The new Lady Leopards basketball coach comes to De Queen from the west. Lance Weeks has a long pedigree of coaching in Oklahoma.
A native of Kingston, Okla., and a graduate of Southeastern Oklahoma State, he began his coaching career at Honey Grove, Tex. After a year there, he went back across the Red River and coached 28 years in his native state.
As he described it, he coached in all four corners of the state. He coached at class B Dustin. “We had 42 kids in the top four grades,” Weeks recalled. “My last year the girls won 25 games. The boys won 28.”
On the other end of the scale, he has coached at class AAAA Broken Bow and Anadarko.
Weeks was coaching both boys and girls at Coalgate when he resigned in 2018. His involvement in basketball last season was watching his son play on Kingston’s state championship team. After a year out of coaching, he realized he was not ready to give it up.
“My dad coached,” he said. “I guess I just didn’t know any better. I have coached just about every sport imaginable.”
Included in that list is six player basketball. That version of the game for girls was played until 1995 in the Sooner State. “It’s a really good game. I still use it in practice some times,” Weeks said. “It’s essentially 3-on-3 at both ends of the court.”
In addition to his dad, Weeks counts among his influences his high school coach, Jerry Shipp. Shipp was the captain and leading scorer of the 1964 U.S. Olympic team.
Then there is former Southeastern Oklahoma State coach Bloomer Sullivan, for whom the Southeastern basketball facility is now named. “He influenced everyone in Oklahoma,” Weeks said.
There is a long history of basketball coaches crossing the Arkansas - Oklahoma line -- including the two most successful coaches at the University of Arkansas: Eddie Sutton and Nolan Richardson. Sutton favored a deliberate, ball control style of play while Richardson wanted to run the opposition into the floor.
“I like to think I’m a little bit of Eddy and a little bit of Nolan,” Weeks said. “The game depends on the kids, whatever gives me a chance to win. I would prefer to play fast, furious and chaotic.”
However, he will adapt if the personnel does not fit that style. “If something’s not working, I’ll scrap it,” he said.
With less than a week of working with the De Queen team, he is just beginning to get to know the players. He was aware that a talented senior class just graduated.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised. There’s some talent here. They have been well coached before,” he said. “One biggee I’ve noticed over the years: if you’re used to winning, you tend to keep on winning.”
The Lady Leopards will practice four days a week through the summer and attend team camps at Nashville and at Kingston, Okla.
“Anything you do in the summer, you can’t avoid vacations and church camps and other things. I tell them to be here as much as you can,” Weeks said.
“Going to Kingston will be something different for the kids. They’ll play three games a day against people they’ve never played before.”
Weeks pointed out that there are some differences between high school athletics in Oklahoma and Arkansas. For example, in Oklahoma ninth graders play at the high school level, not junior high. The playoff system for reaching the state tournament, something that Weeks has done four times, is different.
Still, on both sides of the state line, the object is to get the ball in the hoop more than the other team. “My object is to be better at the end of the season than at the start,” said the coach.