church of Christ-affiliated universities.
But Gipson’s high school basketball coach at Crowley’s Ridge knew an OC administrator, Phil Watson, and Gipson received a full scholarship offer to OC. During his freshman season at OC, Gipson played with Frank Davis, who two years later became the Eagles’ head coach after Sinclair left.
“He was a big boy,” Davis said of Gipson. “He’s selling himself a little short. He was a good shooter. He could play forward, but we had to use him in the post a lot. He was a tough customer and hard for people to manage. He was really versatile.
“He was a good passer from inside the post. He’s one of those guys that from the time he was a freshman, you could see it coming. I could tell. The offense we were running was really suited to him. As a freshman, you could tell he was going to blossom into a really good shooter.”
Gipson earned a starting spot as a freshman for the 1962-63 team that finished 17-5, then began scoring almost at will during his final three seasons. He averaged 22.5 points per game as a sophomore, 22.5 as a junior and 20.6 as a senior. Only four OC players ever have had higher single-season scoring averages than Gipson and two of those – Jay Mauck and Jarred Merrill – were NAIA players of the year.
“Frank Davis was a great believer in conditioning,” Gipson said. “We were in better condition than most teams we played. We had to be because we weren’t very deep. The only time I came out was when I was in foul trouble. Nobody substituted to rest. We didn’t play as hard of defense as they play today.”
During Gipson’s career, OC posted a 47-37 record. As a senior in 1965-66 – the first season in which OC competed as a full NAIA member – Gipson’s scoring average ranked as the second-best among Oklahoma collegians.
“We had to run a lot of plays for Mike because he could score,” Davis said. “He was our threat. He was a hard worker and a good shooter and a good rebounder. You couldn’t find an area he wasn’t good at.”
Gipson also was pretty good at baseball. When he wasn’t pitching for OC, he played shortstop or centerfield. Unfortunately, most OC baseball records from that era have been lost to time, but Davis said Gipson might have been the Eagles’ best at that sport, too.
Gipson did play a role in saving the baseball program before the 1966 season. He describes it thusly:
“I don’t think we gave scholarships in baseball until the mid-60s,” he said. “It was a fairly low-key program. Sinclair was also the baseball coach and he did the same at Abilene (Christian) after he left. Davis didn’t know anything about baseball and they were about to kill the program. Jerry Brown and I talked to coach Vaughn and said, ‘We’ll find a coach if you don’t kill the program.’ We ended up getting Ralph Samples, an education professor, to coach that year.”
Samples coached OC baseball just that one year, then moved on to Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., where he became a golf coach of some renown, earning induction into the NAIA Golf Coaches’ Hall of Fame. In 1967, a young OC teacher named Max Dobson took over as the baseball coach and guided the program to its greatest glories in the early 1970s. To this day, Dobson still works at OC as a physical education professor.
Gipson returned to his alma mater in 1970 as a professor of biology, spending nearly 30 years on the faculty before retiring in 2009. He and his wife, Peggy – also a retired OC professor – still live in Edmond.
Gipson’s scoring record has long since been passed, but his point total still ranks No. 20 on OC’s career list – 47 years after his playing days ended. That’s particularly impressive considering all the changes college basketball has seen during that time – longer seasons, the addition of the shot clock to speed up the game and the implementation of the 3-point line, rewarding the outside shot.
“There’s no telling how many points he would have scored if he had played more games and if those rules had been in place then,” Davis said. “He was plenty good – no doubt about it.”