Teach me how to Gundy: How OSU coach Mike Gundy became college football's most interesting dancer
STILLWATER — Kristen Strickland watched with both amusement and horror as her boyfriend attempted to dance.
The Q-tip? No, not that one.
The sprinkler? Nope.
Carl Albert High School’s senior prom was fast approaching. Just keep the arms close to the body, she thought as they practiced in her bedroom. Move slightly with the beat. Play it safe. Nothing crazy.
But with a young, brash Mike Gundy, there was only silliness.
“Anything that he could get a rise out of me,” Kristen, now Gundy’s wife 35 years later, said with a laugh.
Mike certainly did that.
Sporting a black tux with a pink bow tie, Mike made it his mission at Kristen’s prom to bring a barrel of laughs.
He ran a sprinkler in a full circle. He wildly waved his arms and legs. He went low to the ground. He even broke out a breakdance move.
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“The more I would say stop and quit, then he would break out and do the worm,” Kristen said. “Oh my gosh. Even at prom in full tuxedo, he didn’t care.
“And it wasn’t even a very good worm.”
In 17 years as Oklahoma State’s head coach, Mike has shown his personality in a variety of ways. He made a mullet cool again. He ranted and raved. He took his shirt off at midcourt. He even sported a wrestling singlet. He won lots of games.
And then, there’s the dancing.
There is a softer, sillier side. One that only those close to him truly know.
“I like for people to see the lighter side of him,” Kristen said.
Entering Saturday’s game at Iowa State, Mike’s entertaining side continues to show through his locker room dancing. He brought back his famous moves last week after beating Texas.
The arm waving. The knee jerking. The squatting and dancing close to the floor.
The dance moves have had little improvement over time. But even at 54 years old, Mike Gundy isn’t afraid to bust a move.
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“Honestly, I don’t know how old he is but he’s been doing that one dance for a while,” OSU safety Tanner McCalister said. “His knees look pretty sturdy. I hope my knees are like that when I’m his age.”
Gundy credits years of wrestling to his knees holding up. Perhaps surgery later in life is the only way his dancing stops.
But he also gets a jolt after big wins, being pushed by his players to break it down.
“Adrenaline is a beautiful thing,” Kristen said.
Mike first danced in the locker room following OSU’s comeback victory over Texas A&M in 2011. The video immediately went viral. “The Gundy” was born.
Kristen said the moment was more of a sweet accident. There was no planning. But Mike’s players loved it. His three sons thought it was great.
“I’ve always kind of liked it,” said Gage Gundy, the youngest son who was 6 and in the locker room in 2011. “He’s really goofy. Just everyday little things.”
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In 2014, Gundy again went viral on his birthday when Kristen brought a cake and the OSU drumline to practice. With the drums playing, Gundy was caught dancing with his arms swinging wildly.
He’s danced since after big victories. He’s been known to break out into a quick move in a hallway around players. He gets on stage in the team room and dances.
It loosens up his players.
To those close to him, it’s no surprise.
“It’s Michael Ray!” Mike’s older sister, Kari, said in a text message. “He’ll be doing (the dances) for a while.”
Mike started to appreciate music at an early age. Each day, Mike’s mom, Judy, had music on her record player when he arrived home from school in Midwest City.
Elvis. Elton John. Queen. Earth, Wind & Fire. Barbara Streisand.
“She always told us it makes you happy to sing and dance,” Kari said. “I think Mike listened and is carrying on her dream.”
But one artist really stood out to Mike.
The music. The dancing.
“Maybe that gave Michael ideas,” Kari joked of her brother.
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Even with the inspiration, Mike’s dancing was subpar at best. Kristen knew that ahead of her junior prom.
Mike, a star quarterback at rival Midwest City High, initially scoffed at going to prom. Kristen insisted. She wanted to later say she went to her prom.
So, they went. His dancing left a lot of room for improvement.
“Honestly, his true dancing ability, um, was kind of weak,” Kristen said. “Bless his heart.”
She still held out hope for their senior prom. It’s why she spent those hours attempting to teach him how to dance.
Years later, she was taken back to those moments watching the movie “Hitch.” When Kevin James' character showed his dance moves to Will Smith’s character, Kristen found so many similarities.
“He would probably die I’m even saying this,” Kristen said. “So, if you play that scene on your phone, there’s a lot of moves going on there with Kevin James that went on with me.
“And I can just remember going, ‘Oh my gosh. OK, we’re going to have to fix this.’ I was Will and he was Kevin.”
But there was no fixing Mike Gundy’s dancing. Not then. Not now.
Cowboys everywhere are grateful for that.
Jacob Unruh covers college sports for The Oklahoman. You can send your story ideas to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @jacobunruh. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.
OSU at Iowa State
KICKOFF: 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa (Fox)