New Oklahoma State coach Boynton, 35, says he's ready

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) Mike Boynton knows he has a rare opportunity for a young man, yet he feels his age doesn't matter.

Oklahoma State's new men's basketball coach was promoted from an assistant position last week after Brad Underwood left for Illinois.

At age 35, he feels ready and believes it was a matter of time before he'd get a chance to run a program.

''I don't think about my age when it comes to this thing,'' he said Monday at his introductory news conference.

''I've worked really hard, and that's all I really think about on a daily basis. Every day I wake up, I think, `Am I going to give everything I have, in every way I possibly can,' and my message to our guys is to do the same thing.''

What shocked Boynton wasn't the opportunity, it was the level of the school. Now that he's inherited a Big 12 program that regularly reaches the NCAA Tournament, he's thinking big right away.

''I want to be playing this weekend,'' he said, noting the Final Four is coming up. ''I want to be great. I want to be nationally relevant again, because we can. We have. And we can again. And we will again.''

Underwood left Oklahoma State after just one year, a season that had given Oklahoma State fans hope again.

The Cowboys lost their first six Big 12 games this season before rallying down the stretch to finish 9-9 in league play.

Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder thanked Underwood for his contribution to the program, which includes bringing Boynton in as an assistant.

''He did a lot of positive things,'' Holder said of Underwood. ''He ignited the passion of our fan base, coming back in the arena. I saw a transformation in a lot of our players, which a coach is supposed to do.

''Probably the greatest blessing of his one year was the people he brought with him and surrounded himself with.''

Boynton still needs to assemble a staff. He announced Monday that he will be keeping assistant coach Lamont Evans on as associate head coach, a move that was cheered loudly by the players in attendance.

Boynton's introduction was low key compared to when Underwood was introduced a year earlier. The news conference was not open to the public this time, and there were fewer mentions of Oklahoma State's past success and coaching greats Henry Iba and Eddie Sutton.

The players appear to be on board with Boynton, who has a strong reputation for developing players and pushing them hard.

''He's very loving and passionate,'' forward Jeffrey Carroll said. ''He cried today just from talking about us. He cares about us, and it's more than basketball.''

Boynton might have some rebuilding to do. All-Big 12 point guard Jawun Evans and Carroll, the team's No. 2 scorer, have entered the NBA draft, though Carroll said he has not hired an agent, meaning he can come back.

Shooting guard Phil Forte's eligibility is up after one of the most productive careers in school history.

Carroll said the program will remain strong going forward.

''Going the right way,'' he said. ''We're in good hands. We are going to get back to the (NCAA) Tournament. That's a guarantee.''

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