Best season: 2011 (12-1, won Fiesta Bowl, finished No. 3)
If this were a list of the 10 best coaches by hair style, Mike Gundy is No. 1 by far. If this were a list of the greatest rants in college football, Gundy might not be No. 1, but he’d be in the top five. He makes this list because he wins at a place where it is not easy to win.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys had some success before Gundy came to Stillwater but nothing on the level they have now. Jimmy Johnson had some success in the early 1980s. Les Miles’ four-year run was the best success they’d had since Pat Jones’ three 10-win seasons in five years (1984-1988).
Gundy took a lower-tier Big 12 — formerly Big 8 — program and turned it into a mid-to-high tier program. It has never mattered to him that the Cowboys are in the long shadow the Oklahoma Sooners cast. The Cowboys are relevant and a consistent bowl team.
Gundy took over in 2005 and that was the only season the Cowboys did not make the postseason. He’s built a consistent mid-level winner in Stillwater, and that is not an easy place to win. Can he win a national title in Stillwater? Probably not. Can anyone win at the level Gundy is winning at Stillwater? Probably not.
What is surprising is not many programs have tried to lure him out of Stillwater. Gundy can flat-out coach, but he does give that “I’m settled” sort of attitude — even when he was not very happy at Oklahoma State. He did almost leave Stillwater for Tennessee before Butch Jones took the job, but he was too invested in Oklahoma State. He was also linked to the Arkansas job in 2012 — he’s made Oklahoma State a better job quite frankly.
The truth is, Gundy has been part of the Oklahoma State family as either a player or coach for almost 30 years. It’s his dream job. If only he could beat Oklahoma.