No hard feelings, Stoops insists

Tuesday, October 10th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ The focus this week as No. 8 Oklahoma prepares to visit second-ranked Kansas State has centered more on the coaches than the teams.

Bob Stoops, who hired three KSU assistants after becoming Oklahoma's coach, says the media have things all wrong.

``That's your job, to create interest for people who grab the paper and pick it up and read it, or for someone calling your radio show, and stir up emotions,'' Stoops said at his weekly news conference Tuesday.

``But as a staff, I think there's mutual respect. I've always said I loved my time there. I wouldn't trade it for anything.''

Stoops spent seven years as an assistant under Bill Snyder at Kansas State before leaving to become defensive coordinator at Florida. After three years with the Gators, he was chosen to take the top job at Oklahoma.

Shortly after, he hired his brother, Mike, along with Brent Venables and Mark Mangino, all of whom were Kansas State assistants at the time.

``This is a great school, and to be loyal to my family and to Oklahoma, I need to hire the best coaches I can find,'' Bob Stoops said. ``To me, that's doing the job and being loyal to what you're doing now.

``All I did was offer some guys some jobs and they accepted them. I didn't do anything illegal to get 'em. I didn't pay 'em any more money. They decided they wanted to be here and that's fair enough.''

The defections stung some Kansas State fans, however. Mike Stoops and Venables, who were defensive coaches at KSU, accepted their Oklahoma jobs within days of the Wildcats' loss to Texas A&M in the Big 12 title game. It was arguably the toughest loss in school history _ a victory would have sent them to play for the national championship. Instead, they wound up in the Alamo Bowl.

``I don't think there's any question it probably couldn't have happened at a worse time,'' Mike Stoops said.

``I think that still lingers in a lot of people's hearts and minds and it lingers in ours, too. You practice and coach your whole life to get an opportunity to play in a national championship game and we just fell a little bit short.''

Mangino, who had been recruiting coordinator and run game coordinator with the Wildcats, was offered the Oklahoma job shortly after the Big 12 championship game but didn't accept it until after the bowl game.

``I have great memories of Kansas State,'' said Mangino, who is now Oklahoma's offensive coordinator. ``I have great respect and admiration for coach Snyder. He's done a lot for me and I'm grateful for that. But I had to make a decision that was best for my career.''

Bob Stoops said it will likely feel different walking in the visitor's locker room on Saturday afternoon. But he said the game won't be any more emotional for him than any other game Oklahoma will play.

``The programs are more important than anything personally,'' he said. ``It has nothing to do at all with the football game. It's about our players. It's about a chance to be in the Big 12 race and have a legitimate chance to be the Big 12 champion in the south (division) and then have a chance to be in the championship game and win. That's what it's about.''

SOONER NOTES: Stoops said Ron Calcagni, who had been working as a graduate assistant after being fired last year as Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator, has left to become offensive coordinator of the New Jersey franchise in the XFL. ... Oklahoma used 21 freshmen and sophomores in its 63-14 victory over Texas last weekend. ``To be so focused and play as well as they did in that environment was really good to see,'' Stoops said.