MARSHALL: KU, UNC linked by history


During my 15-year hiatus from living in Kansas, I was asked on numerous occasions during the college basketball season what made the University of Kansas, Allen Fieldhouse and its history so special.

During my 15-year hiatus from living in Kansas, I was asked on numerous occasions during the college basketball season what made the University of Kansas, Allen Fieldhouse and its history so special.

That's a loaded question, and quite honestly, I often wouldn't even know what to say.

There were other times, especially during the NCAA Tournament each March, that friends would find me rooting for the University of North Carolina. And they wondered about that, too.

So, let me give it a try here.

I will confess that I have been a KU Jayhawk basketball fan since early childhood years listening to WREN radio in Topeka, when the signal faded in, and then faded out, leaving my brother, my dad and me wondering what had happened during the time when the signal had left us.

Also, I will confess that I am a KU grad, journalism class of 1974, a year in which the Jayhawks reached the NCAA Final Four in Greensboro, N.C., only to lose to Marquette in the semifinals and then to UCLA when there was a meaningless consolation game played.

With those confessions out of the way, let's start from the beginning.

James Naismith, the man who founded the game, also was the first basketball coach at the University of Kansas. Ironically, he's the only KU coach — and there's really only been eight in 115 years — to have a losing record.

A young student-athlete by the name of Forrest C. (Phog) Allen played basketball at KU for Naismith (1905-07) and eventually succeeded Naismith as the KU coach for two seasons. He left Lawrence for a decade before returning in 1919 and eventually led the KU program for a total of 39 seasons, winning 590 games with the Jayhawks.

Among the players, and believe me, there were plenty of great ones, were the names of Adolph Rupp, a Halstead native, and Dean Smith, born in Emporia and a graduate of Topeka High. Smith was a member of the 1952 KU NCAA championship team. Rupp eventually would move to Kentucky and coach the Wildcats to numerous NCAA championships. The current Kentucky coach, John Calipari, served on both Ted Owens' and Larry Brown's staff at KU from 1982 to 1985.

Smith coached at North Carolina for 36 seasons, and among his players and assistant coaches were Roy Williams, Brown and Dick Harp. Harp had been a player for Allen at KU from 1938-40, and was an assistant to Allen, eventually taking the coaching reins of the Jayhawks when Allen was forced to retire by state law when he turned 70.

Brown, a standout guard at Carolina, was hired in 1984 to coach the Jayhawks. The man who replaced him? Roy Williams, who was recommended by Smith to former KU player Bob Frederick, the Jayhawk athletic director in 1988. Williams had no prior college head coaching experience, but in his 15 years, took teams to the Final Four in 1991, 1993, 2002 and 2003.

Now more than a decade later, Williams has coached his alma mater to two national championships (2005, 2009), something he was unable to do while in Lawrence. When Williams departed for Carolina, that opened the door for KU to hire Bill Self, an Oklahoma native who had served one year as a grad assistant to Brown in the mid 1980s, a year the Jayhawks reached the Final Four in Dallas.

One of Williams' players at Kansas was C.B. McGrath of Topeka, who now serves as an assistant to Williams for the Tar Heels. The new director of basketball operations at UNC? None other than Brad Frederick, son of Bob Frederick. The younger Frederick attended UNC and was a member of the Tar Heel basketball team in the late 1990s.

Matt Doherty was an All-American at UNC under Smith, came to Lawrence as an assistant to Williams from 1992-99, and was head coach at UNC for three seasons.

The teams have met numerous times in the NCAA Tournament, with UNC winning the historic triple overtime game of 1957 when Wilt Chamberlain played for the Jayhawks. KU has beaten UNC in the Final Four, and Carolina has toppled KU there, too.

As the 2014 season winds down, Williams has now won 300 games at Carolina while Self has 320 victories at Kansas. Williams has two NCAA titles to his credit and Self has the 2008 crown on his résumé. Williams has won 77.3 percent of his games at Carolina while Self's KU teams have won 83.1 percent of the time. Williams is a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame, as is Allen, Rupp and Brown. Unless I miss a guess, Self will be there some day, too.

At the end of the 2013 season, Kentucky ranked No. 1 in all-time victories, with Kansas and North Carolina standing in the No. 2 and 3 positions. UNC has four NCAA national titles, and KU owns three. Both won Helms Foundation championships in the 1920s.

They are two of the great collegiate basketball programs, with great coaches and great players. They have been inextricably linked for more than 100 years. And they likely will be for years to come.

There you go. history explains why Kansas basketball is special. And how they fit like a glove with Carolina.

Oh, by the way. I share a birthdate (Nov. 6) with somebody by the name of Naismith.

Sports Editor Brett Marshall can be emailed at

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