🏀 Former Kansas Men’s Basketball Assistant Coach Lafayette Norwood Passes Away
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Former Kansas men’s basketball assistant coach Lafayette Norwood died Saturday in Lawrence, Kansas. Norwood was 86 years old.
A native of Wichita, Kansas, Norwood spent four seasons as an assistant coach under KU head coach Ted Owens from 1978-81. In that span, Kansas won the 1978 Big Eight regular-season championship, two Big Eight Holiday Tournament titles in 1978 and 1979, and one conference postseason tourney in 1981. Behind All-American Darnell Valentine, Kansas posted an 81-38 record with Norwood on the sidelines and twice advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 1978 and 1981.
"First of all, Lafayette was a lot more than an outstanding basketball coach, he was a really good man. He cared for his players everywhere he coached. He was just a really good man."Former Kansas head coach Ted Owens
Known as an outstanding recruiter in his stint at Kansas, following retirement Norwood was a frequent attendee at KU home men’s basketball games. In December 2020, he participated on a Ted Owens-era reunion via a video conference hosted by Kansas Athletics and K Club. (Norwood is on the second row, far right of the photo below from the December 15, 2020, Ted Owens virtual reunion.)
"I am extremely heartbroken. He was a father figure to me in every sense of the word other than biological. He was a pillar of virtue, integrity and character that if there was another one like him on this earth today, to me, we could solve America’s problems. That’s how strongly I feel about him."Darnell Valentine
Norwood’s coaching career spanned parts of six decades in multiple sports at both the high school and collegiate levels. A graduate of Wichita East High School in 1952, Norwood attended Cowley College for two years before completing his degree at Southwestern College in 1956. In 1969, Norwood made history when he was named the head basketball coach at Wichita Heights High School and became the first African American coach in the Wichita school district. Norwood led Wichita Heights to 109-56 record and a state championship in 1977 before being named an assistant coach for Owens at KU. Following KU, Norwood spent 23 years as the golf coach at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. He was also the Johnson County men’s basketball coach for 10 seasons from 1982-91.
Norwood was inducted to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2016, the Southwestern College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1992, the Cowley College Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Wichita Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.