His time at USAO changed the course of one alum's life, leading him on a somewhat unexpected but successful path.
Rick McCormick, a 1979 USAO graduate, came to the school to play basketball straight from a junior college in Texas. He came to play under Coach Archie Porter in 1977.
But in April of the following year, Porter suffered a fatal heart attack. The Drovers hired Coach Gene Davis, who recognized that McCormick didn’t have the raw talent – at least not on the court.
“Coach Davis made it very clear to me that I could stay there, and my career was going to be in coaching, not playing,” McCormick said. “As a kid, I was probably a little offended, but it wound up being the best thing that ever happened.”
Davis took McCormick under his wing and made him a student assistant coach, something that wasn’t commonly done in the late 70s. McCormick spent his senior year scouting, picking up recruits and helping coach the Drovers.
“I was a kid who always wanted to coach, and I thought I’d go out and be a small-town high school coach,” he said. But Davis had different plans for the young graduate. He helped get McCormick a job as a graduate assistant at Oklahoma City University after graduation in 1978. There, he went on to get a masters degree in education.
“And that started the whole career into college coaching,” he said. “From there, I wanted to become a college head coach. That was the dream.”
McCormick quickly moved on to become an assistant coach and psychology teacher at Conners State College before finding his first head coaching position, just five years removed from college. At 27, McCormick became the head basketball coach at North Dakota State College of Science.