OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma State megabooster T. Boone Pickens said Wednesday he had little input regarding the hiring of Travis Ford as the Cowboys' basketball coach.
But Pickens praised Ford's hiring _ along with that of university President Burns Hargis _ as potentially historic ones for his alma mater.
"It will go down in history that Burns Hargis and Travis Ford will be the two best hires we've made in the last 50 years," Pickens said after speaking at an energy conference sponsored by Oklahoma State's Spears School of Business.
Earlier, during his presentation at the conference, Pickens veered off script for a few moments to discuss Ford, who was officially introduced last Thursday as the Cowboys' new coach.
"I think we got us a basketball coach," Pickens said.
Pickens, the founder of Dallas-based energy investment fund BP Capital, has given more than $250 million to Oklahoma State in recent years. Oklahoma State renamed its football stadium in his honor.
Pickens said he spoke with Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder _ a longtime friend_ as Holder searched for a coach to replace Sean Sutton, who resigned under pressure on April 1 after two seasons as the Cowboys' head coach.
But the billionaire energy magnate said he didn't offer much advice to Holder, who first tried to woo Kansas coach Bill Self. Self declined his alma mater's overtures and Holder eventually offered the job to Ford, who guided Massachusetts to this season's National Invitation Tournament championship game.
"Mike and I talk a lot," Pickens said. "… He told me that he was going to talk to Bill Self, which he did. Then I heard from him a day or two later, and he said he was talking to Travis. I just encouraged him more than anything else. He bounces ideas off of me from time to time.
"Don't ever have the idea that I'm trying to run the athletic department. I've got a full-time job," Pickens said.
Holder has said Pickens was not involved in Ford's hiring.
During the search, media reports hinted that Oklahoma State was willing to offer Self a $6 million signing bonus as well as a contract that would pay $3.5 million a year. Pickens said those numbers were "not true," but didn't elaborate. Last week, Holder said those numbers "out there in the media … were all fiction."
Self has said that no dollar figure was mentioned in his conversation with Holder.
Ford has agreed to a contract that will pay him $1.3 million annually for seven years, which would make him the highest-paid coach of any sport in Oklahoma State's history.
He said Friday he had spoken with Pickens for the first time the previous night. Ford said Pickens asked about the coach's 8-year-old son, Brooks, who had undergone a root canal earlier in the week.
"The one thing that most impressed me about him is he asked, 'How's your son?' That impressed me more than anything, that he even knew and remembered," Ford said.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.