Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Tom Keegan: In ‘74, seven-man rotation was enough for Kansas to reach Final Four

The 1973-1974 Kansas basketball team. Front row, from left: Paul Werner, Reuben Shelton, Dave Taynor, Nino Samuel, Jack Hollis, Bob Emery, Tommie Smith, Tom Kivisto and Dale Greenlee. Back row, from left: Dean Nesmith (trainer), Ted Owens (head coach), Roger Morningstar, Donnie Von Moore, Rick Suttle, Danny Knight, Norm Cook, Dale Haverman, Duncan Reid (assistant) and Sam Miranda (assistant). In front: Chuck Purdy (manager).

The 1973-1974 Kansas basketball team. Front row, from left: Paul Werner, Reuben Shelton, Dave Taynor, Nino Samuel, Jack Hollis, Bob Emery, Tommie Smith, Tom Kivisto and Dale Greenlee. Back row, from left: Dean Nesmith (trainer), Ted Owens (head coach), Roger Morningstar, Donnie Von Moore, Rick Suttle, Danny Knight, Norm Cook, Dale Haverman, Duncan Reid (assistant) and Sam Miranda (assistant). In front: Chuck Purdy (manager).


Sometimes seven is enough, as the Kansas basketball team has shown so far this season and showed 43 seasons ago.

The Jayhawks made it all the way to the 1974 Final Four with a seven-man rotation that included six players who played their high school ball in the state of Illinois. Ted Owens’ eighth man, Von Moore, appeared in just 13 of KU’s 30 games that season.

Tom Kivisto and Dale Greenlee started at guard, Roger Morningstar and Norm Cook at forward and Danny Knight at center. Rick Suttle was the reserve big man, Tommie Smith the reserve guard. Knight, from Hutchinson, was the lone Kansas native.

Kivisto, the captain, was the only senior in the rotation. Cook was a freshman and the other five players were juniors.

“That was in an era when the game was starting to move from very deliberate Hank Iba kind of stuff into a more fast-paced, John McLendon kind of thing,” said Roger Morningstar, proprietor of Morningstar’s New York Pizza, where basketball talk so often hangs in the sweet-smelling air. “We were muddling around somewhere in the middle of all that.”

Seasons are 10 games longer and played at an even faster pace now, so it’s a tougher task to make it through a season using seven players now than it was then.

Since Udoka Azubuike went down with a season-ending wrist injury, Self has used a seven-man rotation, prompting many to look at the team’s 17-1 record and No. 2 national ranking and say, “Self’s done a great job with this team,” to which Morningstar is quick to respond: “Name a team he hasn’t done a great job with.”

Morningstar is the only Lawrence resident among the seven players who lost to Marquette in the national semifinal and then to UCLA in the consolation game in Greensboro, N.C. Knight died at the age of 24 from a brain aneurysm. Cook, who battled mental illness through much of his life, died in 2008.

Morningstar keeps in touch with the others from the magnificent seven-man rotation that defied the odds by making it to the Final Four after going 8-18 the previous season.

Morningstar reports that: Kivisto, an entrepreneur after whom the Memorial Stadium field was named in the wake of his $12 million pledge, lives in Chicago. Greenlee lives and works in Indianapolis. Smith is retired and living in Topeka after a lengthy career in state government. Suttle had a long basketball career overseas and is back in East St. Louis living in the home in which he grew up.

The Jayhawks were the surprise team of that Final Four, one in which only Marquette used more than seven players.

After losing to Marquette, the Kansas players watched one of the greatest games in Final Four history, featuring two of the most celebrated players college basketball ever has known. David Thompson’s North Carolina State team defeated Bill Walton’s UCLA squad, 80-77, in double-overtime. NC State’s bench outscored the Bruins’, 4-2. Walton and Greg Lee, the point guard who fed him, played 50 minutes as did the Wolfpack’s guards, Monte Towe and Mo Rivers.

The stars didn’t disappoint. Walton totaled 29 points and 18 rebounds and Thompson had 28 points and 10 boards for the victors, but the details from that game aren’t burned in Morningstar’s memory.

“We weren’t in much of a mood,” Morningstar said.

These days, it’s difficult to imagine Roger, a friendly, laid-back man always up for talking Kansas basketball, being in a rotten mood, but losing will do that to a competitor.


Suzi Marshall 2 years, 12 months ago

Who is this Carter person that is retired and living in Topeka after a lengthy career in state government?

Recall that team only needed to win 2 games to make the final 4 and the path was really difficult. We played the regional on ORU's home floor at the Mabee with the word's 'expect a miracle" along the edge of the court. In the first game the Hawks won 55-54 over Eddie Sutton's Creighton team. We play ORU on their home court for the finals and were up by about 15 late in that game until Sam McCants started dropping shots from everywhere resulting in us being down by about 9 with only a couple of minutes to go in the game. Thankfully ORU went cold but kept launching shots, which KU took advantage of to tie the game. We ended up winning that game in OT 93-90 with Morningstar being quoted in Sports Illustrated saying "We expected a miracle, and we got it." I'm surprised Roger didn't tell you about that part!

After coaching at Kansas, Owens coached at ORU. Before coaching at Kansas, Self coached at ORU.

Nino Samuel was the super star HS kid that was suppose to be the all world play but proved to be all hype and no game. Chiefs orthopedic surgeon and Kansas HS Tennis state champion, Chris Barnthouse was on that team.

Here is an '09 article in the Tulsa Newspaper recalling that regional, which references Roger's SI quote.

Larry Jackson 2 years, 12 months ago

Tommy Smith is the person that is retired and living in Topeka after a lengthy career in state government.

Suzi Marshall 2 years, 12 months ago

I was giving Keegan a rub for the 'Carter' typo. How he got Carter out of Smith...?

John Boyle 2 years, 12 months ago

Suzi, Why isn't Cris Barnthouse in the photo? He is from Winfield KS (my hometown). He beat out Danny Knight for MVP of the Ark Valley League in basketball in high school. Seems like a joke at this point considering how good Knight was at KU and Barnthouse barely ever saw the court. I am about 4 years younger than Cris so I grew up really admiring him as a high school basketball player while I was in grade school and junior high.

Suzi Marshall 2 years, 12 months ago

I have no idea why Chris is not in the photo. Perhaps because he was a walk-on at the time and maybe Owens did not allow walk-ons to be in team photos. If so, it's actually kinda funny because if you talk to Owens today, Barnthouse is one of his players he is most proud of...and speaks of often. However it's hard to pin Owens down on which players he's most proud of as he has such great affection for all of them. Looking at the stats from that year, you can see Chris only got in a couple of games ... but got a rebound! Kivisto is the other guy on the team we all should be talking about. Tommy was the leader of that team and his career after KU with Koch and SemGroup, plus KU contributions are of special note.

RJ King 2 years, 12 months ago

As a KU student with no plans for Spring Break that year, four of us drove down to Tulsa to stay with an older sister. We just walked up to the window and got our tickets on game day. Probably $5-$10. Or maybe less, as it seems like we were standing very close to the court - only in some kind of general admission area.

Yes, we had victories over KSU and Mizzou to end the season, and send us to the tournament. (No End of Season Conference Tournaments back then.) Win four games and take the crown.

There was no three pointers, and the shot clock was a couple years away (the following year Notre Dame ran a UNC stall with Adrian Dantley and almost fouled all our guys out of the game).

It was a crazy atmosphere, but how wonderful that STUDENTS could just hop in a car and attend what later became known as March Madness. Definitely a Spring Break to remember.

Suzi Marshall 2 years, 12 months ago

We did the same...spent spring break in Tulsa. The weather was perfect for a perfect weekend.

Craig Jackson 2 years, 12 months ago

Great article! Was growing up in Omaha at the time. Brother was a sophomore at KU as well so vested in the KU Creighton game. What a game! Was one of Creightons best squads of all time!

Didnt "Von Moore" have a "Donnie" in front?

Jerry Walker 2 years, 12 months ago

I had a class with Donnie Von Moore. The prof called the neighborhood where Von Moore grew up as "Pill Hill, Chicago"...wherever and whatever that is.

RJ King 2 years, 12 months ago

it's wherever there was a concentration of hospitals.

Suzi Marshall 2 years, 12 months ago

...or a drug infested neighborhood. Some things don't change much over 50 years.

Bville Hawk 2 years, 12 months ago

And what of Donnie Von Moore and Tommie Smith? Where are they these days?

Scott Proch 2 years, 12 months ago

Very fun Tom. Not enough memories ingrained about the Ted Owens era and some very good teams. I think they suffer from everyone taking a back seat to UCLA much like the NBA guys of the Jordan era. Also, for those of us who were students during the end of Ted's era, there's (Class of 84) there's always been a negative feel to his tenure. Thanks for the extra knowledge from everyone else too.

Bret Eckert 2 years, 12 months ago

Tommie "T Rap" Smith lives in Topeka. He is an above average Basketball official, I can say that because I have worked with him several times, who is retired. He is currently on the IR from officiating and recovering.

He comes to KU games often and hangs out with Bud. And yes they still talk alot of smack to each other.

Joshua Hann 2 years, 12 months ago

Back in the mid 2000's, Dale Greenlee was a customer of the place I worked. Through a mutual friend, we found the KU connection. Was great chatting with him and hearing stories from his playing days.

Harlan Hobbs 2 years, 12 months ago

Suzi, regarding Nino Samuel, he was a superstar in high school at Salina, but at only 6'5" or so, he played down low in high school and didn't really have the skills to go outside. I agree that there was hype about what his impact would be at KU, but I think that hype put a lot of unwarranted pressure on him.

Suzi Marshall 2 years, 12 months ago

You are right. I felt sorry for the guy. I remember when he first got into a game and he drove to the basket. It was apparent right away he had a long way to go. All the more reason to be happily surprised when 3-star small town kids from Kansas or Petersburg make it big.

Tony Bandle 2 years, 12 months ago

Looking at the team photo above, I say, let's go retro and bring back the short shorts and the sideburns!! Can you imagine the reaction around the country if some team, just goofing around, came out with that look!!!

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 12 months ago

I'm not sure I'm ready for that. Maybe if we make a slow transition.

Harlan Hobbs 2 years, 12 months ago

Absolutely right, Suzi. It's the proverbial "putting round pegs in round holes" if you want success. Bill Self and his staff are masters at putting players in position to be successful.

That's not to say that Ted Owens didn't, because the facts are that Nino Samuel was a tough fit. On the other hand, guys like Roger Morningstar and Roger Bohnenstiel come to mind as players of my college era (boy, am I old!) who fit in perfectly, as well as many since. I can still see Roger B. hitting that patented turn-around jump shot of his. He was almost automatic with it. Then, in the Jo Jo era, there was Vernon Vanoy, who protected the paint and rebounded like crazy for a guy only about 6'8". He was also a darn good defensive end in football for Pepper Rodgers.

Edward Daub 2 years, 12 months ago

NC State versus UCLA was one of the greatest games I have ever watched!

NC State had the tallest and shortest players, 7'4" Tom Burleson and 5'6" Monte Towe to compliment the great jumper 6'4" David Thompson.

Bill Walton played along side the slender forward Keith Wilkes. Wilkes was so smooth, he was nicknamed "Silk". Coach Wooden handled the rare defeat with Class.

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