Monday, October 27, 2014


Column: Bilas says Allen Fieldhouse ‘has a soul’

Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo


Jay Bilas is to college basketball what Charles Barkley is to the NBA, which is to say the smartest, funniest, most candid commentator on the air.

Barkley’s a more famous golfer than Bilas, thanks to an incurable swing flaw that’s as uncomfortable to watch as “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in mixed company.

Bilas knows his golf, though, and he knows his Kansas University basketball.

He nailed it when he called Allen Fieldhouse “the St. Andrew’s of college basketball.”

After watching KU’s Sunday practice down the hall from the fieldhouse in the practice gym, Bilas expounded on that comment.

“That building has a soul,” Bilas said. “You can feel the aura of the building even when it’s empty. That’s one of my favorite times to be there. Before or after practice, when nobody’s there and you’re just kind of looking around, it’s understated but beautiful. It’s been updated, but it’s still old-school.”

As a high school basketball standout in Southern California, Bilas watched closely as Larry Brown’s young UCLA team made it to the Final Four. Bilas scheduled a visit to KU with then-coach Ted Owens, but canceled after he committed to Duke, which plays in charming Cameron Indoor Stadium.

“They’re both so great,” he said of the two basketball venues. “They have the same dimensions on the court, but they’re different. It’s like the difference between Pine Valley and Augusta, the top two golf courses in the world. Are you going to sit and argue which one is better? They’re both amazing experiences, and the feel, you just can’t describe it.”

Bilas was the perfect choice to serve as host of tonight’s event featuring KU’s four living head coaches, Owens, Brown, Roy Williams and Bill Self.

“I think that all four of them are teachers, really good teachers of the game,” Bilas said. “They’re all demanding without being demeaning, and it’s really incredible to watch. That’s what the great coaches are. I don’t think any of them really coach out of fear. They want their players to achieve, to play without fear of making a mistake.”

The presence of the four coaches should make for a memorable night in a building that has had so many, a building where Wilt Chamberlain, Danny Manning, Paul Pierce and Jo Jo White, to name a few, played for the home team, Wayman Tisdale, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin played for the visitors, Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird played in the NCAA Tournament, Elton John played piano, and Bobby Kennedy and Bill Clinton spoke.


Tom Longhofer 8 years, 1 month ago

Does anyone know when Allen Fieldhouse became Historic Allen Fieldhouse? I was at KU in the '70's and I don't think it was Historic then. I'm guessing by the time Larry Brown left it was regularly referred to as Historic. I'm fairly certain the change didn't happen overnight, but it would be interesting to know when it was first called Historic in a national publication or on TV.

In December of 1979 Kentucky beat a .500 KU team in a close game (55-54?) and afterward I believe it was freshman Sam Bowie who said of Allen, "I loved playing there but it scared me to death!" I'm totally going by memory, so I may be a little off on some of this.

Robert Brown 8 years, 1 month ago

Tom. I was in school at the same time you were and do not remember it being considered anymore venerable than Ahern Fieldhouse in Manhattan. Actually, since K-State wa a bit more successful in the late 70s / early 80s, I think it's home court was more revered.

I think what made Allen Fieldhouse the icon it is today is a combination of KU's success and the saturation of media exposure of college sports through cable. I the 70s, KU games were rarely televised and if they were, it was a regional broadcast.

Rodney Crain 8 years, 1 month ago

Tom L., Kent is right below, aprx. 50 years after being open, especially when it is recognized as a Historic Site.

Kent Wells 8 years, 1 month ago

Tom, you will find your answer at:

I think (g) is the answer, so it became historic in 2004. However, application would have to be made with National Park Service for formal recognition..... And so far, it appears only:

Greg Lux 8 years, 1 month ago

The simple answer would be "When the "Phog" became a factor and KU started winning year after year without losing in a building that seemed to just give the team the edge it needed to overcome teams ( that on paper ) that were better and KU would come out victorious in the end.

Suzi Marshall 8 years, 1 month ago

things like this should not be viewed by the public or even professionals. It's bad for their well being. There are already far to many negative swing thoughts in most golfing heads. Only certified professionals, with years of proven expertise dealing with this sort of thing, should look at something like this.

Kent Wells 8 years, 1 month ago

There are things you just cant unsee. Shame on you Joe Ross!

Ethan Berger 8 years, 1 month ago

Personally, Chuck is one of my favorite sports talk guys. I find him funny and pretty wise. I'll admit his speaking is pretty rough but they guy has many profound thoughts.

Rodney Crain 8 years, 1 month ago

Does AFH have a soul?

Well if a company can be a person, says the Supreme Court, then of course a building can have a soul.

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