Saturday, December 25, 2010

Former KU basketball forward Rodney Hull top educator

Ex-Jayhawk reserve bonds with students at inner-city Chicago elementary school

Rodney Hull was a two-year reserve at Kansas University from 1984 to ’85 before transferring to Chicago State.

Rodney Hull was a two-year reserve at Kansas University from 1984 to ’85 before transferring to Chicago State.



Journal-World File Photo

Rodney Hull was a two-year reserve at Kansas University from 1984 to ’85 before transferring to Chicago State.

Principal Rodney Hull doesn’t strike fear in his pupils while patrolling the halls of Nicholson Technology Academy on the far south side of Chicago.

The kindergarten-to-eighth-graders at the inner-city elementary school see the 6-foot-7 former Kansas University basketball player as a human teddy bear — somebody to love, not loathe.

“I have to run from the younger kids. They like to hug me, jump on me, grab my legs to pull me down,” said Hull, a reserve KU forward during the 1984-85 and ’85-86 seasons before finishing his career as a two-year starter at Chicago State.

“I’ll go into classes and it’ll be like a rock star walking through the door,” added Hull, who is still in playing shape — he plays basketball three nights a week and competes in tournaments across the country — at the age of 44.

“Can you imagine being young and athletic enough to play football, baseball, softball, basketball and other sports with them every day? I still play basketball and softball with them,” added Hull, who admits he gives the wide-eyed students a thrill when he slam-dunks for them.

Bonding with students, preparing them for high school and serving as a role model for life are some of the rewards of working in education the past two decades, Hull said.

He’s been top executive at Nicholson Tech the past 10 years after working as assistant principal at his alma mater, Chicago’s Simeon High, for three years. Before that, he paid his dues teaching in Windy City classrooms for eight years.

“I love it. At one time in my life my goal and ambition was to play pro ball. I quickly got past that,” said Hull, who played professionally in Greece after averaging 35 minutes a game at Chicago State.

“The education process gives you the opportunity to enrich the life of a child. You can open up a child’s mind if you can reach them. There’s no child that can’t be educated if you reach them early enough. They just need guidance and support.”

Educators must push students to be the best they can be, said Hull, whose school is in an impoverished area.

“When I was in high school,” Hull said, “the high school teachers always complained the grade schools don’t prepare kids. When I went to (work at) grade schools, I wanted to dispel that and get my kids strong enough academically to go to any high school and be competitive.

“What I have found, in being here a long time and putting out great crops of kids every year, the kids who struggle at my school go on to high school and make the honor roll.

“I know we are preparing them academically for high school. Once they leave here and the support we have in place, it’s easy to slip through the cracks and revert to being poor students. When you are in grade school, you are led to do everything. In high school, there’s a little more freedom.”

Hull encourages his students to stay in touch with him through high school and even college.

He tells the story of a student who returned to Nicholson Tech while on semester break at the University of Missouri.

“This student was with me probably from the second grade on,” Hull said. “Before she left for Missouri, I told her where I went to school and the rivalry. It wasn’t until she got there and Missouri got ready to play KU in football, she was, ‘Oh my gosh, they hate KU here.’

“She said, ‘It’s all they talk about is beating KU.’ I’ve not had too many of my kids go to the Big Eight, Big 12. Most go to Big Ten schools — Illinois, Michigan State, some to Purdue. She was the first to go to the Big 12.”

Hull remembers his KU days well.

Coach Larry Brown’s Jayhawks went 26-8 and placed second in the Big Eight his freshman year and 35-4, winning league and reaching the Final Four his second and final season.

“He was as tough as nails, real driven to succeed and win,” Hull said of Brown, who this week was replaced as coach of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats. “If he could teach and mold you into the player he wanted you to be, more than winning games, he’d settle for that.”

Hull said he still stays in contact with former KU teammates Danny Manning and Calvin Thompson and speaks with Scooter Barry, Milt Newton and Chris Piper from time to time.

“I think we had the ingredients to win it all. We ran into Duke a couple times that season, and they beat us in New York and in the Final Four (semis),” Hull said of 1986. “They had Johnny Dawkins, (Tommy) Amaker … they were pretty well set.”

KU, of course, had Manning, who remains KU’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder.

“Danny is one of the greatest I’ve ever seen because he was so versatile,” Hull said. “He was almost a pioneer in some of the things he could do — being able to handle the ball, having a nice touch on the outside and good court vision. A lot of people compared him to Magic (Johnson). He had all the tools.”

Hull, who has not seen a game in Allen Fieldhouse since his playing days (he’s busy during the winter working as a game official for the Illinois High School Basketball Assn.), was a player who simply could not handle a reserve role. He came to KU to play and wound up sitting the bench ... a lot.

“I remember being a freshman that first game. I didn’t think I was starting, but I did not think I would not play, either. To sit there the whole game was to have the air let out of you, wondering what happened,” Hull said.

“I can’t imagine any highly touted freshman not being disappointed after expecting to play and not getting to play. I never sat on a bench in my life until I got to KU.”

Hull averaged 18.1 points and 8.2 rebounds his senior year for 31-1 Simeon High.

“I went there because I met guys like Calvin Thompson and had a good feeling. Had I known I wasn’t going to play from Day One, I probably would have asked that question and went to a Big Ten school.”

He has fond memories of KU and enjoys visiting with the many KU graduates in the Chicago area, many of whom still recognize his name.

“The whole north shore here in Chicago is mostly kids of the ’80s who went to KU,” Hull said. “There’s a huge following of KU in Chicago. I get invitations to go to events all the time.”

He tells KU grads ...

“My favorite moments at Kansas were not the wins, because that was always expected,” Hull said. “It was the day-to-day things, hanging out with the guys, your teammates. I loved the intensity of the practices and staying in shape. Making the Final Four was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, an experience in itself, something you can hold onto forever. But being with my teammates and working hard every day is what sticks with me.”

Manning, now an assistant coach at KU, applauds Hull’s career choice.

“Rodney is a great story,” Manning said. “We came in as young freshmen together and have evolved as we’ve gotten older. Rodney has made a commitment to helping kids continue their education, being a principal in his hometown. He does some high school refereeing as well. He does a great job giving back to his community. He’s a very good guy who is in the business of helping kids. That’s what we are all in the business for.”


Paul Meyer 9 years, 2 months ago

Thanks for publishing these "Where Are They Now" articles. Rodney's story is wonderful. He truly is an Ambassador for the Jayhawks, and his Chicago State Cougers.

Mike Johns 9 years, 2 months ago

dont remember him. but well done.
I also love the "nut hugger" shorts

Steve Corder 9 years, 2 months ago

Why isn't there a current photo to go with this article?

Steve Corder 9 years, 2 months ago

Why isn't there a current photo to go with this article?

jaybate 9 years, 2 months ago

This story has what most human interest stories lack--authenticity.

It is the authenticity of Danny Manning and Rodney Hull as told to Gary Bedore.

It is what human interest journalism ought always to be about. It is about special persons, each heroic in their own ways. I will devote many more words to Danny Manning in what follows, than to Rodney Hull, but only because the story above captures Rodney Hull in a fittingly beautiful way that I could never hope to surpass, but also because I believe the great virtue of Mr. Hull, and of Manning's obviously high regard for his friend, can be appreciated even more with Manning put in fuller perspective. The great stature of Danny Manning, better understood and appreciated, lends even more to one appreciating the greatness Danny sees in Rodney Hull.

The Hull interview must have originated something like this: Bedore, looking for the next story as tirelessly as a basking shark filtering for zooplankton, must have been standing around practice, or an airport concourse, or whereever, and nonchalantly asked Danny about his playing days, about the glue guys and bench players on his team, about who his pals were among them, etc.

Manning is a heroic man--quietly larger than life. He has been famous. He is not famous now. But he could be again. Heroic men are like this. There is always the possibility that fate and circumstance can call them back to greatness again. When times get tough, and circumstances require greatness, the disingenuous bosses have a tendency of moving out of the limelight and letting heroic men do what has to be done. Society pleads for the return of the hero in order to be make passage through trying times. Heroes are never retired, they are simply on active reserve. It is a strange aspect of greatness.

Good reporters are not by and large heroes, they are professional wordsmiths and storytellers that report on heroes. And so a reporter needs to data mine heroes, whenever time and circumstance permits, for possible future stories.

Manning is, unlike most persons in the media's restless, searching klieg light, is mostly substance and not much show. He is, in a way, KU's Joe Dimaggio, after the Yankee Clipper retired. I used to eat in a restaurant in San Francisco that the retired Dimaggio frequented. Manning has what Dimaggio had--internal charisma, not surface charisma. Some such men come home after their days in the klieg light. Manning did. He is to me "the Kansas Clipper." He's got more than class. He has dignity.

jaybate 9 years, 2 months ago

Such men get second careers. They must do something, or go mad. They also like to save for rainy days, even though they are often rich enough not to have to. When they have been to the top of the mountain, they have an acute sense of how far down really is. They have first hand experience of just how far down they themselves have descended, relative to how high the klieg lights shine. They know the bottom is a place to avoid. They know that lady luck blessed them and they know they need to both give back, and remember that lady luck can be fickle. Enjoy her, but don't depend on her.

Joe schlepped coffee pots--not very glamorous, but it could keep the lights on, were Lady Luck ever to frown.

Danny Manning apparently thought about it long and hard and decided he wanted his kids to grow up in Lawrence. Sometime after he probably realized he wanted to coach, to work with young men, to teach them what he knew about the big man's game, and to teach them what he had picked up along the way about life in the fast and slow lanes.

At the time, Roy Williams was busily rebuilding KU the best he could, and that was pretty danged four Final Four kind of good, but Roy seemed not much interested in certain aspects of the KU legacy. He was too busy building off the Dean Model at Baja KU to take in the full scope of The Legacy. James Naismith? yes. Phog Allen? yes. Wilt Chamberlain? Danny Manning? Not so much. The Owens years? Not. LB? Certainly not. Harp? Did Roy even know who Harp was?

Or maybe Roy cared about them all, but simply focus on his own knitting, so as to join them one day. And maybe Wilt and Danny just were not ready to reconnect with KU publicly during much of Roy's time. Giants pass through the same stages of coming to grips with their alma maters, as other folks. Wilt finally got a big day. Maybe Roy stayed out of it for the most part so as not to steal any of Wilt's thunder. Perhaps Danny was not ready to commit to much publicly on Roy's watch, or perhaps Roy still felt some sting about Danny choosing LB and KU over Roy's true loves--Baja KU and Dean Smith...and Roy. Whatever, the Kansas Clipper's second career did not start getting better on Roy's watch.

jaybate 9 years, 2 months ago

But Bill Self, an Okie Baller familiar with the KU Basketball Legacy, and a top young coach hired to fill the vacuum left by a then departing KU coaching legend--Roy Williams--apparently understood that his best chance to survive the withering comparisons to Roy Williams required Ws and attaching himself to the larger part of the KU Legacy that Williams had left behind in his otherwise brilliant rebuilding of KU.

Bill Self had just a little in with Manning from the Larry Brown days. Some shared experience, if you will, but not much more. Still it was something Roy lacked.

And Bill Self probably said exactly what a heroic man casting about for what to do next wants to hear? Its not hard to guess what Bill Self may have said to convince Manning to join the Self era. You want to get better, don't you? You're still young aren't you? You've got a lot to give, don't you? You're the greatest player that won a ring in Kansas history, aren't you? You want to help young men get better, don't you? You know more about big men and what big men need to know how to do before you start coaching, than I will know by the end of my career, don't you? You want your children to see their father do something, not just read about what he once did, don't you? I need you, Danny. On my own, I cannot do this job. I have to reconnect Kansas and all these Kansas people that have just lost their anchor, Roy Williams, to something greater than Roy Williams, or The Legacy could collapse. Roy was great, but he did not connect the program to the trunk of The Legacy, just to some branches. He connected it to Naismith, but he left out so much of the rest of it. There shouldn't be a map of the state at center court, Danny, and there won't be for long. Heck, I went to Okie State and even I know that. There either has to be a KU, or the Jayhawk, painted on the center circle. Roy was just aping Dean when he painted the State of Kansas on the court, like Dean painted the state of North Carolina on Baja KU's court. Roy, bless him, was trying to win the hearts of all of Kansans, but that's not the Kansas way. Not every Kansan is a KUer, or wants to be. KUers are one breed of Kansan. KStaters are another. Never the twain shall meet. Eddie told me that from the very beginning, when he said I was crazy to leave Illinois and come here. KUers, not Kansans, are attached to that bird in some weird, magical way that I cannot be, but I know you are. And I know all the KUers are. It goes way deep, just like that crazy chant. Help me, Danny. Help me save KU basketball. I'm just a coach. You are a KUer. You are the best player to win a ring they ever produced. Help me take it to the next level. Help me get better. I need you. KU needs you. All these players need you.

jaybate 9 years, 2 months ago

Manning had probably been waiting since the end of his playing days to hear someone say this to him.

But heroes, being heroes, are rightly suspicious of those inauthentics that would exploit them, give them something for nothing, in order to use them. Heroes, especially those that have lived in the public klieg light, have been hustled so many times they need some concrete evidence of authenticity of principle, a sign that this person that is selling them has substance, has principles beyond their own selfish advancement. Heroes have to sense that someone who is asking them to risk their lives and public images for a principle, is also willing to risk losing them for a principle. Self had to show Manning he was willing to risk not getting Manning in his pursuit of him.

Self apparently said the magic words: but you've got to start out at the bottom like everyone else, Danny. Its a profession. You have to earn your way up the professional ladder just like you did as a player. It would not be fair to my other coaches, if I pushed you ahead of them. And I won't.

Heroes live for these sorts of challenges, whatever their other vices and virtues.

Manning came aboard bagging socks and jocks. Oh, he was still getting a break. Most of the rest of us would not have been hired out of street clothes even to wash socks and jocks. But bag socks and jocks he did. To a KU basketball lover, to a lover of the game, Danny Manning bagging socks and jocks is a testament to seriousness of purpose. It is any rich man's son starting out on the factory floor. Everyone knows he has a leg up on others, because of his legacy, but having handled the business end of a gunny sack full of sweaty laundry still counts for something in the tradition bound world of sports. Sweaty socks are still sweaty socks, no matter if you don't have to work another day in your life.

jaybate 9 years, 2 months ago

And Manning has since climbed as steadily and purposefully up the coaching ladder as he climbed up the basketball playing ladder at KU and in the pros. But one big difference between coaching and playing is that bad knees don't limit your coaching the way they do your playing.

With good knees there is no doubt in this board rat's mind that the Magic-Bird era would have been known as the Magic-Manning-Bird era. He was that good. Everyone who understands what basketball is about, who understands its eras and its transitions from one to the next, understands that Manning would have done for big men, what Magic did for guards and Bird to lesser degree for forwards.

Manning was the one big man in the history of basketball that could have turned the big man into a fifth ball handler.

Manning could have changed basketball forever, as one day it almost certainly will be changed forever, when another similarly gifted player to Manning comes along. KU did not have enough talent in those days, nor did they have the right coach in LB, to let Manning change the game. LB was a little man and he was nothing if not a traditionalist about the right way to play the game. Big men played near the basket. Little men got them the ball.

But Manning could have been a Point Center, or a Point Power Forward. or a Point Shooting Forward, or Point Shooting Guard, or a Point Guard.

If Bill Self had a Danny Manning right now, Danny Manning would start at the 4, but Self would over the course of games have him playing everywhere and doing everything. He would be moving him around the floor from one MUA to another always giving Manning and KU the edge of surprise each time down the floor: where would Danny be this time?

jaybate 9 years, 2 months ago

Self has done some of this with Brandon Rush and Julian Wright and Marcus Morris. He has used them as combo bigs, just as he has combo guards. But even the amazingly gifted Rush could not go into post., and Marcus, versatile as he is, just does not seem capable of playing the point.

But Danny could have, and would have, and seamlessly so.

The great big player, maybe even a team of them, coming at an opponent from all over the floor remains the one thing no coach/basketball player combination has yet achieved. It is out in the mist. It is the undiscovered hoops country that lurks half formed in the imagination of all those that have ever really thought deeply about the game. It is the still unrealized ultimate strategy waiting to be successfully deployed.

Most believe it is a chimera, a basketball Eldorado, something that cannot ever be found, much less achieved successfully, but the fact is: all the truly great, game-transforming things that have been done were once thought impossible by most. This is why greatness requires heroes. Heroes know nothing is written. Heroes know that what could be with the right persons and resources, will be, sooner or later, and for better, or worse.

Heroes can never rest, not really, not permanently, not in any sense that none-of-it-matters-I'm-done-with-it-and-waiting-to-die. They know it all matters, just not in ways one can fully understand before hand. They know one person can make a difference, because they themselves have made a difference before. They know they can't make a difference very often, but when they do they know the effect becomes part of the initial conditions of what follows and so effects all that follows. They know sometimes they fail, when they try to make that difference. But they know that differences are made, not given. They know you have to work at it to be in the right place at the right time to make a difference. They know, because they have worked and been in the right place.

jaybate 9 years, 2 months ago

When Gary Bedore asked Danny Manning, as I imagine that he did, about his old teammates at KU, about some of the guys he respected, about who mattered to him, as a person, Danny Manning probably deliberated a moment, as heroes sometimes do when asked questions about their past, about who mattered to them?

And Danny Manning, the hero recognizing the right stuff in others, because he has it in himself, probably said, "Well, there was this one teammate, his name was Rodney Hull. He wasn't quite good enough to play much for KU, but he had the right stuff, even when he was sitting on the bench. I liked him. I liked him a lot. We have stayed in contact and he has probably helped more kids get better than any other guy in my acquaintance. He left the team after a couple of years. Transferred to Chicago State and played a lot there. We've stayed in touch. He played a little pro ball in Europe, but then became a teacher in the inner city, in Chicago. He's a Principal now of school up there. He just won an award for what he has done up there. You ought to call him up. He's a great guy. I respect him enormously for what he has done with his life. His name is Rodney Hull. If you want a great story, Gary, you should talk to him. This guy has really been out their doing it, giving to the community, helping kids get better. He's an amazing story, really.

And Gary did interview Rodney Hull. And in Gary Bedore's professional way, Gary got out of the way of the story and let the authenticity of two heroes shine their light on us.

Rodney Hull is the real deal. His story is truly a great one. He is everything I admire in a man.

And Gary Bedore just wrote one of the best sports stories of his career.

(Post Script: And if it did not go down as I have imagined, it must have gone down in some equally admirable way. This story swells with humanity and goodness.)

Al Martin 9 years, 2 months ago

Lots of folks rag on you, Jaybate, but I enjoyed this. A point, though: one could make an argument that Magic Johnson was in fact the player that Danny might have been. He did play center in the NBA finals and drop a 42-15-7-3 line, and he posted up a good bit during his career.

Danny's injuries are even sadder in that perspective, I think. He very well could have taken that torch from Magic, and the Jordan era might have been the Jordan-Manning era.

REHawk 9 years, 2 months ago

And what a fine alignment of the solar system, two stars crossing and suspending in time, biding over the hoops program in Lawrence, Kansas. Bill Self and Danny Manning. Do the twins and TRob and Withey really know how blessed they are to have chosen the Jayhawk setting? Just imagine the skills and attitudes they can eventually bring to professional careers if they spend 4 years soaking up everything they can from the current Kansas coaching staff!

David Robinett 9 years, 2 months ago

Jaybate, are you aware of something called "self-publishing"? :)

jaybate 9 years, 2 months ago

Eh, yea, but that would be work. This is play. And some brain dumps in hopes someone can make some use of it sometime down the road in some more rigorous format.

yates33333 9 years, 2 months ago

Jaybate. I know you know basketball way, way better than I, but I think the team Hull played on in 1985-6 was the best KU team in my 60 years plus of watching KU basketball. This is the team of Manning, Kellogg, Thompson, Marshall, and Hunter with Turg, Piper, Barry and other reserves coached by the master, Larry Brown. I don't know if this is the team that had Self and Calipari as assistants, but it was about then. Unfortunately Hunter was snake bit at free throw shooting and Marshall got clobbered by Bilas, I think, and badly hurt in the Duke game. Also Dreiling committed a dumb foul and the team lost him at a vital time near the end. That year they had beaten the NCAA national champs, Louisville, in the preseason NIT.

As I think back I am in awe of the great players and big-time names associated with KU basketball. I think we have a couple of others now in Selby and Marcus, and about four or five others on this current team aren't "chopped liver!"

Michael Bratisax 9 years, 2 months ago

Hey all! A belated "Buon Natale e Nuovo Anno Felice!" I hope I didn't botch that up too badly.

A few new year's wishes..

A 6th Championship Banner in AFH... Without doubt, unequaled and unequivocally the best place in the world to play basketball.

Jaybate and HEM, the best debates are always between knowledgeable people who disagree and I have enjoyed agreeing and disagreeing with both of you.

And except for the known trolls, we all bleed crimson and blue so disagreements aside, the goal for all is the same. If we sat next to each other in the stands we would leave as friends. This team will easily be one of the favorites when all the wrinkles are ironed out.

Lastly, donate some time at the nearest VA. I guarantee it's a win win proposition.

As Tiny Tim "Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas Everyone"

jaybate 9 years, 2 months ago


In this logonasium, no one knows more. They just know different things, or think differently about the same things, or often are just plain wrong, as is the case with me sometimes. :-(

I learn something new, or rediscover something I have forgotten, or overlooked, from almost everyone of your posts.

Take this one you just made. In my enthusiasm of writing about Hull, Manning and Bedore above, I remarked that KU did not have as much talent in Manning's day. I was referrring to Manning's '88 ring year, and forgetting that incredible club he joined as a freshman...the one you rightly refer to as probably the best KU team in the last 60 years, though I might rank the 2008 ring team even, or higher, depending on which side of bed I get out of on a given day. :-)

Larry Brown agrees with us, if I recall one of his quotes last year correctly.

I would add that at the time it was probably the best college basketball team since the '76 Indiana team. It was an amazing collection of players that Ted was amassing as he struggled to rebuild that Brown inherited and added Manning and a couple others to.

And it can never be repeated too often: had the three point basket existed at that time, that team would have been unbeatable. I've just never seen a collection of shooters like that before, or since, in college basketball. And I believe it was the combination of great, great shooting, plus all the height, plus all the athleticism that makes you , Larry Brown, or me, or anyone else that saw them, say somewhat the same thing.

That team and its coach were like some great artist and his work that was far, far, far ahead of his time. It had this genius (I know, it is an overused word, but there just are some geniuses around) coach, Larry Brown, who claimed to have learned from two great college basketball minds in college--Frank McGuire and Dean Smith. And then he had been given the free laboratory of the old ABA to experiment with very good athletes on every idea he had, and so had cross-pollinated the best of college ball with the best of pro ball at the time, and he some how magically walks into Allen Field House, inherits an bucket of talent that was being fitted into a rather limiting way of playing the game (some hybrid of Bruce Drake's OU shuffle and the more deliberate aspects of Allen-Harp Ball), and suddenly given this then quite innovative scheme that is the prototype, IMHO, of what would come to dominate college basketball a number of years before anyone else.

jaybate 9 years, 2 months ago

I remember thinking when Brown was hired: oh, boy, we're going to be playing Dean's Carolina ball, yippee! But that was not what Brown seemed to coach at KU. 100 may impeach me on my POV here, but what I saw KU play in Brown's years at KU was something much closer to what he coached in the ABA than what Dean was coaching at Carolina. This is one of the reasons I believe that KU team we are both discussing stands out so in both our memories.

Brown seemed light years ahead of everyone else in thinking about how to play basketball at that time. I have always thought that was part of why Wooden endorsed Brown for UCLA. I believe Wooden knew the game was changing as he left it; and that his style of play would not survive in tact.

But most people, me for example, were still trying to figure out how to do what Wooden had done even into the late 70s, early 80s, when that is always the wrong approach in taking the next step. The next step has to be taken exactly the same way Wooden took it in the early 1950s. It has to be taken by a genius who looks at the game and the players and the officiating and recruiting constraints and comes up with the freshest blending of what has come before, with a jettisoning of as much of what no longer fits as possible, and without any false replication of what has been successful recently.

Geniuses are the only guys that can do this. Everyone else keeps trying to do what has been being done a little better. And that's good too. The world always needs both the incrementalists and the non linear leapers to maximize the chances of staying on the right path, given the degree of uncertainty that is present in the world.

But there are certain non linear leapers, guys like Allen, like Iba, like Claire Bee, like Wooden, like Eddie, like Knight, like Dean, guys that see through to the reality of their contemporary situation, find first principles, and do so more clearly and have the neural net connections necessary to recombine inherited pieces (i.e. they don't reinvent wheels), add new pieces and come up with a fabulous new fit of the game to the then contemporary context. This is why they are geniuses.

jaybate 9 years, 2 months ago

And sometimes, these guys are geniuses like Wooden that come up with a way of playing the game that gets discarded, because the rules and constraints on the game change, and other times they are geniuses like Brown that devise a game that points directly to the way the game is evolving in the long term.

If you can find any footage of the KU team we are talking about, I believe they would look and play just as if they were a team playing today, only with a ton of talent and shorter shorts. :-)

Brown saw clearly how to play the game then and where it was going. I always thought that was why he did not use Danny Manning as the next Magic., or as something equally innovative at one of the big positions. Brown, like most genius, is a captive of what is apparent to him, but not necessarily yet to others. Sometimes these guys fancy themselves visionaries, other times they see themselves as keepers of the flame that are nonetheless making crucial innovations. Brown would fit the latter description. But in either case, they both know they see and understand something most others don't yet.

Brown could no more ignore that vision any more than he could not breath. And by vision, I don't mean some peyote, quasi religious kind of vision. I mean the kind of hard, gem-like vision any gifted genius inevitably has in any field, when he is not only possessed of the necessary brain, but also when he is touched early by great thinkers in his field, and then propelled away from them and into a working environment where he can afford to make a bunch of mistakes and do a bunch of experiments, while continuing to get to work.

Wooden's great good fortune was not only to be coached by Ward Lambert at Purdue (would that he had met Allen), or to get a break at college coaching at Indiana State, but to accept a coaching job at UCLA, when UCLA was still a young and lesser school on the West Coast, but in the path of fantastically rapid growth in population, especially basketball playing population. He had 10 years to experiment against the then great coaches of UC and USC and Oregon State. His ten rings in 11 years were not made the years they were won. They were made in those ten years of experimentation, when no one cared enough to stifle his genius.

I believe something similar may be said of Larry Brown. He started with a fine coach in Dean Smith, and some wise professional influences later, but it was then that extended period of ABA experimentation he was allowed that let him not only develop his coaching skills, but his approach to playing the game. In the NBA of that era, he could never have experimented so freely and he would probably have been fired after two years and wound up on someone's bench learning to think like them, instead of doing all the experimentation that he in fact did.

Your comment is why the internet is so great. It calls attention to what I got wrong and stimulates me to think even more.

Thanks, as always.

REHawk 9 years, 2 months ago

yates and jaybate, on this sleepy post-Christmas Sunday afternoon I have enjoyed your posts immensely. Tho an old guy who married into the Jayhawk Nation and came late to an appreciation of Kansas Hoops Phenomena, I enjoy glimples of what came before the past two decades of my following the basketball program. Holiday thanks to Gary Bedore and the LJW sports staff for offering such articles to stimulate the reminiscences of Those In The Know.

jaybate 9 years, 2 months ago

Marrying in, or just choosing to be part of the tribe qualify you. The only thing you don't get by not being a grad is the undergraduate draw down on brain cells from too much beer plus four years of cheap seats to the greatest show on earth!

KU basketball being exclusionary would go against the Lincoln Republican and Populist Party progressive culture that attracted and kept James Naismith at KU in the first place. Never forget that it was Dr. Naismith that mentored the great African American Kansan and future father of the fast break John McLendon, when the state and school had backslid too far from it's progressive values to let African Americans play college basketball.

And though the university is going through a period of backsliding on its chartered purpose to make university education available to all Kansans by imposing high tuition fees instead of taxing sufficiently, one day soon the university of Kansas will again lead the little d democratic charge to make a KU education affordable and available to all Kansans.

In the best sense and traditions of America and Kansas, if you want to be one of us, you are one of us. KU basketball is a living myth. It is about more than Ws. It is about everyone getting better.

Rock Chalk!

yates33333 9 years, 2 months ago

Jaybate are you sure you don't make a living as a sportswriter or some kind of writer?

REHawk 9 years, 2 months ago

4 years of cheap seats to the greatest show on earth: WAHOO! Spouse recalls her first attendance at The Phog. She accompanied first love and his brother, both of whom warned her to brace up for some rowdy cheering. HA! Says there was no way anyone could have anticipated the earshattering shrieking and stomping from the student section. She was terrified that the building might collapse!

REHawk 9 years, 2 months ago

4 years of cheap seats to the greatest show on earth: WAHOO! Spouse recalls her first attendance at The Phog. She accompanied first love and his brother, both of whom warned her to brace up for some rowdy cheering. HA! Says there was no way anyone could have anticipated the earshattering shrieking and stomping from the student section. She was terrified that the building might collapse!

ku_foaf 9 years, 2 months ago

It is very good to hear that Rodney Hull is doing well. Somewhat of a forgotten player. I remember he was a friend and teammate of a top recruit that was shot and killed senselessly. I think the kid's name was Ben Davis. Has it really been 24 years?

I remember a number of players transferring in the first few years Brown was there. Altonio Campbell went to Idaho State, there was an Owens recruit from California, a dark haired guy, I think his first name was Jim, and I think he transferred to Cal-Fullerton or San Diego State.

yovoy 9 years, 2 months ago


Face palm! OLDOLDOLD!

Just 'cause you can doesn't mean you should.

...also, foaf Ben Davis was here during the era of Coach 7. Unless there was another Ben Davis that was going to come here before the Ben Davis that did. The one that came here ended up out at 'Zona.

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