The Sooners enjoyed moderate success on the court during this era, posting only 16 losing records in their first 72 seasons. They were coached by 9 different coaches during this period, beginning with Bennie Owen (who also coached the football team), and ending with Dave Bliss in 1980. The Sooners actually participated in the very first Final Four in 1939, and again in 1947, eventually losing 47-58 in the championship game to Holy Cross.
Tubbs resigned on April 10, 1994, indicating that "he did not feel appreciated enough working at a football school" (he has since reconciled with the administration and now enjoys a healthy relationship with the school in his retirement). Tubbs base salary at Oklahoma in his final season was $107,000 annually. Tubbs, 59 years old at the time, left to take over the struggling Texas Christian University basketball program, signing a 5-year contract worth between $200,000 and $400,000 per season.
Tubbs' record at OU was 333-132 (0.716) overall, 126-70 (0.643) conference, with 10 NCAA Tournament Appearances, one Final Four appearance, and one National Title Game appearance. In the Big 8, Tubbs had 2 Conference Tournament Titles and 5 Conference Regular Season Titles.
Tubbs averaged 24 wins per season (24-9) and 9 conference wins per season (9-5).
1995-2006 (the Kelvin Sampson Era)
Kelvin Sampson became the 11th head coach at the University of Oklahoma on April 25, 1994. Sampson was named national coach of the year in 1995 (his first year at OU) by the Associated Press, United States Basketball Writers Association and Basketball Weekly after guiding the Sooners to 23–9 overall and 15–0 home marks. It was the second-best overall record posted by a first-year coach in Big 8 history. Sampson possesses the highest winning percentage in Oklahoma history (.719). He guided OU to eight consecutive 20-win seasons. He averaged 25.0 wins over those eight campaigns and 26.0 victories over the last six years. He directed the Sooners to postseason tournament berths in each of his 11 seasons (10 NCAA Tournaments), with a Sweet 16 showing in 1999, a Final Four appearance in 2002 and an Elite Eight appearance in 2003. His teams have also played in the Big 12 Tournament title game five times in the past eight years. In 2001, 2002, and 2003 the Sooners won that tournament. Sampson holds the conference's best Big 12 Tournament record (17–6). Standouts Eduardo Nájera and Hollis Price helped the Sooners maintain a streak of 25 straight post season appearances, the longest in the nation. Sampson left OU in 2006 to take the head coaching job at Indiana.
Sampson's record at OU was 279-109 (0.719) overall, 128-60 (0.681) conference, with 10 NCAA Tournament Appearances, and one Final Four appearance. In the Big 12, Sampson had 3 Conference Tournament Titles and 1 Conference Regular Season Title. During his final season at OU, Sampson's salary was approximately $900,000 annually, not including bonuses. Sampson left OU in 2006 to become the head basketball coach at the Indiana University, signing a 7-year, $10,500,000 contract, at $1,500,000 per season.
Under Sampson's watch, Oklahoma was placed under a three-year investigation by the NCAA for recruiting violations. At the end of the their investigation, the NCAA issued a report citing more than 550 illegal calls made by Sampson and his staff to 17 different recruits. The NCAA barred Sampson from recruiting off campus and making phone calls for one year, ending May 24, 2007.
Sampson averaged 23 wins per season (23-9) and 11 conference wins per season (11-5).
2006-11 (the Jeff Capel Era)
On April 11, 2006, Jeff Capel was named the 12th head basketball coach at Oklahoma, succeeding Kelvin Sampson. Though the Sooner Nation as a whole greeted Capel's hiring with optimism, one notable downside of the coaching change emerged—Sampson's departure caused three of the players who had signed with OU (once considered a top 5 recruiting class) to rethink each's decision to attend OU. Scottie Reynolds went on to Villanova, and Damion James to Texas. Capel was originally signed to a 4-year, $3,000,000 contract, at $750,000 annually.
In his first year, after going a respectable 8–4 in non-conference games, with losses to Memphis, Purdue, Villanova, and Alabama, the Sooners started a promising 6–3 in conference play, before losing their final 7 conference games. After winning only one game in the Big 12 Conference Tournament, losing to eventual conference tournament champion Kansas, this caused the Sooners to miss any form of postseason play, which snapped the nation's longest streak of 25 consecutive years in the postseason, starting with Billy Tubbs' second year in 1982 and ending with Kelvin Sampson's final year in 2006.
In his second year, after signing McDonald's All-American Forward Blake Griffin, the Sooners showed vast signs of improvement and finished 21–10 during the regular season (9–7 in Big 12 play) earning them a #4 seed in the Big 12 Tournament, where they won one game before losing to Texas in the semi-finals. They received a #6 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where they defeated St. Joseph's in the first round before losing to #3 seed Louisville in the second round, finishing the season at 23-12, an improvement of 7 wins over the previous season. After this successful second season, Capel's name began to surface among many head coaching vacancies. In an effort to keep his young and rising star, OU Athletic Director Joe Castiglione and the OU Board of Regents extended Capel's contract through the year 2014, and increased his salary to $1,050,000 per year.
Player of the Year Candidate Blake Griffin announced he would be returning for his sophomore season, forgoing a possible lottery-pick status in the NBA draft. Coupled with the signing of another McDonald's All-American guard in Willie Warren, the 2008-2009 season looked to be promising.
The team experienced one of the best starts in school history at 25-1, until Blake Griffin was sidelined with a concussion during the first half of the OU-Texas game on 2/21/09. The Sooners went on to lose consecutive games for the first time all season, losing to Texas by 5 in Austin and Kansas by 9 in Norman. Without their star player, the Sooners fell short. Griffin returned to the lineup on 2/28/09 and the Sooners returned to their winning ways defeating Texas Tech by 15 in Lubbock on 2/28/09, before losing on the road to Missouri, who was undefeated at home, and finishing the regular season by sweeping in-state rival Oklahoma State, who had won 7 of their previous 8 games. After a first-round bye in the Big 12 Tournament, the #2 seeded Sooners lost to the #7 seeded Cowboys by 1 point during the final seconds of the game.
Capel's Sooners were granted a #2 seed for the NCAA Tournament, and easily beat #15 seed Morgan State in the first round, #10 seed Michigan in the second round, and #3 seed Syracuse in the Sweet 16, whose vaunted 2-3 zone defense did nothing to slow down the Sooner's hot shooting from the perimeter.
However, after hitting nine 3-pointers during the previous game with Syracuse, the Sooner guards went 0-15 from beyond the arc during the first 35 minutes of their Elite 8 game against North Carolina, before finally finishing 2-19 in the game. This ultimately led to their demise by the Tar Heels on March 29, losing 60-72. Unanimous All-American Forward and Player of the Year Blake Griffin finished the tournament with 114 points and 60 rebounds, becoming the first player to accomplish such a feat in over 40 years. Griffin, who gave up his final two years of eligibility to enter the NBA draft, and was the #1 pick. The Sooners finished Capel's third season at 30-6, the school's first 30+ win season since 2002, and 5th overall. Ironically, this was again an improvement of 7 wins over the previous season.
Even with the loss of starters Austin Johnson, Taylor Griffin, and Blake Griffin, the Sooners have two incoming McDonald's All-American recruits in point guard Tommy Mason-Griffin and center Keith "Tiny" Gallon. Paired with returning McDonald's All-American guard Willie Warren, guard Tony Crocker, and former reserve forward Ryan Wright, the Sooners will have a chance to post yet another successful season and poised to perhaps make another deep run into the NCAA Tournament. This would be the first time in the school's history where they would have 3 McDonald's All-Americans on the roster at the same time.
Despite high hopes and a preseason ranking of #16, Jeff Capel and his Sooners proved to be one of the most overrated teams in the 2009-2010 season. After a mediocre 13-9 start, their season slipped away as they lost their last nine games of the season, including a first-round loss to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tournament, leaving them with a 13-18 record to cap off the season.
As of February 23, 2011, Capel's record at OU is 94-65 (0.588) overall, 36-41 (0.468) conference, with 2 NCAA Tournament Appearances, and one Elite Eight appearance. In the Big 12, Capel has yet to win a Conference Tournament Title or Regular Season Title. As of January 1, 2010, Capel's salary at Oklahoma is $1,500,000 annually, not including bonuses. In addition, if Capel remains at OU through the 2014 season, he will receive a $1,000,000 "stay bonus".
Capel finished 2010-11 with a 14-18 record and a loss to the Texas Longhorns in the 2011 Big 12 Tournament. On March 14, he was fired as head coach of the Sooners.
Capel averaged 21 wins per season (21-12) and 8 conference wins per season (8-8), almost on track with his predecessors Tubbs & Sampson.
*Through games of Wednesday, February 23, 2011.
From 1996 (the inception of the Big 12) to 2010 OU has recorded 1 First place finish in league play, 5 Second place finishes, 3 Third place finishes, 1 Fourth place finish, 1 Fifth place finish, 2 Seventh place finishes, and 1 Ninth place finish.
Oklahoma in the NCAA Tournament (26 bids, 35-26 record overall)