It’s been approximately 65 years since a fresh Northeastern Oklahoma State graduate named Joe Gilbert found his way to Barnsdall High School to apply for a job.
After securing a position as an educator and coach, Gilbert planted his roots in Barnsdall and Panther sports.
Six-and-a-half-decades later, Gilbert is a fixture — not a fixture, because he’s always on the move — but a living vital presence in the school and the sports program.
This is his 66th nonstop season of coaching Panther/Lady Panther sports.
This coming summer, the National Federation of High Schools will induct the 86-year-old kid-at-heart into the National High School Hall of Fame.
This school year he is coaching three varsity sports — and their junior varsity teams — in fastpitch softball, girls’ basketball and slowpitch softball.
“I like what I do,” Gilbert said about his staying power as a coach whose tenure extends from the first term of Dwight D. Eisenhower as president to Donald Trump. “I was fortunate to have a job that I liked. I’d hate to get up in the morning that many years and go to a job I didn’t like.”
Gilbert also credits the blessing of good health for helping him to remain on the job.
With approximately 3,900 career wins in all sports under his belt, Gilbert already has received numerous honors and inductions into various halls of fame.
This summer (June 30), he will become a member of the NFHS HOF.
“They’re all special,” he said. “But, I would say it’s the biggest one that I have received because it’s all the high schools in the nation.”
Some others in the same induction class — which includes 10 people — are Dusty Baker, Derrick Brooks and Jerry Boatner.
In typical fashion, Gilbert’s primary concern this morning had nothing to do with the impending recognition.
His focus was on getting the Lady Panther softball field ready for games later this week.
Gilbert has captured two state titles.