Linda Livingstone grew up going to Oklahoma State basketball practices with her brothers. Her father, Doyle Parrack, who was one of the biggest names in the state of Oklahoma’s basketball history, was a starter on Oklahoma A&M’s (now Oklahoma State) 1945 NCAA championship basketball team for legendary head coach Henry Iba before he became an assistant under Iba in the 60s.
From the countless times she chased her brothers around the arena, Livingstone always wanted to play basketball at Oklahoma State. And she did. A starter her freshmen and sophomore seasons, Livingstone remains the record-holder for the highest field goal percentage by an Oklahoma State freshman.
Now the first woman to serve as Baylor University’s President, Livingstone sat down with the Tribune-Herald on Tuesday to discuss her Oklahoma State days, her intense games of H-O-R-S-E with her husband, Brad, and her choice of attire for Wednesday night’s top-25 showdown between the Lady Bears and Oklahoma State in the Ferrell Center.
Q: What’s your first memory of basketball?
A: My dad was a college basketball coach, so my earliest memories of basketball were when he was coaching at Oklahoma State University, and we would go to the practices in what was then Gallagher Hall — it’s now Gallagher-Iba Arena — and watch the men’s basketball team at OSU practice. We would run around behind the bleachers with my two brothers. It was great fun. We only got in trouble occasionally for making too much noise.
Q: You mentioned your dad, Doyle Parrack. Was your dad your biggest basketball influence growing up?
A: I would say that he was. Partly because he was coaching we went to college basketball games all the time. I certainly had two brothers, and we would play against each other a lot. I grew up playing with the boys, so to speak. But certainly because my dad was a coach, and he was not a real outspoken father on the sideline or anything, but he would give me helpful advice along the way.
Q: Some of my favorite childhood memories were playing basketball in the driveway with my dad. Besides going to practices, what are some of your favorite memories playing basketball with your dad?
A: He didn’t play with us as much as he gave us advice and insight. My memories of playing in the driveway were more with my two brothers. One who was a couple years older and one who was a year-and-a-half younger. I remember my dad coming to my games and watching us play. I think one of my other, kind of special, memories was one summer league in high school my dad coached our summer league team. That was the only time he ever coached me. We went undefeated that summer. It was great fun. I loved the opportunity to play for him.
Q: Was it different having your dad as your coach?
A: It was a little bit different, but he was just a really great coach. He had a real good way with the team and with the players. And then, of course, when you win it’s always a lot of fun.
Q: What’s the biggest on-the-court lesson he taught you?
A: My dad played at Oklahoma A&M for Henry Iba, who is an iconic, historical basketball coach who was serious about defense. My dad grew up with that, so he was very serious that you have to play good defense. That’s really how you win games. Probably my biggest memories of sort of on the court were around defense and how you have to be a great defensive player to really make a difference for your team. You want to score points, but defense wins a lot of games. That’s really it, in terms of coaching expertise and advice, it was always around how to play better defense.
Q: Did you always want to play basketball at Oklahoma State?
A: With my dad coaching at Oklahoma State when I was growing up, that’s where we would always go and spend our time either in the gym or at football games. I always thought I was going to Oklahoma State. Interestingly enough, towards the end of my senior year, my dad had retired from coaching and he had the opportunity to go to the University of Oklahoma, kind of OSU’s archrival, to be the head women’s basketball head coach. So actually as I was getting ready to go to college at Oklahoma State, he was going to OU to coach the women’s team.
He tried to talk me into going to OU to play with him, and I couldn’t quite bring myself to go to OU. The first two years I was at OSU he was the head coach at OU. We would actually play each other two or three times a year. It kind of became a friendly in-state rivalry between the two teams.
Q: What was that first game like your freshman year playing against your dad?
A: It was kind of interesting. Of course it got quite a bit of attention because it was kind of unique that this would be happening and people in Oklahoma knew who my father was. But you know, we took it really well and it was a lot of fun. We took advantage of the attention it got women’s basketball in the state and thought it was a really good thing.
Q: Did your mom have one of those split T-shirts, with Oklahoma on one side and Oklahoma State on the other?
A: She was just all OSU all the way when it came to watching me play. I always appreciated that about my mom.
Q: What was your biggest take-away from your first year of collegiate basketball?
A: I think what you learn when you move from the high school level to the college level, even if you played on a good team at a high level in high school, it’s just a completely different level of basketball. You go from being the senior, you know, on the team to being the freshman with a lot of people who have more experience. There’s a bit of humility in it that you sort of have to relearn your place on the team. You have to relearn how you’re going to contribute on a different kind of team with different people knowing that, just as a freshman, you have a lot to learn. It’s always a learning experience as a freshman, in particular when you’re a student-athlete. For me, it was that as well.
Q: To back up a bit, what was that moment like when you received an athletic scholarship?
A: It was really exciting for me to get to go to Oklahoma State to play basketball. I had always wanted to go to school there and then to have the opportunity to play basketball there was just a real joy. My father, as I said, had played there. He played for a national championship team. It was really a very cool legacy for me to get to sort of follow in his footsteps, certainly not playing at the same level he did. It was wonderful and really a privilege for me to do that.
Q: How would you sum up your collegiate basketball career?
A: I really loved the opportunity I had to play basketball. I had fabulous teammates who are still very close friends of mine. I certainly learned a lot about myself. I think I grew tremendously as a leader, as a teammate during that period of time. I think that along with the education I got at Oklahoma State and the other experiences I had while in college, the basketball experience was deeply formative in my life and helping to prepare me for the things I’ve had the privilege to do since then.
Q: You met your husband, Brad, while you were at Oklahoma State. What was it like getting to know him?
A: Brad and I met at Oklahoma State. He played basketball there while I was playing basketball there. We actually didn’t date until we were juniors so we knew each other quite well. We were very involved in Fellowship of Christian Athletes as well when we were there. We knew each other. We actually played H-O-R-S-E, a shooting game, between practices. He will actually confirm this that he never beat me at H-O-R-S-E the entire time we played after practices through college.
We had great fun being able to have that common experience together. Now our daughter’s a student-athlete. She didn’t play basketball. She plays volleyball, but we’re OK with that. I think that we all have had that common experience and it’s really a special thing and bonds you as a family in ways that you wouldn’t otherwise.
Q: What kind of role did FCA have for you then and how have you seen it grow to where it is now?
A: Fellowship of Christian Athletes was really important in my life and in my husband’s life. Our best friends in college were a part of FCA, and it gave you sort of a spiritual grounding in college that was very important. When you’re an athlete you travel a lot, so it’s harder to get grounded in a church community because you’re gone on weekends a lot. For us, that was really our faith community while we were in college. I know for me personally it really helped me to grow deeply in my faith.
It gave me a confidence in sharing that faith with other people, which then, I think, helped me to have a confidence in myself. We have continued to be engaged with FCA. My husband worked for them for several years after we graduated. Our daughter is now active in the Rice FCA chapter and is a leader in that organization. We continue to support FCA, so it has been a really important part of our life all the way from high school.
Q: How would you say the sport of women’s basketball was when you played and how has it grown to where it is today?
A: It’s really fun for me to watch women’s basketball, especially our Baylor team. They are really amazingly talented. It’s great to watch them play. When I think about the level of the game when I played, so I played 1978-82, within just a few years after Title IX was passed. I don’t think at the time I realized how early in the transformation of women’s sports I was.
But when I watch now, the athletes are so much better. They’re quicker, they jump better, they’re better shooters, the game’s more sophisticated now. I love that I can personally see a dramatic transformation in women’s sports, not just in basketball but women’s sports in general since when I played which has given more and more opportunity which sets them up so successfully for life. It’s great to see how much better the sport is and how that’s much more helpful to the women who are playing.
Q: When did you first meet Kim Mulkey?
A: Let’s see, I met coach Mulkey when she was hired at Baylor, when I was here at Baylor the first time (1991-02). I was involved a little bit in that search process. I was really thrilled when we were able to bring her here and drag her away from Louisiana Tech, where she had really spent her entire adult life at that point in time.
We were thrilled to bring her here. It’s been fabulous to see what she’s done with our program here and really what she’s done with women’s basketball nationally. The team this year is unbelievably talented and well-balanced. It’s going to be really exciting to see what they do in postseason.
Q: You are still among the career leaders in single-season field goal percentage. You are the all-time leader as a freshman with a 55.5 shooting percentage at Oklahoma State. Currently, Baylor’s Kalani Brown leads the country shooting 69.1 percent. What have you seen from her?
A: Kalani’s a whole lot better than I am. I don’t even want to suggest in one breath that I would compare in any way to Kalani on the basketball court. For her to perform at the level she does, game in and game out, whether it’s scoring or rebounding or playing defense, it’s amazing. She’s really one of the best players in the country. It’s a privilege to go watch her play. If people haven’t, they need to come out and watch the Lady Bears because they are great fun to watch. You will see some of the best basketball you’ll ever see in the country.
Q: You just touched on it but how fun is it to be able to go and watch one of the elite programs in the country?
A: It’s a lot of fun. You don’t have the chance to do that very often. To be able to do it and know that it’s your team you’re cheering for is a real privilege. I’m really proud of the young women on that team and the way they represent the university and, really, the way they represent women’s basketball all around the country.