Bob Craig conducted his first practice Tuesday evening as head football coach of the Pawhuska High School Huskies.
A 34-year veteran of Oklahoma prep coaching wars, Craig spent nine of the past dozen seasons directing the grid program in Beggs. His successful tenure at the helm for the Demons ended last November following their quick exit from the Class 3A state playoffs.
At a special meeting last week of the Pawhuska Board of Education, Craig was selected to fill the PHS coaching position. He was hired to a one-year contract which also assigns him duties as the school athletic director.
The new coach takes over the local program a little more than six months after the Huskies concluded a 4-7 campaign with a 30-point loss at Commerce. The defeat (coming in opening round of the Class 2A state playoffs) marked the fourth time in five seasons that Pawhuska reached the postseason.
Less than a week before the final contest of 2012, school administrators suspended first-year head coach Scotty Gilkey, who was hired last May to replace Eddy Scott after the sixth-year coach left the Huskies for a Class 4A job at Mannford.
The PHS team battled its way into the playoffs despite losing five of its first six games. Prior to the head coach’s suspension, two longtime assistants had relinquished their positions — leaving the Huskies with just three coaches for the postseason game.
At the request of the school district, an investigation involving public funds was conducted late last year by the Osage County Sheriff’s Department. Although no charges were filed, Gilkey remained suspended through the end of the recently-concluded school year.
Craig compiled a 70-36 record at Beggs during two head coaching stints (the first starting in 2000 and the second spanning 2008 through last year). In nine grid campaigns, he led the Demons to three district titles, eight postseason appearances and three trips to the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs.
Following a 12-2 finish for 2011, Beggs wound up 5-5 last year in its final season under Craig. The Demon season ended in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs with a 34-27 home loss to Berryhill. Two weeks later, Craig was dismissed as head coach.
The longtime football mentor wasted no time expressing his interest about returning to coaching.
"That’s what I do," Craig was quoted by The Tulsa World as saying. "I’ve been blessed to have great relationships with people everywhere I’ve coached.
"That’s why I can’t wait to go to my next position," added the 57-year-old, who retired from full-time teaching in 2010.
Craig, a native of Tahlequah, attended college at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. His other high school coaching experience came at Cleveland, Coweta and Collinsville.
Pawhuska Public Schools Superintendent Landon Berry said approximately 20 applicants contacted the district about the Huskie coaching vacancy.
"And, I’d say we took the best one," Dr. Berry said.