Saturday, February 11, 2012


1952 champs return to KU


The 1952 Kansas national championship basketball team gathered Friday night at Bill Hougland’s house, the back of which overlooks the 17th green at Lawrence Country Club.

Nobody was talking golf. Everybody was talking about how much they enjoy this season’s overachieving KU basketball team. And when they discussed the qualities of their own team of 60 years ago, they mentioned intense defense, working the ball inside and an unselfish approach to the game.

The more they chatted, the more it became apparent not much has changed with Kansas basketball in the past 60 years.

“I don’t know about that,” said Bob “Trigger” Kenney, the team’s best outside shooter and the nation’s free-throw percentage leader that year. “We had over a 40-inch vertical leap. That was all of us combined.”

Kenney lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., and is in town for today’s game against Oklahoma State, a 3 p.m. tipoff in Allen Fieldhouse. Six players from the ’52 squad will be honored at halftime.

Clyde Lovellette, who dropped 33 points and 17 rebounds on St. John’s in the national title game, came in from North Manchester, Ind. Reserve Bill Heitholt made the trip from Commerce, Texas. Lawrence residents Hougland and Bill Lienhard, the starting forwards, and Al Kelley, a reserve guard, also will take center court at halftime. Health issues prevent Charlie Hoag from participating.

The Jayhawks will wear retro uniforms, although not short shorts. Cheerleaders will fashion longer skirts and bobby sox.

The 1952 and 2012 teams share more than fashion similarities.

“Very impressive,” Heitholt said of this year’s team. “They play intense defense. That’s what we were known for too.”

Also, both squads feature a superstar — Lovellette then, Thomas Robinson now.

“I love the way Robinson plays,” Kenney said. “He’s my favorite guy, and he was last year. The guy is a tough rebounder. And he’s certainly a hustler. I think he’s one of the best players in the country, if not the best. And Clyde was a great player. Not many people, I suppose, know that now. Clyde was a great shooter. He made damn near everything he shot. Three-time All-American, the premier player in his era. He led the nation in scoring and damn near everything else.”

As in ’52, Kansas does a good job feeding the ball inside, though not always to the satisfaction of coach Bill Self standing courtside or Lovellette watching from his living room.

“I saw a lot of times they could have gotten it inside and they didn’t,” Lovellette said. “I say, ‘Why don’t you get it in?’ Of course they don’t hear me in that television.”

Self gave the ’52 players a tour of the facilities Friday afternoon, and Lovellette, who had given his letter jackets to his brothers, was presented with a brand-new one, just the beginning of a weekend with a distinct family reunion feel to it.


Saguaro_Jayhawk 7 years, 7 months ago

RIP John Keller, co-captain from Great Bend via Garden City JuCo, who provided rebounding strength on that 1952 NCAA Champs team, then later on the 1952 Helsinki Olympics Gold Medal team. You are missed JK!

dw3c 7 years, 7 months ago

Just thinking about how glad I am Roy Williams left.

hawk316 7 years, 7 months ago

KUfan, I think dw3c is referring to the coach who had a record of 418-101 (.805 winning percentage) in 15 seasons at Kansas and who led them to 4 final fours. He was the coach who achieved 300 wins faster than any coach in NCAA history. He was the coach who took the KU program back to elite status following NCAA probation in 1988-89...whose teams at Kansas averaged 27.8 wins per season...who won numerous conference championships and led his team to the only undefeated season in Big XII history in 2001-2. He was the coach whose teams were a regular in the AP Top 25 from 1991 to 1999, appearing for 145 consecutive weeks and 242 of 268 weekly polls. He was the coach who led Kansas to the No. 1 ranking in six different seasons and was ranked at least No. 2 in 11 of the 15 seasons. His Kansas team was also the winningest team of the 1990s,

He means that coach.

People, it's time to give credit where credit is due, don't you think?

Jack Wilson 7 years, 7 months ago

+1. hawk316 .. terrific post. The ignorant Roy-bashing discredits a man that deserves a statue and a day of recognition.

Chris Shaw 7 years, 7 months ago

Roy does deserve recognition, but he does not deserve a statue. He gave up that right, unfortunately!

7 years, 7 months ago

15 years of joy, no doubt. Thanks for the reminder, 316!

TenaciousD 7 years, 7 months ago

It could be that the institutions where Roy coached had more to do with his success than anything else. Roy has never coached anywhere but KU and UNC. Coach Self has shown that he can survive and thrive in any environment. Give me Self any day of the week.

Roy can coach a mean fast-break, but beyond that he has largely enjoyed success on the back of two of the three most winning programs in the history of college basketball.

Hawk316, make sure you give credit where credit is due too!

hawk316 7 years, 7 months ago

Tenacious, don't get me wrong. I'm a huge fan of Bill Self and am extremely thankful to have him as our coach. I just think we need to appreciate the tremendous accomplishments of Roy Williams, as well.

As for viewing Roy's success based on the institutions where he has coached, I think it's important to remember that he came in as a rookie head coach and faced NCAA sanctions right off the bat. He was still able to bring KU back to elite status within a couple of years. And I don't care how great the institution is, you still have to win.

Having said that, I wouldn't trade Bill Self for any coach in the country! In that, we are in complete agreement.

Jeremy Paul 7 years, 7 months ago

Oh, you mean that guy. The one who said he loved us, and we all loved him in return. And then it ended up that he was lying the whole time. It's like you're married for 15 years, 15 wonderful years, have some great children and a nice house and all that, then suddenly your wife's high school sweetheart comes calling saying he wants to get back together with her, and she ditches you for him. Just because she does that doesn't mean that the years together weren't wonderful, and your kids don't suddenly become losers, and your house doesn't suddenly become a poohole. But when you give your heart to someone and you think they're giving theirs back to you, only to find out that they didn't really love you at all--well, that's betrayal in the first degree.

ku_foaf 7 years, 7 months ago

His home state and home school came calling. True, Dean Smith did not do that in the same situation, but he had a guy named Jordan playing for him at the time. I think Roy was unsure he'd done the right thing, but the '05 helped.

It hurts that two men important to KU clearly showed they did indeed love NC Basketball more. The past is the past. It worked out well for both schools, I think. I tend to remember all the good they did for KU. I wish nothing but good for Roy.

Chris Shaw 7 years, 7 months ago

He also had the "Dean Dome" being built in his name so it was pretty difficult for him to leave. :)

With that said, no reason to wear "Carolina Blue" when you're getting recognized for a Jayhawk accomplishment.

KGphoto 7 years, 7 months ago

My anger with Roy died the weekend of the '08 Final Four. The guy got his azz trounced by the Hawks (something I needed to see) then he shows up with a Jayhawk logo stuck on his shirt for the Championship. He's alright with me.

Janet Olin 7 years, 7 months ago

Me, too. I had the privilege of teaching the Williams' son for three years, and never met a more engaged set of parents, or a harder working student..I will forever have a problem with Dean sitting behind KU's bench during the Syracuse game (while he was actively leaning on Roy); I still think this was unethical, if not illegal. But I know Roy and Wanda both had relatives with serious health issues, and Roy put his neck on the block showing up at the KU game with a Jayhawk sticker after being routed. I'm over it and have nothing but respect for Roy. It's time we Hawk fans move forward and acknowledge Roy's many contrbiutions to Jayhawk lore. As, in, please include his 15 great years in the pre-game video.

jhasseartcile96 7 years, 7 months ago

I read an article a few years ago that he has started to show systems of ahlzheimers. I agree that his handling of the Roy thing was not good, I would assume time (and a National Championship) heals those wounds, but I do believe he has serious health issues.

toots_mom 7 years, 7 months ago

I suspect you meant symptoms of Alzheimer's

Steve Reigle 7 years, 7 months ago

Dean Smith was instrumental in Roy Williams coming to Kansas in the first place as well as in him leaving. I would still welcome him to Lawrence. It's sad his condition no longer allows him to make the trip, though.

Clarence Haynes 7 years, 7 months ago

Dean Simth also helped to get Larry Brown to KU. Moreover, he has a letter and diploma from the University of Kansas. He should always be welcomed!

Chris Bailey 7 years, 7 months ago


Agree. I can't have anything but admiration for both Dean and Roy. Had Roy not left we may not have won it all in 2008. Who knows. It's easy to not like Roy now cause he's an active coach but he did so much good for the program I can't help but still appreciate that. Sad to hear Dean's health is deterioating. Such a terrible way to go. I did read that there is a new drug that is showing promise in mouse studies for the disease, ironically, yesterday! Rock Chalk!

Kirk 7 years, 7 months ago

Smith also helped bring in Larry Brown, who was vastly superior to Roy and everyone else.

actorman 7 years, 7 months ago

Other than that minor detail of leaving the program on probation ...

Chris Shaw 7 years, 7 months ago

I could be wrong, but didn't Dean Smith show up in a "Carolina Blue" jacket for 5 or 6 years ago for a celebration?

TenaciousD 7 years, 7 months ago

You are right... he always wears Carolina colors when he is in Lawrence. Not too fond of the guy myself. I've never heard him give credit where credit is due, i.e., Dr. Allen and the birthplace.

baldwinjhawk 7 years, 7 months ago

Yes it's sad that the Topeka high graduate can't make the effort in twilight of his life to show respect to the place that gave you your chance to make the millions of dollars you've made. Especially when nobody else wanted you. Poor form Dean!

jhasseartcile96 7 years, 7 months ago

It has not bee much publicized, but he has Ahlzheimers and that is the reason why I believe he is not making the trip. I understand the bad feelings because of the Roy situation, where I think Dean was highly hypocritacal (I also got over it in April 2008!!). However I think time heals these bad felings, but I think it is his health as to the reason he is not there. Think about it, when was the last time they showed him in the stands at a UNC Game (such as this weeks Duke game). If he can't make it to the Dean Dome he for sure can't make it to Allen.

Dee Shaw 7 years, 7 months ago

The reason why Dean does not come back to Lawrence is because he has Alzheimer's. Sad. Thoughts and prayers are with Dean and his family.

Woody Cragg 7 years, 7 months ago

I can still remember Dad going plain nuts when they won the 52' NC. Hope he's smiling today, I know I am.

UmbertoConforti 7 years, 7 months ago

dw3c. I too am glad Roy left, but was pissed at the time. mea culpa! I still don't like the Heels but I no longer have any animus towards Williams. Sorry to read that Dean Smith has a major ailment. I too pray for him.

I really thought Lovellette was the best outside and inside shooter on that team. Dean Kelley was an excellent point guard who drove the ball in the lane. His brother was a pretty good shot from the outside. I thought the team next year might have been better but didn't win the final against Indiana. At least I think it was Indiana. Lovellette could do a lot more with the ball than Born, but Born was an excellent player. I think he was the MVP despite losing in 1953. If my memory is still working OK, it might not be.

actorman 7 years, 7 months ago

You're right, Umberto. It was Indiana, and Born did win the MVP despite being on the losing side. It was one of oh so many heartbreakers in KU history.

I believe KU is still the only team to have twice lost championship games by one point.

REHawk 7 years, 7 months ago

Nuts! I must have gleaned the wrong locker room info about the ankle length horizontal striped crimson and blue tights beneath the short shorts today.

Dee Shaw 7 years, 7 months ago

I would love to see the players of today wear the 1952 shorts. That would be classic. How can you wear the retro uniforms and allow them to wear the long shorts. Can you imagine T-Rob or Jeff Withey in those ball hugger shorts. That would be funny.

Bill Klein 7 years, 7 months ago

for those of us who wore short shorts, or actually the only shorts we wore and didn't care a bit about , i'm sure that today's team became a bunch of prima dona's and rebelled. Too bad, the 52 team deserves the respect.

Marcia Parsons 7 years, 7 months ago

Why in the world would you assume that "today's team became a bunch of prima dona's and rebelled", refusing to wear the short pants. Our modern-day teams have shown their respect many times by wearing retro shirts, but never have they worn the shorts. My guess is they would feel naked and it would throw their games off terribly. If you were in the age group that wore them all the time, I'm sure you were used to them.

Tom Richmond 7 years, 7 months ago

I was a freshman in '52 when we won the NCAA. It was an Olympic year and the format was the NCAA champ played the NIT champ, La Salle, with the great Tom Gola. We won in NYC 70-65. We then had to play the AAU champ, Peoria Caterpillars, also in the Garden. We lost 62-60 in the last 5 seconds. Even so, KU put seven men on the Olympic team, five for the Cats and two for the Phillips 66ers. Dr. Allen was the assistant coach. We won the gold in Helsinki with Lovellette the high point man in the final against the Soviets. Bob Kurland was also a big factor in the U.S. win. There was no TV in '52 but every student bent over their radios to listen to the final in Seattle. When we won, everyone rushed from their dorms, flooding the campus, driving on sidewalks and lawns - we were up all night and greeted the champs the next day when they paraded up Massachusetts on a Lawrence firetruck. I can still see Clyde standing in the middle of the truck wearing the Fire Chief's hat.

FLJHK 7 years, 7 months ago

Very cool. Thank you for sharing that memory.

741hawk 7 years, 7 months ago

Dean sent his #3 assistant. Then, after he became successful, Deanb pulled a guilt trip on Roy and called his lil' boy home, denying him an opportunity to establish a one school legacy . . . like he had!

The last reunion Dean attended, he wore a Carolina Blue sport coat.


(And, it worked out best for The Crimson and Blue. Look for those crimson jerseys today.)

Rock Chalk.

Chris Shaw 7 years, 7 months ago

Seriously, how hard is it to appease your alma mater for 10 minutes and wear some Crimson and Blue?! We know you built the Dean Dome, but don't shove it in the faces of Kansas fans.

Mike Kendall 7 years, 7 months ago

The 1952 team was obviously before my time. A lot of the highlights of that team, I have read about (don't think there were video highlights back then). Lovellette had to be a man amongst boys at KU. I could only imagine what it would be like to cheer on KU back in '52. Since Lovellette was from Indiana, I wonder what he thought of the movie, "Hoosiers?" So glad that they will be honored at the game today. I am honored to have your presence there today, "52 Jayhawks! Rock Chalk Jayhawk, my friends!

jaybate 7 years, 7 months ago

In the house I grew up in, they were sacred. They were referred to only as "the '52 team." Saying it even now makes me feel awe and mystery. They were just before my time. I was born in 1954. They were the fruition of the long first great era KU...the capstone team that realized the perfection of Naismith's creation and Allen's restless, fertile genius of development and experimentation. They were legendary and hallowed and understood to be on a Mt. Olympus of basketball accomplishment. My late Father, whom I count among the third generation to grow up with the game of basketball as a staple of their childhood (b.1918), and who lived to see the first half of the Self years, and who played high school ball at Washburn because he was not good enough for KU, and beloved Allen to be the greatest coaching genius of the 20th Century, and who saw several of the NCAA championships in KC including '57 with Wilt and '64 with Wooden, and who saw most of the '52 team's home games and, and, and...that father who's opinions of the game shaped, challenged and provoked mine...that father said that '52 KU team was the greatest college basketball team ever. Long before QA nerds began to talk of such things, my father laid down the best criteria for such an assessment. He said you could no compare teams from different eras straight up, because of progress. He said you had to compare based on how dominant they were in their era. Dominance in an era could be compare analysed. Dominance to him was how much you won and what you won. He said '52's combination of an NCAA, NIT and Olympic wins, besmirched only by a 2 pt loss to a great semi-pro team was the greatest demonstration of college basketball dominance before or since. He told me this when I was 10 in 1964, after seeing Wooden's Bruins win it all. He reasserted it even in the last year of his life. I argued it hard with him for 30 years before finally being persuaded. Whoever sees this team in the field house today is seeing what remains of the greatest basketball team ever assembled. Please pay you respects. Such greatness is rare and precious.

Rock Chalk '52!

Andrew Washington 7 years, 7 months ago

Did Adolph Rupp ever come back for reunions?

mbarnes1 7 years, 7 months ago

Is there somewhere to get a video copy of the 1952 championship game? I would love to watch it.

actorman 7 years, 7 months ago

Good question. I would love to see it too.

Eric J. Baker 7 years, 7 months ago

Someone might have already mentioned it, but Dean Smith DID come back to KU and Allen Fieldhouse just a few years ago, for a different reunion of some of that era's players. And he wore a nice KU shirt. Just thought it should be said since a lot of people here are apparently questioning Dean Smith's affinity for his alma mater.

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