Coach Mike Boynton
More than just a cliché team slogan, this defense-first, blue collar mentality is the foundation for Mike Boynton’s program at Oklahoma State, and it has ushered in the New Era of Cowboy basketball.
In four seasons at the helm Boynton has compiled a 72-58 record while leading the Cowboys to 17 wins over ranked opponents, including 10 victories over top-10 squads. He also hauled in back-to-back top-25 recruiting classes, mentored eight All-Big 12 Conference selections and 11 Academic All-Big 12 team honorees.
It's no wonder that Seth Davis and The Athletic placed Boynton highly on their list of the "Top-40 Under 40" in college basketball, or that he was a finalist for the Jim Phelan Coach of the Year or the Skip Prosser Man of the Year awards in 2021.
The fruit of Boynton’s tireless work ethic is most evident on the recruiting trail. Since November of 2018, Boynton and the Cowboys have brought in three five-star recruits and eight four-star recruits, including the highest-ranked signee in school history in Cade Cunningham - the consensus No. 1 player in the country who won the High School Naismith Trophy. These recruiting classes laid the foundation for Oklahoma State’s 2020-21 season, which kicked the OSU program into high gear.
Cunningham, the first Associated Press First Team All-American in program history, was just the third player to ever win the Big 12 Player and Freshman of the Year awards in the same season. He was named the Wayman Tisdale Award recipient as the nation's top freshman, and was also a finalist for the Naismith Trophy, the Wooden Award and the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year awards.
With Cunningham under Boynton’s tutelage, the Cowboys took down a school-record nine ranked teams (9-5 overall), including a magical run in February and March that included six ranked victories in a 19 day stretch that is the second shortest span for six ranked wins in the AP Poll era (1948-49).
In 2021, the Cowboys advanced to the finals of the Big 12 Championship, earned a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament and ended the year ranked No. 11 in the Associated Press top-25 – all firsts since 2005. Oklahoma State’s first-round win in the NCAA Tournament was its first since 2009.
Despite the shortened COVID-19 season, Oklahoma State won 21 games in 2020-21, which was OSU’s second 20-win season under Boynton. However, it was hardly his first taste of success as a head coach.
In 2019-20, do-it-all guard Isaac Likekele burst onto the scene and joined senior captain Cameron McGriff on the All-Big 12 Conference team. They helped the Cowboys win eight of their last 11 games contests to finish with a six-win improvement over the previous year. In fact, only five Power Conference teams ended the season with a longer win streak than OSU’s four-game run against Big 12 competition.
Boynton’s first season at the helm set the bar high. The 2017-18 Cowboys tied the school record with 15 home wins, advanced to the third round of the NIT and posted four victories over Elite Eight squads. In all, OSU notched 21 wins and became the first team since 2001 to sweep a regular-season series with Kansas.
In 2018-19, the trio of Lindy Waters III, McGriff and Thomas Dziagwa stepped into the leadership role as captains, and the first two earned All-Big 12 Conference recognition. The trio helped the Cowboys lead the Big 12 in 3-point shooting with a clip of 8.7 makes per game at 37.2 percent – both league highs.
Boynton’s knack for skill development has been on full display since his arrival in Gallagher-Iba Arena. Avery Anderson III arrived on the scene in 2020-21 and tripled his scoring output from the previous year, and earned All-Big 12 Championship team honors after helping lead the Cowboys to the conference title game. The sophomore posted three 20-plus point scoring performances over the last six contests, and averaged 19.2 points on 52.6 percent shooting over that stretch.
Jeffrey Carroll became one of the most improved players in the country by increasing his scoring average by 9.3 points per game, which was the second largest scoring jump in program history only to Bryant “Big Country” Reeves. Under Boynton, Carroll and his frontcourt teammate, Mitchell Solomon, would earn All-Big 12 honors following the 2017-18 season.
Boynton’s first signee as the head coach at OSU, Yor Anei, arrived in Stillwater as a raw, unheralded freshman. But by the end of his first year, Anei tied the program record for blocked shots in a single season with 85 and he ranked fourth nationally with a block percentage of 13.7.
As an assistant coach in 2016-17, he aided in the day-to-day training of All-American Jawun Evans, who led the Cowboys to the NCAA Tournament, as well as the program’s all-time 3-point king, Phil Forte III.
Academics are at the heart of Boynton’s philosophy. In four years, Boynton has 11 Academic All-Big 12 selections, including a school-record five honorees in 2021; Avery Anderson III, Kalib Boone, Keylan Boone, Isaac Likekele and Dee Mitchell.
The Cowboys had three Academic All-Big 12 picks in 2020 – at that time, the most by an OSU team since 2014 – and earned the coveted National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Team Academic Excellence Award after recording the second-highest team GPA in school history. Cowboy graduates Trey Reeves and Thomas Dziagwa were two of just seven Big 12 basketball players to earn a spot on the 2019-20 NABC Honors Court.
Perhaps no Cowboy has ever left Stillwater with more academic accolades than Reeves, who was one of just 16 members of his OSU graduating class to earn Outstanding Senior honors. The three time Academic All-Big 12 selection was named the recipient of the prestigious Dr. Prentice Gautt Postgraduate Scholarship, and earned the 2019 Dr. Gerald Lage Academic Achievement Award - the Big 12's highest academic honor.
In Boynton’s first year, the Cowboys recorded a 3.01 team GPA in the spring of 2017 and placed a pair of student-athletes on the Academic All-Big 12 team.
Thought of as one of the nation’s up-and-coming coaches prior to being named the OSU head coach on March 24, 2017, Boynton helped engineer OSU’s run to the NCAA Tournament in 2016-17, was an architect of Stephen F. Austin’s success and helped revitalize the South Carolina program as both a player and assistant coach.
Before arriving in Stillwater, Boynton spent the previous three seasons at Stephen F. Austin, where he helped the Lumberjacks rack up a total of 89 wins, which are tied for the most by any coaching staff in its first three campaigns.
In 2015-16, Boynton helped the Lumberjacks win 28 games, including a first-round upset of No. 2 seed West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament. The magical season capped off a run of success at SFA that included three straight Southland Conference titles, a 53-1 record in league play and three SLC Player of the Year awards.
Boynton went to SFA after spending four years as an assistant coach at South Carolina. While on staff in Columbia, Boynton helped lead the Gamecocks to three wins over national top-five opponents, including an upset of then-No. 1 Kentucky in 2009-10 and wins over then-No. 2 Michigan State and then-No. 2 Ohio State in 2010-11 while fielding one of the youngest teams in the country.
He also had a part in South Carolina landing one of its best recruiting classes in recent history in the summer of 2010, bringing in a class ranked No. 17 in the country according to Scout.com, No. 22 in the Rivals.com rankings and No. 25 class according to ESPN.com.
He served as the associate head coach for Wofford prior to joining the South Carolina staff for the 2008-09 season.
Boynton worked as an assistant at Coastal Carolina for two seasons prior to his stint at Wofford. In his two years at Coastal, the Chanticleers went 35-25 overall, including a 20-win season in 2005-06.
Boynton was a four-year letterwinner for the Gamecocks from 2001 to 2004. He played in 125 career games, which ranks fourth all-time. He also finished in the top ten in career three pointers made (129) and three pointers attempted (364). He ranks in the top 10 in single-season starts and minutes played and led the Gamecocks to the NCAA Tournament as a senior, starting 32 games and averaging 9.9 points and a team-high 3.5 assists per game.
He graduated from South Carolina with a degree in African-American studies in 2003. Boynton was also awarded the Southeastern Conference’s Community Service Post-Graduate Scholarship for his community service work.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Boynton attended Bishop Loughlin High School, where he earned first-team All-New York City honors after leading his team to a 24-4 mark and a berth in the city semifinals. He was inducted into the Bishop Loughlin High School Athletic Hall of Fame in the spring of 2011.