As I sat around to brainstorm this week’s basketball post, I struggled to think of an interesting topic. I had drafted a piece about Thomas Robinson — one of my all-time favorite players at the University of Kansas. Quickly, it was deemed it garbage. I considered talking about recruits. I thought about ranking Fake Jeff Withey’s best tweets or compiling a list of some sort. Instead, I decided to recount Kansas basketball history to the best of my knowledge — plus all the fine internet research I did.
For those that may not know, I’m a bit of a history nerd, so this combined my two loves in one fun project.
Below, I highlight Kansas basketball’s highs and lows over its 118-year history.
1898: The Kansas Jayhawks’ first coach — James Naismith — brings basketball to the University just 6 years after the official rules were written. Naismith is deemed the “Father of Basketball,” but ironically, his team is the only one with a losing record 55-60. During Naismith’s time, Kansas played mostly YMCA teams; other notable opponents were Haskell Institute, William Jewell College, and the only current Big 12 school, Kansas State.
Pre-1907: Kansas’ Jayhawks played in the basement of the original Snow Hall (demolished in 1934) and other venues like the YMCA skating rink.
1907: The University of Kansas hired Phog Allen, one of Naismith’s players as head coach and successor to the inventor. Allen later earned the nickname, “Father of Coaching” because of the great deal of time he spent coaching and shaping sports. He coached at Kansas from 1907-09 and later returned in 1919. He stayed until the 1956 season, where he was forced to retire because of his age (70). He spent 39 seasons with Kansas and earned a 590-219 record.
Notable players under Phog Allen: Dean Smith, Adolph Rupp, Dutch Lonborg, and Ralph Miller — all Hall of Fame coaches; Paul Endacott, Bill Johnson, Clyde Lovellette — all Hall of Fame players; even Kansas Senator Bob Dole played under Allen.
1907-27: Kansas Jayhawks’ new home for basketball is Robinson Gymnasium — the first and only athletic building on campus at the time. The gym featured 2,500 seats. It was demolished in 1967.
1909-19: William O. Hamilton coached the Jayhawks in Allen’s absence. He recorded a 125 wins and 59 losses. During his 10 seasons as coach, he won five conference regular season championships. As noted above, Allen returned following Hamilton’s departure.
1922 & 1923: Kansas wins the Helms Championship. (This was a pre-NCAA tournament championship, which selected Basketball National Champs from 1901 to 1941.)
1927-55: Hoch Auditorium becomes home for the Kansas basketball teams. It seated 3,500. In 1991 it was struck by lightning, and only the limestone facade and lobby-area were spared. Reconstruction of the building transformed it into Budig Hall, which is the rear half of the building.
1940: Kansas appears in its first NCAA championship, but loses in the final game 42-60 to Indiana.
1952: The Jayhawks win their first National Championship under Phog Allen with a 80-63 victory over St. John’s. Clyde Lovellette is named The Most Outstanding Player.
1953: Kansas loses a heart-breaker 68-69 to Indiana (again) in the National Championship title game.
1956: Phog Allen forced to retire because of his age; 70 is “too old.” He recruited Wilt Chamberlain but was unable to coach him because freshmen weren’t eligible for varsity sports in 1956.
1957: Dick Harp, former Kansas player and assistant, becomes coach. He goes 121-82 with two conference titles, and two NCAA playoff berths. Harp had the pleasure of coaching Wilt the Stilt.
1957: Wilt leads the Jayhawks to the championship game against North Carolina. McGuire, who Kansas beat when he coached St. John’s, triple-teamed Chamberlain. In result, Kansas was defeated 54–53 in triple overtime. The game is considered one of the greatest in NCAA history.
1964: Ted Owens named Kansas head coach after Harp resigns. He helped Kansas win six Big 8 titles and finished 348-182 during his time. After 19 seasons, Owens was fired because of consecutive losing seasons (1981-82, 1982-83.)
Notable players under Owens: JoJo White, Walt Wesley, Bud Stallworth, Darnell Valentine, and Dave Robisch.
1983: The Larry Brown era begins — he left with a 135-44 record and five NCAA appearances.
1988-1989: Kansas receives postseason probation because Coach Brown broke recruiting violations before leaving Kansas to coach the San Antonio Spurs.
1988: North Carolina man, Roy Williams, takes over the head coaching job at Kansas. He finished his time in Lawrence with 418-101 record, earning 27.8 wins per season. His teams made the NCAA tourney each year.
1990-99: Kansas goes 286-60 — the most wins and best winning percentage of any team in during that decade
1991: Duke Devils defeat Kansas 72-65 in the National Championship.
1994-98: Kansas wins 62 consecutive games at Allen Fieldhouse.
1996: Named one of the best teams by pundits, and favored to win, the 1996 team featured greats like Paul Pierce, Jacque Vaughn, Raef LaFrentz, and Scot Pollard. This team, though, was upset in Sweet 16.
2003: No. 3 Syracuse hands Kansas another runner-up “title” in a close 78-81 NCAA final.
2005: Kansas wins its first of 12 (!!!!) Big 12 conference titles. The second under Coach Self.
2007: Kansas beats (in two come-from-behind wins) a Kevin Durant-led Texas to win the Big 12 regular-season championship.
2012: The Jayhawks (devastatingly) lose to Kentucky in the National Championship title game. Street signs are torn down. Many tears are shed.
2014: Ten Straight Big 12 Titles! A ring for each finger.
2015: As U.S. representatives, the Jayhawks win the World University Games in South Korea (gold medals!!!)
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