Lincoln Riley might only be 33 years old but he has the experience and stories of many 50-year-old coaches.
Riley became the youngest head coach in the FBS when he replaced Bob Stoops as head coach of Oklahoma in early June. Though he has no head coaching experience at any level, only three stops on his résumé and two years of Power Five coordinator experience, the Texas native appears as ready as any man in America to lead a big-time program.
Soon after, Riley published an article for The Players' Tribune, in which he talks about his age, receiving offers from "smaller programs and a few Ivy League schools" and starting his career at his alma mater Texas Tech when he was just 23.
"But beyond being ready to embrace change, you — at your core — have to be a people person," he wrote. "Not just when it comes to talking to people related to the program, but anybody."
Then he used his former head coach and boss, longtime Red Red Raiders' head coach Mike Leach, an example of what being a people person means.
My first or second year as an assistant at Tech, I was doing some work in Coach Leach’s office when his cell phone rang.
He picked it up and said, “Hey, how’s it going?” And then he listened for a second and asked, “Where ya calling from?”
He kept talking on the phone and I eventually sort of tuned out. Now, a short phone conversation for Coach Leach is an hour. So he was talking about this and that, and I was kind of hunkered down working on my own stuff. At some point, the call got dropped. They must have lost reception. Coach said, “Can you hear me? Are you there?”
Then he closed his old-school flip phone, swung it back open and redialed. He said, “Hey, sorry I lost you.” And then they resumed their conversation for another 30 minutes or so before Coach finally hung up.
After he was done, we started talking and I said, “Hey Coach, who was that on the phone?”
And he said, “Oh, they had the wrong number.”
See? People person.
Ultimately, Lincoln Riley's Oklahoma tenure will be judged on wins and losses, conference titles and national championships and — fair or not — if he can match Bob Stoops' winning clip of. .799. Clearly, he intends on achieving those lofty expectations with people skills.