KU celebrates 120 years of Kansas men’s basketball
LAWRENCE, Kan. – More than 300 former Kansas men’s basketball players, managers and staff convened in Lawrence to celebrate 120 years of Kansas basketball this weekend.
Former players and coaches arrived as early as Thursday and partook in tours of the facilities, watched KU practices and gathered with old friends recollecting the rich heritage that is Kansas basketball. Participants from as back as the 1940s attended the festivities.
During halftime of Kansas’ 84-79 loss to Oklahoma State, the group was recognized on James Naismith Court in Allen Fieldhouse in coaching eras starting with Dr. F.C. “Phog” Allen, then Dick Harp, Ted Owens, Larry Brown, Roy Williams and Bill Self. Also at halftime, the 1952, 1988 and 2008 national champions were in honored. Celebrating the 30th anniversary of its NCAA Championship, Brown and five Jayhawks from the 1988 team were present along with two from the 1952 squad and three from the 2008 team.
Following the game Kansas Athletics dedicated a bench to former head coach Ted Owens. Later this spring, the bench will be permanently put on the sidewalk just east of Allen Fieldhouse. With more than 250 present at the ceremony, Owens was deeply moved with the honor.
“For so many to travel so far to be here, it was incredible,” Owens said following the bench dedication ceremony. “We had 63 former players here today. To be a part of their lives is a special honor.
“To know that your bench is outside this incredible place and to have played a small part in this tradition is incredible,” Owens added.
With a morning game and an afternoon of honoring one of KU’s greatest coaches, the festivities did not end as the current Jayhawks joined the former players at a private banquet at The Jayhawk Club in Lawrence. More than 400 participated in the banquet including Owens, Brown and Self each talking about the eras of their coaching stints.
“I want to thank the players and coaches who came before our time and established this great tradition,” Owens said. “Dr. Naismith, W.O. Hamilton and the legend himself, Dr. Forest C. Allen and coach Dick Harp. Believe me when I am asked, ‘did you coach the Kansas Jayhawks?’ and believe me I am thrilled to say yes.”
“Coach (Dean) Smith really let me know about Kansas and what it meant to me to be a player, coach or student here,” Brown said of his mentor at North Carolina, KU grad Dean Smith who was a member of Kansas’ 1952 NCAA National Championship team. “I know he is the reason I am here and had the opportunity to coach at this special place.”
During his presentation, Self talked about the recent KU legends who have recently died. He talked about NCAA champion and Olympic gold medalist Bill Hougland. He mentioned Clyde Lovellette who was the 1952 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player and AL Kelley, a member of the 1952 team and 1960 Olympic gold medalist. He mentioned Dean Smith and most recently KU legend Jo Jo White.
“To think about those guys and think about so many more that have given so much to this place that were taken from us in recent memory, I think should give us all a sense of pride and make these five-year increments even that much more special,” Self said. “From my team’s hearts and our staff’s hearts, please understand the value and how important it is for all you to come back tonight.”
“120 years is a long time,” Self said. “And I’m very proud to be the caretaker of that 120-year journey.”
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