McAlester Hall of Fame: Brumley first coach to be enshrined

Bob Brumley

Don Brumley remembers when his father, Bob Brumley, once apologized to him in front of his whole team during practice.

It was during his senior year at halftime in a game at Shawnee. Coach Brumley was mad that his son and the other fellow guards weren’t shooting the ball enough against the Wolves. 

It was then that his son bore the brunt of his father’s frustration. What followed next was a story the 1971 McAlester graduate said people still ask him about.

“He got the stat sheet out on the clipboard and he was looking at it, I had taken two shots that half,” Don Brumley said. “He came over to me and said, ‘Look at this! You’ve only taken two shots the whole half,’ and he was just going to tap me with the clipboard on the head, and somehow the end of that board with the clip on it broke off, and it fell out in front of the bench.”

Don Brumley said the incident didn’t hurt him.

He was teammates with his older brother, Hugh Brumley, a 1970 McAlester graduate. Hugh Brumley was also a guard, and had his own stories of his father’s frustration.

Hugh Brumley told the time of once making a poor pass against Durant, and his father flicked his forehead with the back of his head, but forgot he was wearing a ring from an all-state game he coached. The result was a welt.

Or when the Buffaloes played at Holdenville during the 1969-1970 season during Hugh Brumley’s senior year. McAlester had a close lead that slipped away. Hugh Brumley fouled a star guard for Holdenville after his father told him not to. The Buffs ended up losing the game.

“I remember when we got home, he wasn’t happy about losing the game,” Hugh Brumley said. “He was still upset about that, and he goes, ‘Yeah, you fouled that guy. I told you not to foul him. That lost the game.’”

He said his mother, Barbara, got on Coach Brumley for that. Coach Brumley then called his elder son back into the den to praise how good of a player he was and how hard he worked.

Both of the Brumley brothers remembered their father being a disciplinarian both as a parent and a coach. Neither one of them said their father showed favoritism when they played on the team. 

Don Brumley said his father didn’t really teach or give basketball tips when he was younger, though there was a goal out in the backyard for the two brothers to play against.

The Brumley brothers were just a pair of the young men Coach Brumley helped shape and develop for nearly three decades as a basketball coach. Hugh Brumley has read comments from others online about what his father meant to them as a father figure. 

He remembered during his high school and college days when graduated players were sitting in the Brumley living room and talking to him about what he meant to them.

The elder son thought his father got everything out of his brother and him. He remembered his father’s players carried Coach Brumley off the court on their shoulders after winning a tournament one time when Hugh Brumley was a kid. 

Coach Brumley began his coaching career in 1949 with Moss and the next year at Wetumka, but he was a mainstay at McAlester. Coach Brumley manned the Buffs from 1951-1977. He went 423-185 with McAlester, going to the state tournament six times. 

“I think he saw it as a good place to raise a family,” Don Brumley said. “He wasn’t one to move around a lot, and so once he got settled in, it kind of stuck.” 

Both of the Brumley brothers said their father turned down opportunities to go elsewhere. Hugh Brumley said Coach Brumley rejected the offer to become an assistant coach for the University of Washington.

“He could have achieved a lot more career-wise, but that was not the most important thing to him,” Hugh Brumley said. “I think the most important to him was the kids that he was working with and seeing them finish school and go on.” 

Hugh Brumley said his father was proud of his players who succeeded in life after basketball. He said Coach Brumley always wanted to follow up on his players, and that was especially the case for his players who became coaches.

Jimmy Williams played under Coach Brumley and graduated from McAlester in 1969. Williams eventually returned to his alma mater and coached the Buffs from 1990-2002.

Coach Brumley played a part in mentoring Williams after his playing days were over. Williams drew inspiration from his mentor, such as running the man-to-man defense and organizing the same types of practices.  

His high school coach would hang around the gym during practice when Williams coached the Buffs. Coach Brumley would know the players Williams had, building them up and trying to lift up their spirits if they had a bad game. 

“The kids who played for me those 12 years, the majority of those kids were pretty close to Coach,” Williams said. 

Basketball was Coach Brumley’s love, having won a state championship as a player with Ada in 1940. He went to Stillwater to try out for Henry Iba at Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University). 

Duty ended up calling, as he served in World War II, receiving both a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He did suit up to play for East Central State College (now East Central University.)

McAlester is still waiting for its first state championship in boys basketball, but Coach Brumley did coach McAlester to a state title in tennis in 1963. 

Don Brumley lettered under his father as a freshman, and said his dad enjoyed coaching tennis, too — but credited his father’s state title win to the play of James Wadley and David Bryant more than anything. 

Don Brumley thought his father was ready when he stepped down as coach of the Buffs in 1977. Coach Brumley took over the vice-principal job at the new high school and wasn’t far off from retirement. This led to a change in routine. 

“The gym was his first home,” Don Brumley said. “I think our home was his second home.”

Brumley will be posthumously inducted as the first coach to enter the McAlester Athletic Hall of Fame, nearly 14 months after his passing Oct. 24, 2018. It’s the latest one he’ll be enshrined in, along with the Oklahoma Coach Association, Oklahoma Basketball Coaches Association All Star, East Central University and Oklahoma Basketball Coaches Association Halls of Fame.

“For us as his family, we kind of like that he’s going to live on with McAlester High School because he held it so dear to his heart,” said daughter Gina Stanley, a 1981 McAlester graduate. 

Don Brumley thinks the McAlester Athletic Hall of Fame is near the top among the halls of fame his father is in. He said his father would be very appreciative of the honor. 

“It’ll be nice for him to be recognized,” he said. “He’s got a legacy that even most of the young guys, if they’re in basketball through this system, they know who he is.” 

McAlester Public Schools Athletic Director John Homer said the athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony is set for Feb. 7.

Festivities will begin with a meet-and-greet at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 7 in Brumley Gymnasium to honor inductees the late former coach Bob Brumley and former track star Michelle Worthy (nee Thomas).

The varsity girls basketball game is set for 6:30 p.m. that night and a Hall of Fame presentation will be conducted at halftime of the boys game.

Update: This story has been updated with the new time for the induction ceremony.

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