STILLWATER – Saturday was Senior Day in Gallagher-Iba Arena and the trio of senior captains – Lindy Waters III, Cameron McGriff and Thomas Dziagwa – combine for 43 of the Pokes’ 73 en route to the 73-61 win over Iowa State. On hand for the Pokes’ win was Oklahoma State legend and NBA champion Tony Allen, aka The Grindfather.
Allen, who picked up the moniker ‘The Grindfather’, was known across the NBA as one of, if not the toughest defender in the league. So much so that Kobe Bryant told the media in 2018 that Allen was by far the toughest defender that he’d ever faced.
So, it’s only fitting that Mike Boynton is trying to get the program back to its defensive roots of the Henry Iba and Eddie Sutton days.
“I like that,” Allen said of Mike Boynton getting the program back to its defensive roots. “I like that simply because we’re definitely not about to be shooting any ill-advised shots, but we’re gonna hold our ass on the defensive end. Me personally, that’s where I found my niche and I think it helps you to the next level, if you know what I mean, because I’ve seen a lot of guys come to the NBA and not understand what defense is because they’re so offensively minded. That was detrimental them playing because if you can’t defend, more than likely you won’t stand too firm in the league if you’re not scoring like a James Harden, [Steph] Curry or one of those guys. I think [Boynton] doing that, set the tone of how you survive in the NBA.”
The media got the opportunity before the start of the Iowa State game on Saturday to speak with Allen about his time at Oklahoma State and the NBA. We had the privilege of spending about 20 minutes with him and the majority of the answers he gave were about Eddie Sutton.
“I was telling someone this earlier, coach [Eddie] Sutton prepared me for getting to the NBA,” Allen said. “The tough love I was telling you guys about, I needed it because in the NBA, there’s no nice guys. It’s either put up or shut up and what have you done for me lately. I think with coach being so hard on me and pushing me and pushing me and pushing me, it only made me mentally stronger. We talk about all the wins, but I just like how he prepared me as a young man. He got me to fix my manners, he got me thinking about a lot of stuff just as far as life. We used to just have conversations about everything. The wins I honor, you can’t do nothing but honor the wins, but how coach Sutton was as a person with me personally, I’ll never forget it. He never lied to me, kept it straight up and down with me. I asked him if I could go to the NBA if I came to this program and he told me if I listened to him, and do all the things that’s required of me at this program, that I’m gonna be a pro, now look at me. 14-year veteran all coming from coach Sutton. I’ve got to give all my credit to him because he straightened me up a whole lot.”
Just a few questions later, “Just to get someone that cares about me and worried about my family and what I got going, he’s a Hall of Fame coach,” Allen said of Sutton. “I would’ve probably thought he was thinking about nothing but wins, but he was always trying to tell me stuff to prepare me for the NBA; save your money, watch the women out here, be careful always, take care of your kids. He’d just have little conversations that you wouldn’t get from a coach and I think he knew I was going to the pros. I kind of think he already had this in plan, I don’t know. But I know that if I wouldn’t have came and got up under coach Eddie Sutton, y’all wouldn’t even be talking with me today.”
Not only did Allen spend 14 years in the NBA, but he was drafted in the first round of the 2008 NBA Draft in 2004 by the Boston Celtics and helped Boston win an NBA championship in 2008. Throughout his career in the league, Allen picked up three NBA All-Defensive First Team honors, as well as three Second Team honors. He finished his career averaging 8.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.
Allen averaged 14.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game during his first season in Stillwater, 2002-03, and was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. During his senior season, he averaged 16 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game and was a major factor in the Pokes reaching the 2004 NCAA Final Four. He earned Big 12 Player of the Year, as well as an All-American Honorable Mention by the Associated Press. Allen also became the first player in program history to reach the 1,000 career-points mark in only two seasons.