Friday, September 12, 2008

Mayer: Flawed history amended


Gotta try again to correct some flawed history.

Don Haskins just died, and he was a pretty good college basketball coach. Still I don't consider him the ultra-noble social engineer that Sports Illustrated and the film "Glory Road" depict him.

Don rode pretty good coat-tails into Valhalla.

Kansas University did more than Haskins for college integration. Many others helped create the foundation for Don's fame. Indulge me here.

The Myth of '66. You know, Haskins' Texas Western team (now UTEP) won the '66 NCAA title by starting five black players and playing only seven, all minorities, to upset all-white Kentucky. That supposedly shattered the glass ceiling for black athletes and reformed UK's irascible Adolph Rupp.

Facts, galore, refute a lot of such baloney.

1951-52 - KU with LaVannes Squires and K-State with Gene Wilson broke the Big Seven color line.

1955-56 - San Francisco featuring Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, Hal Perry and Gene Brown won two straight NCAA titles.

1955-57 - Maurice King debuted as a 1954-55 sophomore as KU's first impact African-American; King and Wilt Chamberlain starred for the '57 KU team that lost the college crown in triple overtime to all-white North Carolina.

1957-58 - The consensus All-America team had Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Bob Boozer, Elgin Baylor and Guy Rodgers. Didn't somebody have a hint that African-Americans had arrived?

1960-61 - KU's nine top men included seven blacks and Delaware Indian Dee Ketchum. The African-Americans were Wayne Hightower, Al Correll, Bill Bridges, Jim Dumas, Nolen Ellison, Butch Ellison and Ralph Heyward. Jerry Gardner was the only white starter; the others of no-color were Carl Deane, Bob Frederick, Marshall Grover, John Matt, Howard Parker, Larry Sterlin, John Williams and Pete Woodward.

1961-1962 - Cincinnati won two NCAA titles featuring Paul Hogue, Tom Thacker, Tony Yates and George Wilson. Cincy almost dumped black-dominated Chicago Loyola in '63 for a title trifecta.

1964 - John Wooden and UCLA began their phenomenal title surge (1964-75) with Fred Slaughter, Walt Hazzard and Kenny Washington as difference-makers. Some indication black guys can play the game?

1966 - KU meets T-Western in the NCAA Regional title game and falls in double overtime, even though KU's Jo Jo White hit a winning shot at the end of the first OT. (Official ruled Jo Jo stepped on the sideline, no bucket. KU was celebrating, didn't regroup, and Western later met the Lexington White Citizens Council for the crown. Talented Kansas could have won except for that crummy call.)

Had Kansas won at Lubbock, it would have advanced with three minority starters - Walt Wesley, Jo Jo White and Al Lopes - Bob Wilson a key reserve; Ron Lang was also on the bench. Would that have been interracial enough for a "legend"?

Then there's the ridiculous notion that Kentucky's Adolph Rupp had a glorious epiphany about black athletes. If Adolph was so overwhelmed by the Texas Western shelling, how come he didn't have a black guy on a Wildcat roster until about 1970?

All this won't change a thing, but I feel better.


eastcoasthawk 10 years, 6 months ago

Didn't know the history so thanks for that. Duly noted.

10 years, 6 months ago

While the "Glory Road" folks can fall back on the ol' literary license defense, I enjoy the history lesson and the passion from Mr. Mayer.

Gordon Penny 10 years, 6 months ago

Agreed, this is a poignant, apropos article. Thank you.

okjhok 10 years, 6 months ago

I like it...I knew you had it in you, Mayer.

ku98 10 years, 6 months ago

It is Hollywood, Mayer... Of course they had to add a little drama to the story... What are you going to tell us next?? Charlie Sheen and Wesley Snipes actually never played for the Indians?

kvskubball 10 years, 6 months ago

It seems to me that you are slighting Coach Haskins. I'm not saying he broke the color barrier by himself, he certainly did not. The way I look at it is the Texas Western victory was a tipping point. Up until then most coaches and even more fans probably weren't sure what they thought about minority players and weren't accepting of them. It seems to me that after this point minority players gradually became more socially acceptable, if you will. So that today, most people don't think too much about a player's skin color, except for a few remaining bigots.You are correct about the other coaches/players/teams that contributed to bring this about and yes, if KU had won the game against Texas Western, history would have been written a bit differently. Talk about history, 90 years before this event, there was a battle at the Little Big Horn, if you believe most historians it was George Armstrong Custer who single handedly defeated the indian nations (OK, so I'm hyperbolizing), when in fact he just led his 200+ men to a slaughterhouse. Yet he gets more publicity than any other general of that period. Is it fair? No

jayhawkox 10 years, 6 months ago

Let's not forget, though, that much of the reason that Rupp's Kentucky teams were devoid of black talent was because it was simply an unappealing place for them. The South in the 50's and 60's wasn't a great place to be a black man, and as we saw with Kevin Garnett's initial reluctance to join the Celtics, those sorts of impressions weigh on the minds of young men before deciding where to spend years of their lives. Many SEC schools vehemently opposed recruiting black players at all, or even scheduling teams with black players. Rupp both recruited and played willingly against teams with black players during his tenure, and was instrumental on getting the SEC's "gentleman's agreement" against black players overturned. I'm not saying that Rupp was in no way racist, it's very possible that he was; rather, I'm just saying that it's overly simplistic to say that Kentucky was all-white because Rupp was a racist, more clearly, Kentucky was all-white because it was in a racist part of the country in a racist conference. And as former UK coach Tubby Smith put it when asked the question: "Everybody stood for racism. Everybody in this country. I'm not going to hang it on Rupp, hang it on everyone in this country."

Billy Derringer 10 years, 6 months ago

why isnt there more white rappers? this is a feild that isnt very diverse...rap artist- is that a racist feild?

FlaHawk 10 years, 6 months ago

The South of the 50s and 60s was truley not a place for a balck man. It was also not the place for a liberal white man either!

JBurtin 10 years, 6 months ago

"The South in the 50's and 60's wasn't a great place to be a black man"I'm pretty sure Texas Western lies somewhere in the South. Not positive though, I suppose the state of Texas could have moved since then.

rockchalk80 10 years, 6 months ago

less than 2000 words... Jaybate you are slipping.

hawk87 10 years, 6 months ago

Lets not take for granted that Haskins not only started 5 African Americans and beat Adolf Rupp, he also did it at Texas Western. Not only was Texas Western situated in a predominantly racist Texas but also TW was not known basketball school by any measure.

OutlawJHawk 10 years, 6 months ago

Mayer, interesting and good piece of journalism.Many of these early African-American athletes endured ridiculous amounts of racism, some of it in Lawrence, yet many have either buried or shed any bitterness to go on with their lives to achieve many great and positive things on and off the basketball court. Thank you to each one of these athletes for breaking the barrier and with class.Mayer, I would be interested to see an article on what has become of many of our early KU African-American athletes, and if I were to ask anyone to cover this, it would be you with your great historical knowledge of KU and its sports alumni.derringer29--Eminim, Vanilla Ice, House of Pain, Beastie Boys; whites have broken the rap white barrier. Rap was not started in white suburbia but in the black inner city. It took some time to migrate into the white main stream. Last, this is a sports blog, find something topical to say related to sports.

jaybate 10 years, 6 months ago

Dear Bill,Your entire story hinges on an extremely illogical assertion."Kansas University did more than Haskins for college integration."--Bill MayerWhy do you compare KU to Haskins? KU is an institution. Haskins is an individual. This is a home job, if I have ever read one.Perhaps an entire freaking Kansas University over 5 or 6 decades of college basketball did do more cumulatively for desegregation of the game than one coach at an out of the way school in Texas did, but then shouldn't it have?Frankly, I DON'T think Kansas University did as much for desegregation of college basketball, as Haskins, did, but again, its an assymetric comparison that we can learn little or nothing from in any case. What difference does it make whether one university did more than one man? Kansas University did more for defense than Bob Knight. Kansas University did more for integration than Don Haskins. Both are just plain goofy to assert. The valid comparison is Haskins vs. Allen. Haskins vs. Harp. Haskins vs. Owens and so on. On that basis, Haskins certainly did more for desegregation of college basketball than ANY single KU coach before him. No single KU coach did anything but follow the leads of others, like John Wooden, in desegregation. No single KU coach started 5 African Americans for a season before Haskins did. No single KU coach won a ring with five African American starters before Haskins.Bill, repeat after me: apples with apples, oranges with oranges, universities with universities, coaches with coaches.

jaybate 10 years, 6 months ago

jayhawk nation,Which storied basketball program will be the first to hire an African American as head coach: KU or UNC?Consider UNC first.A Kansan named Dean Smith has apparently seen to it that since he retired in 1997 (a decade ago) there have been no African Americans named head coach of UNC three times, which means there has never been an African American head coach at UNC ever. Note: of course Dean has stood up for integration, and done some wonderful things for African American players, and he's had African American assistants, but when the talk about Phil Ford was all done, there still has been no African American coach at UNC.Now consider KU.KU, the cradle of college basketball coaching and another program that has at certain times helped with integration of African American players, and which has hired African American assistants, just can never seem to get around to hiring an African American coach. KU finally won a ring starting five African American players much of the time--only 43 years AFTER Don Haskins started five African Americans ALL the time and won a ring--so maybe the time is coming in exorably with all deliberate glacial speed.But how long till KU hires an African American head coach?How many more times can KU say a Caucasian American was more qualified than any African American?How long?UK has already won a title with an African American coach, while KU and UNC have yet even to hire and African American head coach.How long?Not TOO long.

jaybate 10 years, 6 months ago

rockchalk80,I knew I was letting you down, but it was all I had. I always leave it all on the keyboard. Sometimes its >2k, sometimes less this post :-)

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