In 1991 a young Mark Osina came to Weatherford College to work with his good friend and mentor Bob McKinley.
Though he’d had success at the high school level, coaching 13 years at Waller, Killeen Ellison and South Houston high schools, he wanted to test himself at a higher level. Could he win in college?
Indeed he could. After 442 victories at Weatherford College, Osina, who will turn 67 in January, is hanging up his coaching whistle. He leaves with the most men’s basketball wins in Weatherford College history.
“It’s just time,” Osina said in his usual casual, laid-back style. “You just know when it’s time to move on to the next thing in life, and this is it. Yeah, I’m gonna miss it all. You don’t do something this long and not miss it.
“We’re (he and wife Liz) gonna head to Galveston (where they have another home) and probably do some traveling.”
But knowing how much Osina loved coaching the Coyotes, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to look into the crowd and see his voice being the loudest cheering on his beloved former team at a game next season. He was a part of the program for the better part of three decades from 1991-2008 and again from 2013 to 2021.
During his first stint, Osina coached the greatest men’s team in WC history, leading the 1998-99 Coyotes to a 34-3 record and a third-place finish in the NJCAA Tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas. As he is with so many former players, Osina continues friendships with most of the members of that squad.
“That team was just great. They were great to coach, great to know, and it’s great to keep up with them as they’ve gone on to be successful in their lives,” he said. “And I think it’s the best team in the history of the school (in any sport). It’s not that often you have two All-Americans on the same team.”
Osina was referencing Arunas Drasutis and Nerijus Puida, both sophomores that season. The following season Mindaugas Burneika, a freshman on the 1998-99 squad, was also named All-American.
In all, Osina coached seven All-Americans, won five conference championships, a regional championship and has a place in the Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference Hall of Fame.
When Osina came to WC, the technology of today was something not yet envisioned. There were no cell phones for calls or texting anytime, and emails hadn’t yet become the norm. He would often stay late in his office, making calls to players to get them to come to WC.
But he was determined to be a successful college coach.
“I took a $6,000 pay cut to become a college coach. There was no AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) back then. I drove many trips to Houston and other places on Tuesday and Friday nights and painted on campus to make extra money,” he recalled.
“McKinley and I painted the entire gym to improve it for free.”
All in the name of dedication, working alongside his great friend and mentor. McKinley coached Osina at both Pasadena High School and Houston Baptist University.
“We go back a long, long way. Mark did so many great things here, and he’s a great friend. We’ll miss him,” McKinley said. “So much of our lives have been spent alongside each other.”
They’ve also been there to comfort each other in some of their darkest days. McKinley when Osina’s oldest daughter Lacey and three friends died in an auto accident as a result of a drunk driver in 1998, and Osina recently when McKinley’s wife Dee passed away.
Osina left WC in 2008 to take a role as an assistant coach at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. A couple of years later, he returned to the area and worked for a short while as the athletic director at Millsap High School before returning to the Coyotes and his true calling.
Why? The same reason he got into coaching in the first place, the kids. Above all of his wins, Osina considers his most significant success the influence he had on young players who came through his program.
“Weatherford gave them a start, and now a lot of them have kids of their own that I like to think are learning what we taught their dads,” he said. “My greatest enjoyment was watching kids develop academically and athletically and continue on to four-year universities when WC was their only offer out of high school.
“A lot of them would not have gone to college if it was not for WC and basketball.”
Osina chuckled and said the program would go on just fine with him gone, and while that is true, the foundation he laid alongside McKinley over 25 years in Weatherford continues to draw players from around the globe.
“It’s going to be different when next season rolls around, for sure,” Osina said, adding with his noted grin, “We may come back up here now and then to see how things are going.”