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Little is making his Mark

Pirates - 2007 Season
Posted Wednesday, October 31, 2007 by Ryan Aber - The Oklahoman

Emerging from the shadow of Mike Little used to be his younger brother's driving force.

"I used to have some selfish feelings,” said Mark Little, now the coach at Putnam City. "I grew up so appalled at the selfishness throughout the world. I didn't want to become what I hated.”

Since taking over as head coach at Putnam City before the 2003 season, Mark has taken up a different attitude.

Now, he enjoys things a bit more, emphasizing team-building over winning, and on top of that, is leading the Pirates to their most successful season since 1977.

He's also making his own name, becoming known for his own winning ways rather than being the younger brother of one of the most successful football coaches in Oklahoma high school history.

"There was always that drive,” Mark Little said. "I had to come to grips with it. We're the same kind of styles in a lot of ways, and yet we are different in a lot of respects.

"I wanted to set my own mark for expectations for myself.”

With a 12-year difference between them, Mike and Mark's relationship had a different dynamic than most siblings. Mike even coached Mark when the younger brother played for a season at Putnam West.

"Dads will have mercy on their sons. Brothers won't have any mercy,” Mark said.

Mike admits he was tougher than he should've been.

Now, though, the relationship is much more brotherly.

Mike spends time in the Pirates' coaching office occasionally, and the pair talk several times per week.

"If you're around him 10 minutes talking football, it's not surprising at all how successful he's been,” Mark said. "He has the Midas touch.”

That touch is starting to look like a family thing. Mark coached Burns Flat in 1985, leading that team to its first deep playoff run in school history. He took over at Frederick in 1986 and coached the Bombers — who had gone 1-9 the year before he arrived — to seven consecutive winning seasons. Frederick won back-to-back state titles in the two years after Little left.

And now, Little has coached the Pirates to their fourth nine-win season in his five years as head coach there.

He's doing it this year on a team without stars. The Pirates lost their best player to injury before the season and have gritted and clawed their way to 9-0 heading into Friday's showdown at 9-0 Midwest City.

While the brothers are very different, they're also very much the same. Both believe winning is overvalued at the high school level, yet both have won at nearly every stop.

"It's all about a belief system. ‘Why should I work this hard if there's a question mark at the end?' Because there always is,” Mark Little said. "There are no guarantees. It's kids like the ones we have here that make it more than satisfying. I wish there wasn't so much emphasis on winning. To be able to reach out and help young people in schools to make themselves better, that's the most important thing about this for me.

"But, in a lot of ways, you can only get to those people when you're successful.”

And it's those kids, like the Pirates football players this year that he says he has to kick out of the locker room every night, that make it worthwhile.

"There's a camaraderie which I insist upon and a brotherhood,” Little said. "We have to run our kids out of here almost every day.

"I've been in situations where I didn't want to go to work. That's not like that here. Every day, our coaches and players look forward to coming up here.”

And now, it's the older brother who's looking on in admiration.

"I'm really proud of him,” Mike said. "That's the only program I've known of in 6A that's been down there where you didn't think you could see daylight and come back.

"He's helped turn that around. He's made that place like a second home to a lot of these kids.”


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