Oklahoma's Patty Gasso, Texas' Mike White Now Battle the Mental 'Chess Match'

The Longhorns' head coach must convince his team they still have a chance, while the Sooners' head coach must convince hers they haven't done anything yet.
Mike White and Patty Gasso
Mike White and Patty Gasso / USA Today Sports

OKLAHOMA CITY — The importance of the mental game at work now at the Women’s College World Series must feel immense.

But that’s why Oklahoma and Texas pay Patty Gasso and Mike White the big bucks.

As the No. 2-seed Sooners and the No. 1 Longhorns get together again tonight at Devon Park to decide college softball’s national champion, it’s the head coaches who are under the microscope.

What might look obvious to outside observers — that Texas is cooked and OU is headed toward its eighth national championship after the Sooners’ 8-3 wipeout on Wednesday — is anything but.

In the face of the ultimate joy of winning a fourth consecutive national title, Gasso must convince her team that they haven’t accomplished anything yet and they’ve still got a lot of work to do.

Meanwhile, staring down the barrel of another disappointing loss to their bitter rival, White must convince his team that the fight isn’t anywhere near finished and they’re still capable of beating the Sooners twice.

Maybe Gasso and the OU coaching staff have a slight advantage in the mental reset ahead of Thursday’s 7 p.m. contest. 

Maybe.

Gasso said the team celebrated only a little bit in the locker room on Wednesday night, and then it felt like it was back to business. It's a trick of the trade for champions, and Gasso pulled back the curtain just a little at her postgame press conference. 

"I think for me, I just I hold in a lot of emotion," Gasso said. "When it comes out, you don't want to be around. So I hold it in and I try to keep it very steady. Don't get too high. Don't get too low. 

“But when we went into the locker room, they were kind of banging on (things), but it was just like, ‘Hey, great job. Everybody did their job.’ It wasn't throwing water at each other. It wasn’t doing all of that. It was just knowing the importance of staying focused in what we're doing. … This (first) game is great to have in your back pocket. We talked about that a lot. But you can't live on that. So there's just really a lot of softball left, and it's our goal to play well.”

White described a different postgame scene.

“Obviously they were very disappointed,” White said. “… You know, I've always said, ‘He who adjusts last, loses.’ So we didn't really do a good job of that. We tried to switch plans, they mixed their plan up. But it happens all the time. So, a chess match.

“It's like I said to them, it's not how far you fall, it’s how far you bounce. And we got to come back and bounce back from adversity right now. Or we go home. It's pretty simple. You know, it's fight or go home.”

Gasso acknowledged that this OU team, with 10 seniors — many of whom have three national championship rings on their fingers — seem to be figuring things out at the right time at their home away from home. 

"I don't even know really how to explain it," Gasso said, "except, once we did it once, they knew how to do it. The second time, they knew how to do it another time. They're acting as if they know how to do it a fourth time. 

“But it's tough. It's tough, especially as you go deeper into it. And they know that. But they're just handling things very professionally. And like women. And that's what makes me really proud is that they don't need me.”


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John E. Hoover

JOHN E. HOOVER

John is an award-winning journalist whose work spans five decades in Oklahoma, with multiple state, regional and national awards as a sportswriter at various newspapers. During his newspaper career, John covered the Dallas Cowboys, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Oklahoma Sooners, the Oklahoma State Cowboys, the Arkansas Razorbacks and much more. In 2016, John changed careers, migrating into radio and launching a YouTube channel, and has built a successful independent media company, DanCam Media. From there, John has written under the banners of Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, Fan Nation and a handful of local and national magazines while hosting daily sports talk radio shows in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and statewide. John has also spoken on Capitol Hill in Oklahoma City in a successful effort to put more certified athletic trainers in Oklahoma public high schools. Among the dozens of awards he has won, John most cherishes his national "Beat Writer of the Year" from the Associated Press Sports Editors, Oklahoma's "Best Sports Column" from the Society of Professional Journalists, and Two "Excellence in Sports Medicine Reporting" Awards from the National Athletic Trainers Association. John holds a bachelor's degree in Mass Communications from East Central University in Ada, OK. Born and raised in North Pole, Alaska, John played football and wrote for the school paper at Ada High School in Ada, OK. He enjoys books, movies and travel, and lives in Broken Arrow, OK, with his wife and two kids.