Kansas Men's Basketball Celebrates 115 Years

Feb. 23, 2013

LAWRENCE, Kan. – More than 200 current and former coaches, players, managers and staff concluded a two-day-long celebration of 115 years of Kansas men’s basketball with a banquet in the Horejsi Family Athletic Center, adjacent to historic Allen Fieldhouse, here Saturday evening.

A crowd of approximately 550, including families, guests and KU’s current team, which defeated TCU 74-48 earlier in the afternoon, was entertained for approximately two hours with highlight videos and speeches from every era of Kansas’ rich men’s basketball tradition. Naismith Hall of Fame guard Al Kelley represented the older generation and specifically the 1952 NCAA National Championship squad. Kelley followed former Kansas coach Ted Owens, who talked about his many highlights during 23 seasons on the Kansas sidelines, including 19 as the Jayhawks’ head coach.

“I think I have over 100 people here from my time that played for me as a head coach or assistant or we brought here to recruit,” Owens told the crowd. “We have a lot of managers and trainers, and I want to say to all of you what an incredible privilege it was to have the opportunity to coach you and be a part of your lives.”

Reliving one of the most famous plays in Kansas basketball history, Owens playfully asked KU legend Jo Jo White, “Jo Jo, were you inbounds or not?”

“In bounds, coach,” responded White from the audience, to the delight of the KU faithful.

After Kelley, R.C. Buford, an assistant coach at Kansas from 1984-88 and current general manager of the San Antonio Spurs, then discussed his five seasons under head coach Larry Brown. Included in this year’s festivities was a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Kansas’ 1988 NCAA National Championship. For Saturday’s KU-TCU contest, the 2012-13 Jayhawks wore retro attire resembling the 1988 uniforms.

“The 1988 team wasn’t the most talented but they really enjoyed playing together,” Buford said. “They went through a lot of difficult circumstances, but by the end of the year they were really a team. I remember Larry (Brown) told us to play smart, play hard and play together, and that team at the end of the year defined that as well or better than any team we had when I was here.”

Kansas celebrates its rich basketball tradition every five seasons and last did it during the 2007-08 season, which ended with another NCAA Championship. Current Kansas head coach Bill Self discussed the 2008 NCAA National Championship team and what it meant having all the former Jayhawks come back for the reunion.

“The thing we take great pride in, and it’s what you guys started many years ago, is it doesn’t matter who the faces are. It doesn’t matter what the names on the on the back of the jerseys are,” Self said. “We play at Kansas. We coach at Kansas. There is only one thing you do at Kansas and that’s win. It’s regardless of who the players are; regardless of who the coaches are; because it’s happened for 115 years. The results haven’t changed and we thank you for that.”

Many of the former players, coaches and managers arrived Friday and attended the current Jayhawks’ practice and toured the Booth Family Hall of Athletics. On Saturday, White was on hand prior to the KU-TCU contest, autographing his book “Make It Count” in the Booth Family Hall of Athletics. There was also a reception for the group prior to the KU win against TCU.

One of the most storied programs in college basketball, Kansas has amassed 2,093 all-time victories, which ranks second all-time in NCAA Division I. KU’s 55 conference regular-season titles are more than any other school, and its eight-straight Big 12 championships is the nation’s longest active streak. Kansas has won five national championships, advanced to 14 Final Fours and has 28 consensus first-team All-America selections. What is most amazing is Kansas has had only eight coaches in its 115 seasons, with 50 percent of those still living, Self and Owens, at the celebration.

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