Rene Huckaba became an Oklahoma coaching icon through football and track during a career that bridged most of five decades.

He was elected to the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1979.

He was inducted later into the Oklahoma Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

He coached baseball at the junior college level.

He spent 30 years at Yukon, planning and feeding the school’s growth and maturity from Class B through Class 6A.

In 1992, he was saluted as the Athletics Director of the Year by the Oklahoma Coaches Association.

About the only sport he did not coach was girls basketball.

Yet it was girls basketball that made an impression on Rene Huckaba that has endured into his retirement.

Fresh out of Southwestern State at Weatherford in 1957, he took a double-fisted job coaching at Sayre.

He was hired as a football coach at the high school. He soon found himself coaching baseball and basketball at Sayre Junior College.

At the same time.

And, it was at Sayre that Huckaba encountered Jim Keith.

Keith would eventually become synonymous with girls basketball in Oklahoma, with stops at Oologah and Claremore before retiring to Oologah Lake. When his uncle, Harold Keith, wrote the novel “Brief Garland,” he based the book’s primary character on Jim Keith and the plot around the Sayre High School girls basketball team.

“Jim Keith became one of my mentors,” Huckaba said recently from his home in Midland, Texas.

“I learned more basketball from Jim Keith than anybody else that I was ever around.”

One of the things that Huckaba learned from Keith was an appreciation for the sport of girls basketball.

“The guys I really admired, that really did an outstanding coaching job, were those girls basketball coaches,” Huckaba said. “Man, we had some good girls basketball coaches in western Oklahoma. They could coach. They’d get so much out of kids.

“Those girls were warriors. I always thought that football and girls basketball just about ruled those communities.

“It didn’t make me want to coach girls basketball, but, boy, it’d cause anybody to want to coach.

“I mean, it was exciting. I loved it.”

Huckaba, though, was something of a pushover.

He just loved coaching, period.

He loved coaching so much that he went against his mother’s wishes.

She taught school for 36 years. She wanted young Rene to pursue a career in medicine.

“But I always knew that I wanted to coach,” he said.

From Weatherford High School, where he played football, baseball and basketball and ran track, he acquiesced to his mother’s desire. Somewhat. He did enroll in some pre-med courses at Southwestern.

During his first year at Sayre, his mother telephoned with the news that Rene had been accepted to Southwestern’s medical school.

Once again, he dashed his mother’s hopes.

“I said, ‘Mom, I don’t want to go to medical school. I want to coach. That’s all I ever wanted to do. That’s what I love.’

“Now, I was making $3,900 a year and working at the grain elevator in the summertime,” he said.