There are many traits that go into producing a great football coach and this week we’re learning why August Deets had so much success; he found a way to incorporate those traits into his own style and never wavered on his core principles.
Late Friday night Deets passed away in a Norman hospital, the heart that had been causing him issues for the past 20 years finally couldn’t make another beat.
Deets spent 28 years as a head coach in Oklahoma, starting with his first hire at Apache 1978, followed by a stint in Elgin and then a long career at Newcastle starting in 1988 where he reached the state’s pinnacle by leading the Racers to the 1992 state title in Class 3A.
Deets’ teams won more than 200 games, earning him a spot in the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He also coached the Oklahoma team in the Oil Bowl Classic and also coached in the All-State game.
News of his death spread quickly among the state’s football coaches and his former players and assistants.
Jody Iams wore both those hats, playing for Deets at Apache and eventually serving as his defensive coordinator at Newcastle.
“Coach Deets came to Apache when I was in the 10th grade,” Iams said. “He did so many things well but one that stood out to me was that he could convince his guys to play better that they really were. I know in my case that I was so captivated by his words that I played so hard and even did things out there that I never imagined I could do.”
Another key attribute that Deets had was unmatched preparation skills.
“I know coaches all say they prepare harder than the next guy but with August you did work harder than you ever thought imaginable,” Iams said. “I always tried to emulate his preparation goals. He made sure we as coaches prepared our players so well that they’d be ready to handle anything the opposition would throw at us.
“He’d be in there after games on Friday, he’d hardly leave the office for some sleep and then would watch film all day Saturday and Sunday. He was as good as I’ve ever seen at anticipating what the other teams were going to do.”
And Iams said there was another key to his success; he never let his own love of certain schemes chart the system he built for each different team.
“Coach Deets was great about adopting a scheme that would suit his talent,” Iams said. “At Apache we were more ground-game oriented, but when he went to Elgin, he changed his scheme because he had Donald Youngsted at quarterback who could fire the football around.
“At Newcastle he mixed it up most seasons but that great state championship team in 1992 was pretty much a ground-oriented team. He was just amazing at finding the skills he had on his roster and then adapting the system to the talent.
“That’s something he taught many of us; evaluate what you have and get them in the right spots. He always used that old ‘don’t force a square peg into a round hole’ saying.”
Another quality that Deets had was an deep desire to help his former assistants and support them in any way possible.
Jerry Wallis, who was with Deets at Elgin, later became the head coach at Bridge Creek and he said Deets showed up ready to help.
“We had Ryan Spangler during that time and Coach Deets said he’d help us with the offense to try and find the right schemes for him,” Wallis said. “He helped us there for several years after he had retired at Newcastle. You just couldn’t find a better coach than August Deets.”
Iams said that Deets would often surprise him and just show up at his games, both while he was playing college ball and then when he was serving as head coach at Claremore-Sequoyah High School.
“We talked all the time; whenever I needed something, he was the guy I would call,” Iams said. “Anytime I achieved something as a kid or adult, August was there to support me 99 percent of the time.”
And help meant getting right into the middle off the fray.
“When I won state in 2006, he was there,” Iams said. “I especially remember our semifinal game against Clinton in 2008 or 2009 at Putnam City Stadium. I turned around to find a player and there was Coach Deets right behind me.
“We got down deep in Clinton territory and faced a fourth and one. I looked at him and asked, “three won’t win this game will it?’ Coach Deets said, ‘nope, get your offensive coordinator to give you his best play and go for it. We got that touchdown and I looked back at he had a huge smile on his face.”
Ironically, Iams said that game did go down to the wire and his club won it with a field goal and Deets was there for the celebration.
But, with Deets you had to make sure you were doing your job and in the case of Iams, being a defensive coordinator for the perfectionist leader was not always an easy job.
“He never interfered with my calls during a game but it went back to preparation,” Iams said. “I remember at the end of our weekend meetings; he wanted a report on what I was thinking.
“Sometimes on Monday what looked good on the chalkboard didn’t look so good when we were doing walk-throughs on the field. I will never forget when we he’d see something wrong with a certain element of our game plan that he’d just say, ‘that crap ain’t going to work,’ and I’d make adjustments with him watching over my shoulder. He just had a great mind for the game.”
Iam’s, who has been tasked as one of the speakers at Saturday’s 11 a.m. memorial service at Racer Stadium in Newcastle, said it will be the toughest assignment he’s ever faced.
“He was a father figure, he was my mentor, my best friend; all of that stuff we went through together is priceless,” Iams said. “It’s going to be tough but he prepared me for just about anything I might face in life.”
As Iams said, his voice shaking and tailing off, “I better be prepared because that’s what Coach Deets would expect out of me.”