In 1986, Northwestern Oklahoma State University hired a young men’s basketball coach from Minnesota to try and revive a struggling program. Most figured the young coach would have some quick success and then move on to another program.
There’s no doubt Bob Battisti had some success, but he also fell in love with Northwestern and the Alva community, found his wife, and started his family.
Twenty-five years later, Battisti finally is ready to say goodbye to Northwestern and Alva as the long-time coach and athletic director will retire June 30. Battisti said he hopes to pursue some other opportunities, including a possible return to the bench.
“I have been blessed to serve Northwestern for the past 25 years,” Battisti said. “I hope I leave here being remembered as a fierce competitor.
“Most important I will be forever grateful to the student-athletes I have had a chance to coach. Their work ethic and passion to compete at a high level was special.”
Dr. Janet Cunningham, university president, said Battisti represented all of the great things about college athletics.
“Bob demanded accountability from his players,” she said. “He expected a lot from them and constantly challenged them. When you talk to his former players today, they will tell you that the discipline and teamwork he expected from them is what helped them become successful. I do not know of a player who does not have great feelings for him.
“He carried that philosophy into his role as athletic director. I have a great sense of appreciation and respect for the work that he has done.”
Battisti said the support from the University’s administration made it easy for him to call Northwestern home for so many years.
“I am truly grateful to Northwestern and our tremendous community,” he said. “The support provided by President Cunningham and all past presidents and athletic directors has meant so much to me and I will never forget my amazing time here.”
Battisti took over the men’s basketball program in 1986 and quickly turned the Rangers into consistent winners.
From 1986 to 2007, Northwestern won six conference titles and finished in the NAIA’s top 25 seven times. Battisti finished with a 409-295 overall collegiate record including a 374-265 mark at Northwestern.
He led the Rangers to the NAIA national tournament five times including an "Elite 8" finish in 2007. Battisti’s finest season came in 1993-94, when the Rangers posted a 29-2 overall record, finished the regular season with a No. 2 national ranking, and advanced to the "Sweet 16" of the NAIA national tournament.
While at Northwestern he was named conference coach of the year five times and was selected as the NAIA National Coach of the Year in 1994 by Basketball Times. During his tenure, Battisti coached three All-Americans and five Academic All-Americans.
In 2007, he stepped away from coaching and assumed the role of athletic director. During his tenure, the University launched the successful Vision for Victory fundraising campaign for athletics that raised $2.4 million and led to major athletic facility improvements.
Battisti also led Northwestern’s efforts to seek membership in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Posted on Thu, April 7, 2011
by Ryan Hintergardt