NORMAN, Okla. — Bob Stoops was creative and innovative. He was liberal and daring. Fluid and flexible.
Not just in January’s Sugar Bowl, a 45-31 victory over Alabama that boosted morale and did more for positive public relations in Oklahoma than a Kevin Durant MVP speech, but all last season.
Stoops was at his finest in 2013, mixing and matching running back and quarterbacks, changing defenses while never marrying into an offense.
The kind of season, with the kind of ending, that didn’t justify Stoops as an impressive coach — that had been proven much earlier –but showed him to be elite.
And it hasn’t been such a bad offseason, either.
While Alabama coach Nick Saban has whined about offenses moving too fast and his team’s lack of motivation, Stoops, buoyed by the Sugar Bowl victory, finished off an excellent recruiting season that landed the Sooners their first 5-star prospect since defensive lineman Gerald McCoy in 2006.
Wednesday, Stoops spent the day at ESPN, promoting the Oklahoma brand and going from set to set, more fluid and loose than ever. Thursday, he golfed back in Norman with the media.
At ESPN, Stoops joked about dancing and didn’t dance when it came to answering questions about the SEC. He gave straight answers to straight questions and endeared himself in a way not seen very often by local media.
"Good for him," OU assistant coach Jerry Montgomery said after watching Stoops joke and trade barbs on ESPN. "Camp will be here soon and maybe that will change."
Let’s hope not.
Stoops is often times more Belichick than boisterous. More stubborn than he is Spurrier. July is certainly a time more prone to relaxing than grinding and most likely Stoops will return to his more confrontational and adversarial ways.
But he doesn’t have to.
By all accounts, whether from his brother Mike or athletic director Joe Castiglione, Bob is a guy who likes to joke and is funny. Even Bob, himself, said Tuesday he’s not viewed the same way as he really is.
So, why not let loose a bit this year? No time would be better. No need to be guarded. Not anymore. Not after last season.
OU heads into the season with a returning starter at quarterback, a defense with teeth, what will be a lofty national ranking, the favorite to win the Big 12 Conference and so much good public sentiment, Stoops could re-work his public image and not receive any pushback.
Oh, and his team also beat mighty Alabama. Stoops has things going his way. That’s what happens when you wrap up a season with road wins at Kansas State and Oklahoma State and then win the biggest game at Oklahoma since 2000.
"I’ve always found him to be real," Castiglione said. "If it’s a week where he’s not as jovial, it’s human nature. We’re all like that. But to me, that’s another form of him being real. That’s not a front.
"One thing you have to have learned by now, when he’s asked a straight question, you’re going to get a straight answer and sometimes he’s not going to put the varnish on it."
Wednesday, Stoops answered Saban’s assertions that Alabama wasn’t motivated for the Sugar Bowl with a mixture of bluntness and comedy, "They didn’t look like it was a consolation game on that first drive when they scored a touchdown and everyone thought they were going to rout us," Stoops said.
Thursday, Stoops golfed.
Next week, it’s back to work. Wonder if Stoops will be back to normal.