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My Uncle John Pratt and Coach Drake, Mr. Iba, and this is his story………

Hank Iba and Bruce Drake were coaching legends of college basketball



Hall-of-Fame head coach Bruce Drake with the starters on his 1946-47 squad that reached the NCAA title game (players from left are Dick Reich, Gerald Tucker, Jack Landon, Allie Paine and Paul Courty).

Hall-of-Fame head coach Bruce Drake with the starters on his 1946-47 squad that reached the NCAA title game (players from left are Dick Reich, Gerald Tucker, Jack Landon, Allie Paine and Paul Courty).


Yesterday, Berry Tramel, lead sports writer for the OKLAHOMAN, the daily newspaper for the state of Oklahoma, wrote a highly interesting story about the relationship between two of the best basketball coaches that graced the sidelines of the college game.
Henry Iba, the head man at Oklahoma State (formerly named Oklahoma A&M), and Bruce Drake, the Oklahoma Sooners head coach were not only the best in the state but also in the nation.  OU and O-STATE were two of the top programs in the country in the 1940’s and early 1950’s. The story by Mr. Trammel can be found at the link below you can read if for yourself if you wish.


www. https://oklahoman.com/article/5658867/berry-tramel-henry-ibas-cowboys-and-bruce-drakes-sooners-were-ncaa-tournament-staples


I am blogging on these two coaches as of my personal interaction with my Uncle John Pratt, the former head high school basketball coach at Midwest City High in the central Oklahoma town of the same name.  From his telling, Uncle John was a student at the Univ. of Oklahoma in Norman and was getting ready start his junior year. He did not play sports for the Sooners but was highly interested in both basketball and football and had developed a “teacher/student” relationship with both Sooner basketball coach Bruce Drake and head football coach Bud Wilkinson. He was a war veteran and somewhat older than an average student just out of high school.


My Uncle had taken some classes from both Mr. Drake and Mr. Wilkinson at OU and my Uncle was pointing to a coaching career after graduation.  With his college major of history and teaching, he hoped to land a teaching/coaching job in a high school, sooner than later.  A highly intelligent and personable person, my Uncle. understood that “who you know” can make a difference in getting a job in a chosen profession and that relationships with powerful people can get you ahead of others in life pursuits.


That summer following his sophomore year at OU, Uncle John approached Coach Drake as he was seeking a spot as one of the Sooner student assistants for the basketball team.  At the time, a student assistant was basically a student enrolled at the university and would be a sort of step-in-fetch-it for the coach.  He was considered part of the team, sort of a lessor graduate assistant, but a valuable clog in the daily running of the program. The student assistant was required to be at every practice, make every game (road and home), be at every coaches meeting (except for being at class), and be a primary statistician (on the bench), taking the “books” of each game.  He was in fact an unpaid assistant coach and was treated by all, players and coaches, as a member of the basketball staff.  What they did at OU was the same at OSU and other schools.  A student assistant would often lead to becoming a graduate assistant upon graduation.  A graduate assistant for a sports team had perks at the time and was a highly wanted position, especially in the better sports programs in the country.


In the meeting with Coach Drake, my Uncle was told that he did not have an open position for him as a student assistant, but he did know that Mr. Iba at Oklahoma A&M might have one and that he would telephone him to inquire about a possible spot.  My Uncle was pleased to hear that and a day later Coach Drake called John to tell him to get in contact with Mr. Iba.  Coach Drake had told Mr. Iba about my Uncle and how he was a young man with integrity and high morals and that he would have put him on if he had a place for him.  I guess that was all Mr. Iba needed as a recommendation for my Uncle. An appointment with Mr. Iba in Stillwater the following day was made and that interview went well for both.


Mr. Iba offered my Uncle a spot as a student assistant and my Uncle, a born Sooner (from Paul’s Valley, OK), became an Aggie for life that day. My Uncle will tell you that even though he was a graduate of A&M (two years later), he would always be a Sooner as of his love of OU football and Bud Wilkinson.  He was loyal to both schools and never took sides except for two events. He would always pull for the Aggies in basketball over OU and he always pulled for OU in football over the Aggies/Cowboys.  My Uncle’s loyalty to “people” such as Mr. Iba and Coach Wilkinson were paramount in his favoritism of friends over love of school.  Yes, he loved both OU and OSU, but people always came first.


My Uncle lived the rivalry between Coach Drake and Mr. Iba. It was intense.  But as gentlemen, it was not personal, and was limited to the sport and not something that would ruin them as men of fidelity to the game first.  Yes, they could get heated on the court, but that never carried over outside the lines.  Coach Drake’s call to Mr. Iba concerning my Uncle was testament to their relationship.


My Uncle spent three years at on the bench and viewed the OU/A&M game up close.  He saw the fire of Mr. Iba, felt his terror on his players, but also knew that Iba’s players would never question what they were told to do.  His final year with Iba he was a graduate assistant as he worked on his masters degree at Stillwater.  My Uncle finalized his masters at Colorado State University in history.  His masters thesis was on a soldier of the Civil War, a true to life fighting man of the conflict.



With the recommendation of Mr. Iba, Uncle John was hired as the head basketball coach at Midwest City High in 1951, where he spent the next 23 years, forging a career as he had wished, teaching history, drivers ed, and coaching the team he built from scratch. He was just 26 when he took the job, a veteran of World War 2, fighting the Imperial Japanese Army in the South Pacific, and three years as an Iba disciple, learning his system of winning basketball.
His first year at MWC his team won four games.  His highly successful run was jump started in year two and the IBA system finally clicked and the Bombers won 20 games, starting a highly successful run.   He was named to the Oklahoma Coaches Hall of Fame from his years at MWC.  He is noted for never getting a technical foul in any game he coached, something he was proud of.  


HIs teams won more than they lost, playing in the State championship game against Northwest Classen in the 1965 in the highest classification, losing to the Knights.  The IBA style fell out of vogue and that told my Uncle to retire from the the coaching profession and move into administration in the Mid-Del system, which he did.  In all, he won 325 games.  


Not that the IBA system was not winning ball, it was a style that was not conducive to getting the best athletes to play the sport in the early 70’s, especially at MWC.  My Uncle John was too much like Mr. Iba in how he ran his program and that also turned kids away from playing for him.  What happened to Mr. Iba also happened to John Pratt.   My Uncle was a disciplinarian first, second, and last.   That was not what the kids of the early 70’s liked or catered to.  It was what it was.  My Uncle’s players became men first.  They learned what was most important in life.  That was just too hard for many young men of the day. They learned a work ethic, a respect for their elders, a true way to live your life with morality and fidelity.





About Fred Pahlke

Fred Pahlke, an Oklahoma native has viewed over 10,000 sporting events in his 65 years. A season ticket holder of the Oklahoma City Thunder, former season tickect holder for the Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma City University Chiefs/Stars, he is an expert in both professional and college basketball and football. A high school athlete at Classen High School in basketball and tennis, he played amateur tennis after high school in the Missouri Valley Tennis Association. A graduate of Oklahoma City University, he taught in the public schools for 6 years before becoming a building administrator in the Oklahoma City Public Schools for 31 years, 28 as the Principal of various schools in the district. He has guided various high school and college athletes in his time as an educator and coach. Fredsportsextra has recorded 101, 410 article views in its first ten months, from August 2015 through May 2016.

4 Responses to “My Uncle John Pratt and Coach Drake, Mr. Iba, and this is his story………”

  1. Kathleen Shelton Clark
    March 30, 2020 at 10:01 pm

    So enjoyed your article. My brother played for OSU (then A&M) from 1947-1950. He was pictured with Mr. Iba and Bob Harris in the Tramel article regarding the 1949 and 1950 tournament games. He was a Stillwater boy…Jack Shelton. The Iba family were so respected there. Brings back lots of good memories.

    • March 30, 2020 at 11:12 pm

      thanks for reading my article. My cousin, I believe, has a shot of my Uncle sitting next to an assistant coach who was sitting next to Mr. Iba on the Aggie bench. My Uncle took the score book on the bench and was always available to tell the coaches about the foul situation for the players. Another friend of my Uncle and also a player for Mr. Iba was a fellow OKCPS principal Jerry Wallace. Mr. Wallace told me the story in a game in against the Wyoming Cowboys and Mr. Iba yelled at Jerry to stop the Wyoming center from getting to the basket on drives and to not allow him to do it again. Well, the next play that the Wyoming player drove the lane Jerry slugged the guy and was thrown out of the game. Jerry told Mr. Iba “you told me to stop him.” Mr. Iba was mad as a hornet at Jerry and said back to him “I did not tell you to hit him.” Jerry told me this story and was laughing while he told it. Jerry Wallace played for Mr. Iba for a couple of years and then transferred to Oklahoma City University when Aggie assistant coach Doyle Parrick had moved to OCU and wanted Jerry to play center for the Chiefs.

  2. John Larry Huff
    March 31, 2020 at 8:16 am

    I was the assistant Baseball Coach and taught Social Studies at Midwest High School from the Fall of 1964 through the Spring of 1971. I helped out in basketball a little during that time, but Bob Ambler was the top assistant. John Pratt was a district-wide football fan of Midwest City. Every Friday night he would try to see part of the Midwest City, Del City and Carl Albert games. Almost all of the coaches at the time I was there have passed: John Pratt, Bob Ambler, Jim Darnell, Charles Lodes, Jim Van Zant.

    • March 31, 2020 at 11:33 am

      Mr. Huff, thank you for your post. I know I have met you in person, but at the time I was either a toddler, a child, or a adolenscent getting ready for my own sports playing as a junior high student at Classen High (Comet here). I was two or three when my Dad took me to my first MWC Bomber basketball game, probably in 1955 or 1956 when my Uncle’s team played a tournament in Drumright OK. I have memory of that even at that young age. As my Dad was the man that John trusted in wrapping the ankles of his best players before games (my Dad was a medic in WW2 and was the best ankle wrapper around) I was taken to almost all Bomber games from age five until 13 when I started playing sports at Classen. So I grew up watching the Bombers in every venue in the State. I have memories of all of the players of both the Bombers and of the opponents, both in basketball and football, as I also attended many Bomber football games. My Dad and I would be at some football game every Friday night, often at Rose Field. My Dad was a football player in high school and was a two sport (football and basketball scholarship player at Centenary College in Shreveport La at the end of 1939 but went to war (that story is on my blog). I remember that Uncle John was the PA announcer for the football games at Rose Field and that was cool, listening to him during the games. I got to know Babe Eubanks as my Dad, John, and myself went to the opening of Skelly Stadium in 1964 after a remodeling of the stadium. Mr. Eubanks was a great man in my opinion. I have written other blog entries on MWC and you can look them up on the blog. Mr. Amber was another great man that I got to know as a kid. I have the same believe system on “NOT BEING LATE” that he had and I learned that from him. I have many more stories of MWC, my Uncle, and sports figures of the 1960’s that I will write on in the future. Again, thanks for reading my stuff.

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