My personal KU basketball History
A few days between games, nothing earth shattering to discuss, so I 'll write a little and hope someone reads and enjoys.
1000$ is what brought me to Kansas from the suburbs of Chicago. I had a professor at JUCO who played football at Missouri who actually recommended I go to either KU or Wisconsin. Both had excellent cartography programs and so I explored both.
Wisconsin sports was a joke in the 1980’s so I wasn’t swayed by sports to become a Badger, that would come later. I was engrossed in lllinois/Depaul hoops as a teenager, didn’t really know anything about KU basketball.
But KU was 1000.00$ cheaper a semester than UW so I packed up a little uhaul behind my Chevy Chevette and came out west! And was I glad I did!
I was on a field trip out to see what erosion had down to the Wakarusa (sp?) River and getting into the van, I pulled the door shut on someones hand. I heard someone say “I hope that’s not your shooting hand”. His hand was fine. I sized him up as a golfer, and asked him and he said he was on the basketball team. Now my interest was piqued! We chatted the short ride back to Kansas. His name was Scooter Berry and he filled me in about the history and aura surrounding the program.
Well 1985-86 was a good year to be introduced to KU athletics. The football team was actually competitive, Mike Norseth threw for 500 yards in my first game I’d seen against Vanderbilt and Willy Pless was on his way to the career tackles record in the league. Back then you had to buy football tickets to get basketball tickets for students so I went to the games. Things fell apart for the team after briefly being ranked, but no one seemed too concerned in the stands because of basketball being around the corner.
David Letterman provided someone to come for late night, the basketball team showed off and I was hooked.
Thankfully in those days fans weren’t crazy enough to have to sit in line for 4 days to get a good seat. It was more like get there a few hours early and while you might not end up behind the bench, behind the basket was always available. These seats were much closer to the court than they are now and so it was a great place to watch basketball.
Kansas played a better schedule then than they do these days and so there was a steady flow of great teams visiting Lawrence those seasons, and of course us going there too. I saw Louisville, Kentucky (not the famous beatdown), St. Johns, and many others. It was great fun.
That 85-86 team was an all time great at KU since I’ve been there. I can’t compare to earlier great teams. It was beat down city all year. No surviving last second shots by the opposition like we’ve done all year it seems. There were a few close calls, and a loss in ames and also a loss to Duke in a holiday tourney, but not much else tarnished that team. The Final Four was a foregone conclusion.
Clockgate happened in the regional final against Judd Heathcoate and the Spartans. We made a nice little comeback after that episode which included a technical against Larry Brown.
Getting to the Final Four was exciting of course until it wasn’t. The Duke whistle appeared…sigh, and a team that had beat eventual champ Louisville twice during the regular season wasn’t given the opportunity to beat them one more time. I knew I was into KU basketball because that 26-14 foul edge in a four point game that we led most of the time really stung, and it still does.
Adding to the magic of that season was the Royals world series win and the Bears dominating season.
1987 was a so so year by our standards and powerhouse Georgetown knocked us out in the Sweet 16.
1987-88 was magic of course. Late night the team sang a song “Kansas City Here I come” kind of like the Bears Super Bowl shuffle. But by Christmas it wasn’t looking like a FF season, it was looking like a bubble year.
I watched us lose at home for the first time since I’d been on campus to KState and Mitch Richmond, and of course Lon Kruger. The fans started leaving with about 2 minutes left. We started chanting at them “Don’t come back”! I’m sorry if you’re reading this and that was you! Two more losses to Duke and Oklahoma at home meant a 3 game losing streak at home. But of course, as you all know everything started clicking. The three home losses were all avenged and we won an amazing championship.
Campus afterwards, if you didn’t know what had happened, looked like a riot had happened. I bought my T shirts that I still have. I graduated 5 people in front of Danny a month or so later. Didn’t even know he was behind me as I walked down the hill, but everyone stood and cheered when they saw him coming in.
And then I was gone. Like most of you I kind of bleed crimson and blue. I’ve got to watch us in person twice since then. But thanks to cable I don’t miss a game.
Despite our relatively thin trophy case since I arrived it’s been an amazing stretch.
NCAA tournament every year since 1985 except for the 1 year ban.
Longest streak of tournaments qualified for ever.
Only 2 early exits in that 30+ year period.
24 conference championships.
13 conference tournament championships
22 sweet 16’s.
15 elite 8’s
5 Championship games
Kstate’s made the sweet 16 3 times in the same time span, the elite 8 twice, and of course no FF’s since I was born in 1964!
Missouri has made the sweet 16 4 times, elite 8 3 times. Of course no FF’s ever!
I’m not going to take the time to do this research but I’d guess we have more of all those categories than the rest of the Big 12 combined since 1985.
I’m glad I came to KU! If anyone took the time to read this long thing, thanks!
I came from a KU family, so I never thought I would go anywhere else (I lasted 3 semesters and finished my BA 20 years later at Fort Hays State- the long and winding road! But my first year was 1989!
Roy Williams went to all the dorms to introduce himself (I was at Pearson), and it was great.
The game I most remember that year was the rematch with OU, waiting outside in a line, (I still have the list of names to keep everyone’s place). We lost in OT, but so much fun.
I met Dick Vitale and he gave me the toothpick from his club sandwich as a momento- and I thought it was soooooo cool.
@JayhawksandChill We could’ve met had I stuck around another year! Did you go to the 150-90 beatdown of Kentucky?
I don’t remember it if I did! thought that was later- can’t remember and I don’t like to google answer every question, sometimes memory versions are more fun to chat about.
Good times to be sure.
I also remember that 89 MU team, it was tough. Doug Smith dunking like crazy, Peeler, Irvin. I kinda miss beating those suckers.
@wissox I was in grad school during your first year. I went to the S16 game in 86 at Kemper and said to the person next to me when Brown got the tech…“Larry just pissed the season away”. Fortunately, it didn’t pan out that way. I moved to Michigan that summer and I can’t tell you how many people told me we cheated (or the clock operator did) to win. I had to remind them of the Technical and their missed free throws. Sore losers. By the way on the telecast of the Elite game that year against NC State, Jim Valvano had one of the best lines I’ve ever heard. Before the game he said…“We’re here in Kansas (sic), they’re singing Rock Chalk Jayhawk…I don’t know what it means, but I know it doesn’t mean Good Luck, Jim”
Hey @wissox. You’re a year older than I am. I grew up in NW Illinois (played for my 1A team, LOL!) and got hooked on basketball watching Illinois high school stuff on TV in the late 70s early 80s… crazy HS tourney’s with the Douglas kids from Quincy vs the Chicago city schools. I followed those guys to college. DePaul had tons of Illinois kids during those late Ray Meyer years. Of course, I remember exactly where I was watching underdog NCState beat Houston’s Phi Slamma Jamma in ‘83. Illinois got jobbed by Kentucky in 1986. But a few years later the "Flyin’ Illini" were ALL Illinois kids… Man, that team would kill it today. Gill, Winters, Battle, Liberty, Bardo, Hamilton… Lou Henson was ahead of his time.
My KU journey trailed yours a few years to Lawrence. (My wife did her doctorate at KU in '90-'96). KU BB was already on my radar when they beat the hated Michigan State team. My wife had an offer for grad school at KU in 1989, and I told her, “Rock Chalk Jayhawks. Let’s Go!” I enjoyed some great overachieving years in Lawrence in the early 90s with Adonis Jordan, Randall, Richard Scott, Alonzo, Walters, etc. My wife had a few athletes in her early classes (Vaughn, BJ Williams, football Stubblefield). Then a storm of fun players… We moved away in 1996 to 2010 and missed some heartbreak tourneys. I marked down every nationally televised game in my calendar and followed the rest on the internet. Hard years before internet streaming. We got lucky and moved back to Lawrence in 2010.
Like you I’ve also had the opportunity to move far enough away (out of TV range and constant fan range) to follow some other local schools (for me, University of Tennessee). I really think that helped my perspective on what a lucky, magical situation there is at KU.
@DanR Great post. I kept following Illinois during my KU years and loved that Flying Illini team. Wish they’d blocked out on that rebound in the OT against Michigan in the 89 FF because if they had they’d have won the 2nd OT! I caught Illini fever again during the Bill Self years.
NW Illinois is beautiful. My wife and I have got to get out there for a Galena weekend. I’m really enjoying living back in the Chicago area for HS basketball. Great atmosphere at a lot of games, but they kind of ruined it by going to 4 classes. When my HS finished 3rd in the state in 1979 in Class A it was big accomplishment. I think we won 6 games just to make it to state, maybe even 7 games. Then 3 more games at state! I think we were 3rd out of about 400 teams.
@Hawk8086 My favorite Jim Valvano line was when in a game he asked a ref if he could get a technical foul for what he was thinking. The ref told him ‘NO’ and then Valvano said, “Good…because I think you suck.” Genius
@focojayhawk I had forgotten that one! Very funny!
I hate losing to KSU. I became a KU fan, not at first because KU wins a lot, but mainly because KSU fans are obnoxious. As a kid I didn’t give a care about sports, my best friends didn’t play, my parents didn’t watch. As a 9 year old I was pretty amazed that KU won the National Championship, but that didn’t make me start watching b-ball. After that season the K-State fans became absolutely horrid, jumping on every little thing KU did wrong - game lost, sitting out 89 etc. It was unbecoming and I wasn’t a fan of any team at that point. There were a handful of KU fans in my class, but the bulk were KSU fans. Thankfully the KU fans, even as children, were more polite and easy to identitfy with as the side to team up with. I still didn’t care about sports, but I knew I liked KU as the better fan base at this point. After KU lost in Allen Fieldhouse to K-State a devout KSU fan and friend of mine passed me a note about how the wildcats had come into Allen Fieldhouse and overcome the steep odds to overcome the refs and KU…blah blah blah. It was done, no way I could EVER support a team with fans as such. But still I didn’t watch much basketball KU or other wise, 3 channels made that hard even if I cared. But that was about to change. My middle school and high school basketball coaches ran the flex offense favored by Roy Williams’ Jayhawks. I was good friends with the middle school coach’s son (Ironically a KSU grad) and we watched a ton of KU basketball together trying to figure out the ins and outs of the system as it was at times ran to perfection, but always ran better than us 😆. This is where my love for KU basketball began; watching Ostertag and new coach Williams. Being amazed by Rex Walters and Adonis Jordan. Jacque Vaughn still has the most beautiful play I’ve ever seen eternally etched into my memory -a wrap around pass that he pulled back and layed the ball into the basket. Mr. Floor Burns Jarod Haase is a guy this team could learn from. 96-97 was my Sr year that team shouldn’t have lost a single game. They were the most complete team Roy has ever had. A triple overtime loss to MU ensured I had no love for those cats either. The loss to Arizona is still the most devastating tournament losses I can remember (more damn cats). I was a Freshman at KU for Pierce’s Jr year and was able to enjoy every home game that season. The next season I was at the beat down of KSU in Allen that saw the return of Wilt http://m.kusports.com/news/2018/jan/17/20-years-later-wilt-chamberlains-return-kansas-sti/?templates=mobile , my only disappointment was that I didn’t wait in the mile long autograph line just to shake his enormous hand. In 98 I had the misfortune of taking my roommate to Manhattan to get his motorcycle that a friend of his had…meanwhile at a stopsign a random KSU football player pulls a gun on us because we pulled in behind him at a stop sign. The audacity! (Still think I chose my school correctly) The haul from Iowa in Hinrich and Collison in 2000 began another epic run. I also remembered Roy being outcoached by Bill while Self was at Tulsa and thinking he was going to make someone very happy some day…glad it was us.
There was a whole slew of KSU hatred towards KU, a few racist rants in Aggieville by random strangers…etc that also made me very happy to be a Jayhawk and sad for KSU fans. We all lose when we act like that. That’s the best thing Larry Brown gave us.
@dylans I grew up in Lawrence. I’ve been repulsed by the color purple my whole life.
The first fight I was ever involved in was because of the KU - KSU hatred. I was 9 years old, liked sports a lot (mostly participating in, TV wasn’t a big factor in 1967 and the only other media was radio) so I wasn’t aware of the whole rivalry thing until this kid in my class kept running his mouth incessantly about Willie the Wildcat and Purple Power and all kinds of idiotic garbage. He was in my face about it continually - until I put my fist in HIS face. (I grew out of the anger thing…well, nobody else gave me crap about KSU after that so I didn’t have an anger thing!) I’ve had a bad taste about K-State for over 50 years now, that part likely won’t change. I can tolerate ribbing and stupidity from the Purple Klan now and when they get out of hand, I just consider the source.
Sounds like Jerry Springer should have invited KU and KSU fans on for a topic on sports rivalries. Might have been rich with content. A KU-misery themed show probably would have ended in a misery fan accidentally shooting himself (with his possum gun) in the foot when he tried to shoot his rival and missed.
@wissox I’ve been heckled by KSU fans while on the beach in Negril. Those suckers are everywhere, like cockroaches.
@dylans In contrast, on a cruise two years ago, the first group we met on board was a whole family of KSU fans. We were wearing C & B, and they were wearing purple, and we spent a couple of enjoyable hours with them prior to the cabins opening up.
We later saw one of the girls with a KU boyfriend whom we hadn’t met. Maybe she made her family be nice for his sake, or maybe my wife is so sweet that they didn’t go after me!
I can say that in all my years, I can’t recall dealing with a rude KSU fan or any of that. MU, a different story.
@HighEliteMajor Kentucky too. Long story short version. 30 rows in upper deck of Superdome for 2012 final. Row of UK kids in front of me standing. I ask them to sit. The kid points to the big screen and told me I could watch it up there.
@dylans I grew up in Lawrence. I’ve been repulsed by the color purple my whole life.
@tundrahok I, too, dislike KSU fans, but there are some shades of purple I really like. I hate myself for that!