Jul. 21—After bringing his alma mater back to being one of the best programs in the state, Russell Cook has moved on to accept a coaching job at a larger school.
Shortly before he was bound to begin his eighth year as coach of the Pawnee High football team, Cook accepted a job at Bartlesville last week. He will become the new offensive line coach for the Bruins this fall.
“I always coached O-line and D-line at every school I’ve ever been to,” Cook said. “It will be nice to go back and enjoy coaching a little bit without some of the stress that comes along with being a head coach.”
Cook resigned from Pawnee last week and already joined the Bartlesville program this week. It was a move that wasn’t easy for Cook, but he felt like now was the time to leave his alma mater and join a Class 6A program.
“I resigned from Pawnee last week,” Cook said. “I reported here (Monday) morning for summer pride lifting and kids camp this afternoon. So, they’ve already got me hooked up. I’m enjoying my time meeting a lot of good people and a great administration up here in Bartlesville. I’m looking forward to becoming a Bruin.
“I met with the coaching staff and Coach (Jason) Sport does a great job at Bartlesville. I fit in really well with the coaching staff here, and they’re trying to do some big things over here. I felt like it was time. Pawnee is still going to be really good and compete within the district. I love those kids there in Pawnee, and I’ll miss those kids. However, I felt a career change at this time — going to a bigger program that has things going in the right direction — might be a good change for me, my wife and my family.”
Cook, a 1998 Pawnee graduate, coached at several schools before landing his first head coaching gig in 2014 at his alma mater. He turned the Black Bears’ program around in just a few short years.
Pawnee went 3-7 his first year before a 5-5 second season. The next two years, Pawnee finished 6-5, earning a playoff spot, but falling in the opening round of the postseason.
Cook’s best season since taking over came in 2018, when Pawnee went 7-3. However, all three losses came against district opponents, and the Black Bears missed the playoffs due to a tiebreaker.
A year later, the Black Bears began the season with 13-straight wins before falling in the state semifinals to Cashion. It was the first year Pawnee won a playoff game under Cook, and they won three that season.
Last fall, Pawnee finished 9-2, advancing to the Class A quarterfinals. Cook won five playoff games during his final two years with the Black Bears.
Cook believes Pawnee will still be a good team. He said he didn’t want to leave the program when the talent left, but instead leave the next coach with good players.
“The kids are great in Pawnee,” Cook said. “The staff is great and I love the school. I will always be a part of that community. I will always be a Black Bear. I just felt like it was time for me to move on to a bigger class and help my career for future plans.”
High school football teams can officially begin practicing Aug. 9.