Pawhuska hires Talby Justus to coach boys hoops

Robert Smith

The Pawhuska Board of Education voted 3-0 in a Friday, June 5, special meeting to hire Talby Justus to be the school district’s next varsity boys basketball coach.

Two members of the five-member board — Mike Tolson and Addie Roanhorse — were unable to attend the meeting. The members who attended and participated were Tom Boone, Scott Laird and Patricia Counts.

Justus has been the associate head coach of the women’s basketball team at the University of Texas at Arlington. His duties for the Lady Mavericks have included scouting, recruiting, and academic monitoring.

Justus has also worked as a high school boys basketball coach in Oklahoma. In 2006, he was one of four finalists for Oklahoma Boys Basketball Coach of the Year. Pawhuska Superintendent David Cash noted in the Friday meeting that Justus led Glencoe High School to a state boys basketball title in 2006.

Cash told the Journal-Capital that Justus’ name surfaced during Pawhuska’s search for a new boys basketball coach. Cash said he did not know Justus, but someone contacted him and suggested Pawhuska might want to take a look at the collegiate assistant who played high school basketball at Pawnee.

“I think the main draw is good fit,” Cash said. “He really fits here.”

The Pawhuska board also voted to hire Lori Justus, the coach’s wife, to be the new secondary school principal. Cash said the school district had interviewed Lori Justus and other candidates for the position and found her to be “by far the best candidate” in the applicant pool.

Talby Justus played high school basketball at Pawnee for his father, Coach Harley Justus. Talby Justus went on to play college basketball at Northern Oklahoma Junior College in Tonkawa, and at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas.

In other business last Friday, the Pawhuska board voted to hire Daniel McEntire as the new principal at Indian Camp Elementary School. Cash told the board that McEntire has been a principal in Oilton for several years.

The board also voted to table the question of whether to approve the retention of Chris Walker as high school assistant principal and district athletic director.

The hiring of Justus brings to Pawhuska a coach who has considerable experience providing leadership for teams of both male and female basketball players. It also marks a shift that some found surprising because Coach Jake Christenson led the Huskies to a 19-10 record and an Area Tournament berth in the 2019-20 season. The team’s postseason run rekindled memories for many of the past glories of Pawhuska High School basketball under the tutelage of Coach Max Shuck in the early 1970s.