Cooksey brothers Brad, Chris reflect on officiating journey, referee brotherhood
Chris Cooksey knew he had to take off after his big brother, the towering Brad Cooksey.
When the buzzer went off while officiating the finals of a tournament in Newcastle between Heritage Hall and Ada a few years back, Brad Cooksey went out the back-exit door to flag down a fan. Younger brother Chris ran outside to chase him down.
“I gotta look out for Brad,” Chris Cooksey recalled. “It should be the other way around,” the high school basketball referee of 11 years said with a chuckle.
A Heritage Hall fan had been ripping Brad Cooksey beyond belief with several demeaning words, making Brad’s face red as a radish, Chris recalls. Pushed to a boiling point, the officials had no choice but to toss the unruly fan, who is supposed to leave the premises. Refusing to leave, Brad and Chris had to stop the game — prompting Brad to reconcile the hostile situation afterwards.
“People don’t realize referees are ordinary people just like everybody else and it’s not easy,” said Brad Cooksey, who has officiated high school basketball for 10 years and is the President of the Lawton Fort Sill Economic Development Corporation. “We understand that fans are fans and they root passionately for their teams. The fascinating part of this is we get to still be around the game of basketball, give back to the kids and be around the teams, seeing them play the game they love.”
Earlier this March, the brothers — who both graduated from Eisenhower before playing college basketball at Cameron — made their combined 11th state tournament appearance as officials.
Their journey as basketball officials is a family affair, started by their role model, father and longtime referee John Cooksey.
Brad was a teenager at the time, but Chris vividly remembers hopping into the car as a kid and going all over the place with his dad for games. When John officiated the state tournament each year and got his assignment at the Thursday morning officials meeting with the OSSAA, he would take Chris out of school to come up to Oklahoma City with him.
John reffed the state’s final 6-on-6 girls game and also officiated a 1991 showdown between a pair of former professional athletes in Ryan Minor of Hammon and Bryant Reeves of Gans.
After the brothers starred at Cameron — with Brad playing from 1993-97 and Chris playing from 2001-04, it marked the first time in their lives the brothers were away from basketball, which only amplified their passion for the sport.