Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Greatest KU games: No. 9

Roy’s boys run wild vs. ‘Cats

Kentucky Wildcat coach Rick Pitino gives instructions from the sidelines during KU's 150-95 blowout of Rick Pitino's Kentucky Wildcats in December, 1989.

Kentucky Wildcat coach Rick Pitino gives instructions from the sidelines during KU's 150-95 blowout of Rick Pitino's Kentucky Wildcats in December, 1989.


Editor’s note: This is the second story in the Journal-World’s series of the top 10 victories in Kansas University hoops history. Introducing No. 9:

Ten greatest games

As the countdown continues, look back at the ten greatest games here:

8 - Check back next Wednesday for No. 8

9 - Roy's boys run wild vs. 'Cats

10 - Collison hooks 'Horns

With more than 1,100 victories between them, Roy Williams and Rick Pitino long have been considered two of the greatest minds to work college basketball’s sidelines.

But there was a time, not long ago, when they were linked in a way that had nothing to do with win totals.

The day was Dec. 9, 1989, and second-year Kansas University coach Roy Williams was on the sideline for his first match-up with one of the nation’s elite programs. Two weeks removed from rolling their way to the Preseason NIT championship — with victories over Shaquille O’Neal and second-ranked LSU and Larry Johnson and top-ranked UNLV — the Jayhawks were home for a battle with Pitino’s Kentucky Wildcats.

Pitino, who made a name for himself by guiding Providence College to the 1987 Final Four and in the NBA with the New York Knicks, was in his first season in charge of the probation-laden Wildcats. With just eight scholarship players and a host of walk-ons on his roster, Pitino rode the Wildcats hard that season, determined to lay the foundation for the fast-paced, pressing style that would lead UK to three Final Fours in the 1990s, including a national title in 1996.

On this day, though, the Jayhawks had little trouble with Pitino’s press. Seniors Kevin Pritchard, Ricky Calloway, Jeff Gueldner and Freeman West, along with juniors Mark Randall and Terry Brown, torched the pressure and scored at will while leading Kansas to a 150-95 blowout. KU led at the half, 80-61.

“This is something that I still preach to this day, and it was really from that game,” Randall said. “Against any press, always get the ball to the middle. And that’s what we did. And we were able to advance up the court past their press, and it was layup, layup, layup.”

With each Kansas layup or dunk, the Allen Fieldhouse crowd roared louder. As the decibel-level grew, Pitino became more irate.

“It just kept getting louder and louder and louder, and, as a player, you feed off of that energy and excitement,” Randall said. “The energy in that place never got better than it was that time. The tradition of Kansas against the tradition of Kentucky and the energy that was in the building that day, it was unbelievable. There was nothing like it in my five years that I was at Kansas. Nothing really even came close.”

With his team getting embarrassed on the court, Pitino’s temper boiled. Randall recounted how Williams yelled to Pitino, asking what he wanted him to do, given that he already had his third team in the game. Pitino, according to Randall, responded with an expletive.

The exchange stoked Williams’ competitive nature, and it showed.

“The starters were taken out, which was a nice gesture on coach Williams’ part, but there’s emotion in this game, there’s passion in it,” Pritchard said. “Once the incident happened, I just remember coach Williams looked down the bench and said, ‘Starters, back in the game now.’ Initially I thought we were in trouble, but he just wanted us back in there to show ’em that we were going to go back in and compete for the next five minutes.”

Added Randall: “I thought what coach Williams did was class. It was kind of one of those things where you just sat there and said, ‘What are you gonna do?’ (Pitino’s) the (guy) who kept putting the press on.”

Read the original story

Read Gary Bedore's original post-game story from Dec. 10, 1989.

Pritchard’s surprise did not stop with Williams sending KU’s starters back in.

“What was amazing,” Pritchard continued, “was that they kept pressing, and we kept breaking the press and just kept getting easy baskets.”

To this day, many of the Jayhawks on that team continue to be amazed by Pitino’s insistence on using the press until the bitter end.

“I don’t know what his thinking was,” Randall said. “Maybe he was thinking, ‘hell we were getting smoked anyway, we might as well keep going.’”

After racking up a few more victories at KU, Randall and Pritchard both went on to enjoy a few seasons as NBA players and currently are still involved with the league. Randall is the director of community relations for his hometown Denver Nuggets. Pritchard is the general manager for the Portland Trailblazers. Throughout their careers, they’ve encountered plenty of Kentucky alums along the way. Just about every time, the record-setting game comes up.

“Any time I run into any Kentucky fans,” Pritchard said. “There are a lot of Kentucky guys in the NBA and there are a lot of Kansas guys in the NBA, and we’re not afraid to have a few friendly words.”

Added Randall: “In the time I’ve spent in Lawrence since I graduated, I would say that that’s the one game that’s talked about most in my career. People remember where they were or what they were doing when they were watching it.”


KCinNC 12 years ago

One of the loudest games ever in the Fieldhouse. I'm proud to have been there. The main thing I remember from that year is Terry Brown bombing 3's.

Mike Kendall 12 years ago

I remember that game very well! This game and the UCLA game where Jacque Vaughn and the Jayhawks came back from a huge deficit at halftime, are the two best games in AFH. Great Memories, for sure! Where is WildcatsFanOne when you need him?!!!!!!!!

Andy Tweedy 12 years ago

That was my senior year. I had planned to go home to Omaha on Friday but decided to stay for the game. I sure am glad I did, or this wouldn't be one of the few chances I'll ever get to say "I was there!" It was AWESOME!!!

5yardfuller 12 years ago

This game is on youtube in 11 parts. I believe the famous exchange between Williams and Pitino occured just after Randall's dunk gave KU a 126-86 lead. This would be at the 7 minute mark of part 9.

Mike Kendall 12 years ago

BTW, Pitino's black & white mug shot (picture) above reminds me of Al Pachino (Sp-?) in the Godfather, Part II. Going "gangster" on us!!!!!!!!

Dyrk Dugan 12 years ago

the game is unique in KU history for sure...we'll never see another one like it. because no one will want the 24 hour news/sports cycle to show this over and over you have now.

It just goes to show you how arrogant Pitino was....he wanted the brakes to be put on by us, but yet wouldn't stop pressing.

Of course, UK got its revenge next year, and then Pitino himself won a title. It's funny now, exactly 20 years later that basically Pitino is really on his last legs of a career...and Roy just came off his 2nd title....and another one may not that be far off.

On that December day in 1989, Pitino vs. Roy was a bloodbath...and Roy was towering over him....and today, career's darn near the same thing.

jayhawkinnc 12 years ago

Rick Calloway was a senior that season too. it implies he's a junior with Mark Randall and Terry Brown in the article. just FYI LJW.

Jeff Cuttell 12 years ago

BTW, Pitino's black & white mug shot (picture) above reminds me of Al Pachino (Sp-?) in the Godfather, Part II. Going "gangster" on us!!!!!!!!

I think more like Dog Day Afternoon. That fits.

BCRavenJHawkfan 12 years ago

As a Jayhawk fan I remember how dominating Kansas looked. I was so excited that KU was thumping Kentucky in that way.

I just looked at the youtube video that 5yard posted. Now I am struck by the way the Kentucky players do not look like they want to press any more. You can see a couple look over to the bench at different times as if to say "coach, give it up man you're embarrassing us players".

I want to also add that I like the current Naismith court better than the old one. But I did prefer the sound of that old horn. It was distinctive and just seemed to fit the flavor of AFH.

Mike Kendall 12 years ago

jajacut--- HA, HA, HA, HA, HA!!!!!!! That's my good laugh for the day!!!!


Chris Shaw 12 years ago

Always good to see an old photo of Pekka Markkanen! Anybody remember Kansas beating #1 UNLV and #2 LSU back to back in the preseason NIT. I believe that was 1990 rather than 1989, but Pekka Markkanen was front and center for those wins. One of the greatest names of all time.

BCRavenJHawkfan 12 years ago

I may have the years confused. If this was 1989, was Kansas on NCAA probation?

Chris Shaw 12 years ago

BCRaven: Yes, KU was on probation when they played Kentucky!

Matt Tait 12 years ago

Just a couple of points to clarify for the questions posed by commenters...

This game was played at the beginning of the 1989-1990 season and Kansas was not on probation. This was Roy's second season and KU went 30-5 and lost to UCLA in the 2nd Round of the NCAA Tournament (in March of 1990).

KU's probation year came during the 1988-89 season (that began in Oct. '88), which was Coach Williams' first year at KU.

In addition, this was the year that KU won the Preseason NIT. This team beat UAB at home on Nov. 15, LSU on Nov. 17, UNLV on Nov. 22 and St. John's on Nov. 24 of 1989. The last two games were in Madison Square Garden in NYC.

It was a long time ago now.... Hope that clears up some of your questions!

Steve Brown 12 years ago

My wife had our seats that day I was in Vegas for conference, and placed small wager on the game, during a break in our session, I came out looked at the board and requested my winnings,.

I did not believe the man when he said it was the halftime score. I just didn't believe it.

Steve Brown 12 years ago

I recall Pitino saying to the press, this is how we will play and how we will recruit so we will go down fighting full court.

I suspect he made a growth lesson point that day to his team, listen to coach or get run out of the gym.

Yes, the old horn was distinctive, I miss it.

Milhawkee 12 years ago

Wow it's on YouTube! I've always wondered how this score was even possible.

This is a great video.

JayCeph 12 years ago

That photo looks like it was taken in 1959... not 1989. Whew, am I really that old? I must be. Hard to believe that Milli Vanilli was still selling records when this game was played.

CrimsonPhoenix 12 years ago

I was 9 days old when this game was played. :)

actorman 12 years ago

Thanks for the link and info., 5yardfuller. I can't believe I finally got to see this game! I've always been jealous of the people who were there, so it's great to see it after all these years.

I am a little confused about the Roy-Rick situation, though. Matt Tait says, "“With his team getting embarrassed on the court, Pitino’s temper boiled. Randall recounted how Williams yelled to Pitino, asking what he wanted him to do, given that he already had his third team in the game. Pitino, according to Randall, responded with an expletive." Yet if it occurred when it was 126-86 like 5yardfuller says, weren't Randall and Pritchard still in the game? Does anyone know the specifics of the situation?

JorgePancho 12 years ago

If this game ranks among the Jayhawk's greatest, I feel bad for Kansas basketball. BTW, Kentucky, still on probation, beat Kansas just one year later. Kind of puts this class-less display by Roy Williams in perspective, doesn't it?

In contrast, Kentucky whipped Tennessee 101-40 in the 1993 SEC Tournament. But it means little to Wildcat fans. Why? Because it was a blowout, and blowouts are never good, or great, games. At least to class teams and their fans.

But I digress, and continue to have pity for a program that celebrates a win over a 14-14 team (season record), suffering its worst season in 60 years.

actorman 12 years ago

Jorge, your comments show how remarkably clueless you are about KU basketball history. Going into that game, UK had an all-time record of 16-2 against KU, and had won a lot of them in truly heartbreaking fashion. And most of the wins had come with a (racist jerk of a) KU alum as heir coach. There was a long, built-up animosity against the 'Cats.

Besides, what exactly did Roy do that was so classless? (It's one word, by the way.) Maybe he could have removed some of the starters a little earlier. But other than that, if UK was going to continue to press the whole game, what should KU have done, simply handed them the ball and said, "Thanks for offering us the easy basket, but we don't want to embarrass you by running up the score?"

This is ranked among KU's greatest games because of what it represents historically, not because of the game itself. And it doesn't hurt that it was a nice round number of 150. 14-14 or not, it's still special that KU's biggest score (by far) in history was against a bitter rival like UK, and that UK's biggest whipping was by KU.

But it's okay, Jorge, you go ahead and have your pity party, and KU and its fans will just continue to enjoy having the greatest tradition in college basketball history.

JorgePancho 11 years, 12 months ago

What part of more all-time wins, a better all-time win percentage, more all-time NCAA tournament wins, more all-time NCAA Championships - won by 4 different coaches, makes Kentucky less great than Kansas, in terms of tradition?

Never mind, regularly averaging the highest home attendance in college basketball. Oh, even the cheerleaders just won their 18th nat'l championship. And UK fans donated $1.2 million to Haiti - only because the coach asked them to.

actorman, you deserve an Oscar for that comment. Your loyalty has blinded you to the facts. And thanks for clarifying, Kansas fans pride themselves running up the score against a group of walk-on's. Karma stings, doesn't it? Remind me how many NCAA Titles Williams won at Kansas. And Rick Pitino at Kentucky?

Tradition? Ha! I must "jay-walk" to a more worthy debate.

Dan Pawlowski 11 years, 11 months ago

Enjoy it while you can Jorge. Brag about your all time wins before the number is rolled back courtesy of the NCAA. As far as the lack of class aspect , It is a known but unwritten rule that if you are getting your butt kicked and the other team has the decency to call of the dogs then you do not spit in their face by playing the same people the same way you did at the beginning. If you keep trying to win, we are going to keep trying to beat you. It is that simple.

Chad Hallack 11 years, 11 months ago

This may very well have been one of the loudest games in The Phog, but I don't like it for the top 10 at all. Kentucky was a bad team. Pitino's foolishness that caused the exchange between Roy and himself was classic. Is it a famous game, sure. A top 10 all time great? Not hardly. If the blowout of D-Wade's Marquette (who beat KY) in the Final 4 is not on this list... it is a total sham that this absolutely meaningless game is.

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