Beyond 500: Coach Patrick Cudjoe Teaches Winning On and Off the Court

Apr 23, 2024

Fields & Futures Blog Coach Patrick Cudjoe 500 Wins Feature Image

Five hundred wins is a career milestone that any high school basketball coach would aspire to. Patrick Cudjoe reached that benchmark at the end of this past season as the head coach of the John Marshall Bears boys’ basketball team. Only a dozen other active coaches in the state have notched as many victories.

But even though his coaching resume is chock-full of wins, playoff appearances, and a state championship, Cudjoe would just as soon see high schoolers rack up Ws in the win column of life than outscore opponents on the basketball court. Known equally for his dedication as an English teacher, Cudjoe’s commitment extends beyond the game. His deep roots in Oklahoma City Public Schools as a student, athlete, educator, and coach reflect his dedication to the district and his passion for developing athletes and inspiring students. 

As he celebrates this significant career achievement, his influence on and off the court continues to shape the futures of young people in OKC. Join us as we explore the journey and impact of a remarkable coach and teacher, Patrick Cudjoe.

Fields & Futures Blog Coach Patrick Cudjoe 500 Wins Story Image

Congratulations on your 500th career win! I know the season ended sooner than you wanted it to in the Regional Finals, but how does it feel to reach such a significant milestone in your coaching career?

I never set a personal goal to achieve a certain number of victories, but it was gratifying when that goal became a reality.

Reflecting on your journey, what has been the key to your longevity and success as a coach?

I really love the grind of the off-season and the challenge of beginning each summer with a fresh canvas of players for the upcoming season. It’s fun to be a part of the process of the development of young people, both on and off the court.

Looking back, what are some of the most memorable teams, players, or moments from your coaching career so far?

Of course, the 2009 State Championship team at Star Spencer comes to mind because we had four consecutive come-from-behind wins to capture the title. The two teams prior to that (2007 and 2008) were also memorable because they made it to the State Semi-Finals, proving our program belonged on the big stage.

My first state tournament appearance in 1998 at Carl Albert was special. Additionally, the 2019 state semi-final team at John Marshall was magical because it featured a senior class that went unnoticed as freshmen and became really good ball players.

As one of only 13 active coaches to achieve the 500-win milestone, what advice would you give aspiring coaches looking to build successful programs?

I would tell young coaches not to get discouraged by the losses; learn from them! Don’t try to emulate any particular coach or mentor; extract bits and pieces from as many sources as possible and tweak them to form your own philosophy. Make sure to commit to an extensive off-season that fits your players. Not every kid will make an Elite Summer AAU team, so it is incumbent upon you to develop your kids.

Fields & Futures Blog Coach Patrick Cudjoe 500 Wins Story Image

How has the game of basketball evolved during your coaching career, and how have you adapted your coaching style to these changes?

There is now a significant emphasis on being proficient at 3-point shooting, whether on the fast break or within the constructs of the offense. Our coaching staff focuses on drills that create those opportunities, either off the dribble or with a pass.

Beyond wins and losses, what do you hope your players take away from their experience playing for you?

I have had numerous ex-players come to me and tell me that the drills and offenses we did gave them an opportunity to compete at the college level. They stated that the drills and their intensity in college were similar to the experiences we provided. It has been equally gratifying to have students from my English classes go into teaching and express how I inspired them to go into education. I am proud to know that I have multiple students who are also principals, and even one superintendent.

Did you have a coach or mentor that greatly impacted you or taught you something you still remember today?

My brother, Lance Cudjoe, taught me the importance of “denial defense.” Dan Hays taught me the importance of shooting mechanics. My high school coach, Steve Hudson, taught me the importance of competing on every possession. Tommy Griffin taught me to be patient with the development of younger players.

Beyond basketball, what life lessons do you hope your players learn from their time under your guidance?

I absolutely love being a father and grandfather, and my players witness that daily. Over the years, I have seen them become really good fathers and family men, which greatly pleases me. Additionally, they have seen my commitment to the classroom and the joy I get from teaching English. I love it when ex-players remember or reference a classroom moment.

The Cudjoe name is well-known and highly respected in OKC high school basketball. How many close relatives are or have been coaches? Feel free to name them and provide as many details about their careers as you’d like.

My father, Lance Cudjoe Sr., was the first Black Coach at Mount Saint Mary before he became a principal. His twin brother, Lawrence Cudjoe, was a legendary coach at Douglass, and the court bears his name. My brother Lance, my cousin Kendal, and I all have won State Championships. My cousin Kyle had a successful stint at U.S. Grant.

You started out as an assistant at John Marshall under coaching legends Tommy Griffin and Charles Davis, then spent a decade as the head coach at Carl Albert before coming back to OKCPS. You were the head coach at Star Spencer for 14 years and are now in your 10th season at John Marshall. You’ve spent 27 of your 37 years in coaching in Oklahoma City Public Schools. Why the devotion to this district?

My brother and I both attended OKCPS and graduated from Northeast High School. My parents, Dr. Lance Cudjoe and Dr. Freddie Cudjoe, taught in OKCPS. My grandson started his educational sojourn in OKCPS. As many as 20 Cudjoes, including my daughter, Paige Cudjoe, have taught in OKCPS. I believe in OKCPS’s commitment to serving the community.

Fields & Futures Blog Coach Patrick Cudjoe 500 Wins Story Image

How important to the success of a program is the longevity of a coach’s tenure? And, beyond wins and losses, what does that mean for the kids in that program?

Let’s face it—one cannot win a championship every year, let alone compete for one every year; thus, we have to define SUCCESS in different ways. Personally, I believe that if you can get teams to reach or exceed their potential, that particular season is a success. 

When players and ex-players can identify pivotal moments that changed the course of their athletic careers, that’s a WIN!

From an athleticism and skillset standpoint, OKCPS student-athletes can compete with anyone on the court, but what is it about their character that makes them unique?

I make it a point to attend the Oklahoma State University Basketball Team Camp every summer so our kids can see the large school programs. Even though we don’t have the resources that many of them have, our kids never waiver in their DESIRE to belong.

In short, our kids have an indomitable spirit.

As their coach, how can you help them become successful in that way?

We try to play a rigorous summer schedule. Subsequently, our kids acclimate to the difficulty of pace and physicality.

How important are sports in the development of a young person? Why do you feel this way?

Sports teach teamwork and symbiotic relationships. It is vital for us all to belong to something bigger than ourselves.

Fields & Futures Blog Coach Patrick Cudjoe 500 Wins Story Image

What do you feel is your biggest responsibility as a coach?

My biggest responsibility is the daily commitment to player development. I’ve got to invest in whatever makes that kid better.

What is the most important life lesson you have learned as an athlete or through sports?

I’ve learned that ADVERSITY is part of the SUCCESS process.

What obstacles do you and/or the John Marshall program face in building a competitive program, and what makes you most proud as the coach of that program?

Transfers have already impacted John Marshall. In the past several years, we have lost five impact players to local high schools. Those players could have given us more success. However, we have continued to field competitive teams. We finished in the top half of our district in our first year of 5A.

What are some of the ways your teams engage the community, and why is that important?

Over the Christmas holidays, we gave a free basketball clinic to the players at Independence Charter, Belle Isle, and John Marshall Middle School.

Now that you’ve reached 500, what’s next? What drives you to keep winning games and impacting kids?

We have already begun preparing for Summer League, which starts soon. The kids are enthusiastic and focused. Additionally, I am lucky to have the challenge of the English classroom to keep me balanced.

Hope in Action at the 2024 Kansas Relays

Thanks to the Simon Greiner Program, eight talented student-athletes and four coaches from John Marshall's 2023 5A state champion sprint relay teams were given a life-changing opportunity to compete on a national stage at one of the oldest and most prestigious track meets in the country, the 2024 Kansas Relays. The trip was more than just a reward for their accomplishments; it was a vivid demonstration of "Hope in Action."

Cheering on Our Cheer Captain, Mandi Dotson

Mandi Dotson has been part of the Fields & Futures story since the very beginning, loyally and enthusiastically cheering for us through our biggest wins. Now, it's our turn to cheer on our resident cheer captain as she continues to grow the sport in her role as Director of Cheer & Youth Sports Advocate.

A Spring In Our Step: OKCPS Spring Sports Clinics

With spring sports in the air, Fields & Futures sprang into action to host a series of spring sports clinics for OKCPS athletes and coaches. This March featured three key events: the Spring Break Goalkeeper Clinic, the OKCPS Golf Coaches Clinic, and the Simon Greiner Program Field Events Clinic.

Fields & Futures