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Monday, October 27, 2014

Former Jayhawks celebrate Allen Fieldhouse, Roy Williams at 60-year celebration

Kansas head basketball coach Bill Self, and former coaches Larry Brown, Roy Williams and Ted Owens have a laugh while talking shop in preparation for the 60th Anniversary celebration of Allen Fieldhouse on Monday, Oct. 27, 2014.

Kansas head basketball coach Bill Self, and former coaches Larry Brown, Roy Williams and Ted Owens have a laugh while talking shop in preparation for the 60th Anniversary celebration of Allen Fieldhouse on Monday, Oct. 27, 2014.

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Monday night’s 60 years of Allen Fieldhouse celebration might have been about a building that began with a $2 million budget in 1955 and still stands strong today, but, for several former Kansas University players who once called the venue home, it was as much about the men who made memories inside of it as anything.

60 years of Allen Fieldhouse

Here's a quick look at some of the highlights from the press conferences with the four KU coaches honored on Monday night.

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Roy Williams on why Allen Fieldhouse is 'the best'

Former Kansas basketball coach Roy Williams, now the head coach at North Carolina, talks to the media Monday at Allen Fieldhouse, about what makes the 60-year old venue "the best."

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Ted Owens recalls 'big old barn' and more KU history

While recalling some of his memories of the building he once worked in, former Kansas basketball coach Ted Owens says Allen Fieldhouse used to be a "big old barn," and in the offseason there wasn't even a court inside of it for the Jayhawks to use.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Larry Brown calls Danny Manning 'best college player ever'

In all of his time around college basketball, SMU coach Larry Brown, in Lawrence for "Celebrating 60 Years of Allen Fieldhouse," says his former Kansas superstar Danny Manning was the best college player ever.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self shares thoughts on Allen Fieldhouse, calls it 'a treasure'

Kansas coach Bill Self describes how the "Celebrating 60 Years of Allen Fieldhouse" event came about and shares his thoughts on the old building, calling it "a treasure," while admitting it needed a pick-me-up when he first arrived.

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With blue carpet and formal dining tables spread across the fieldhouse floor, four of the biggest names in the building’s history were cheered together, as former KU coaches Ted Owens, Larry Brown and Roy Williams, along with current KU coach Bill Self, were the guests of honor at the celebration.

“To get Bill Self, Larry Brown and Roy Williams in the same room at the same time is a once-in-a-lifetime thing for me,” said former KU center Eric Chenowith, who played at Kansas from 1998-2001 and also tipped his cap to Owens. “I mean, who else can say they’ve done that?

“I came to KU because I loved Larry Brown, and, as a Los Angeles Clippers fan growing up, I loved his teams. I obviously played for coach Williams, and I’ve been lucky enough to develop a great relationship with coach Self. Talk about catching lightning in a bottle.”

More than two dozen former Jayhawks from all four eras, along with all 16 current Jayhawks and several other KU coaches and administrators, joined 7,500 KU basketball diehards for the stroll down memory lLane that included speeches from the coaches, more than a few laughs and rousing cheers in response to the highlight videos that played on the video board. But the former Jayhawks in attendance who played for Williams from 1989-2003 said seeing their old coach back in his old home was an experience several years in the making.

“I know coach, and I know this is very emotional for him,” said former KU guard and Topeka native C.B. McGrath, now a member of Williams’ coaching staff at North Carolina. “The fans in Kansas City, when the NCAA Tournament was over there (2013), were very nice to him and gave him a great ovation. He needs that. He deserves that. It was time for him to come back. It’s something that needed to happen, and I’m glad it did, and I’m glad to be here for it.”

Former KU sharp-shooter Billy Thomas, who played for Williams from 1995-98, shared McGrath’s sentiments.

“To see him come back, it means the world to me just to be present,” Thomas said. “He’s largely responsible for the man I’ve become. It goes that deep, and it goes way beyond basketball.”

Added Chenowith: “Every time I see coach, I still light up like I’m a high school sophomore getting recruited. It never gets old.”

Despite their obvious emotion and appreciation for Williams’ return, all of the former players in attendance made sure to emphasize that the night was far bigger than a single man.

“This is not about Kansas, and it’s not about North Carolina,” Chenowith said. “It’s about Allen Fieldhouse. And what an incredible place. No words can describe how special the KU basketball family truly is.”

Added former KU guard Jeff Hawkins, who played for Williams and Self from 2002-06: “I was blessed to be coached by two legends, and I’m just here to soak up as much knowledge as I can, just like I was at practice. What an amazing night for Kansas basketball and for basketball in general.”

The former Jayhawks interviewed for this story shared their favorite memories of playing in Allen Fieldhouse. From Thomas’ special moment with Williams after breaking KU’s career three-point-shooting record — “This corner,” Thomas said, gesturing to the southeast corner of the floor where he hit the shot — to Hawkins’ recollections of celebrating big victories and several similar memories from the coaches themselves, the big moments came rushing back.

But few were as telling as McGrath’s.

“The best news for me was we never lost a game here,” he said. “That just doesn’t happen. As a player, I never went into that locker room as a loss, so there are no bad memories.”

Comments

Suzi Marshall 7 years, 9 months ago

This was a great night to honor the 4 coaches, AFH, and the amazing story of Kansas Basketball. Everything was perfect, very classy and to the point. The crowd was great giving all the coaches, especially Williams a nice ovation.

All the talks were well done but Pollard always seems to draw special attention. His impressionism was great.

Steve Zimmerman 7 years, 9 months ago

I'm getting emotional now. Those pictures show how precious KU basketball tradition is. The coaches, the players, staff, the fans. I wish I was there.

I wonder how expensive the ticket was - half the building looks empty.

Suzi Marshall 7 years, 9 months ago

Tables were $5k (10 per), chair-backs $60, general admin. $25, students (few and far between) $15.

It was set up to accommodate about 8k. Self raised nearly $500k for charities.

Kyle Rohde 7 years, 9 months ago

Steve - the tickets were not that expensive considering the money went for charity. Seemed like it was within 500 seats of being at the capacity they wanted anyway. All the empty seats were behind the stage and wouldn't have been able to see very well.

Well worth the $60 I paid for a chairback seat and far more entertaining than Late Night or a pre-season game against Emporia State, personally.

Joe Ross 7 years, 9 months ago

Message to Roy: You are welcome here. Come again soon.

Steve Zimmerman 7 years, 9 months ago

Kyle, Suzy, thanks for the info. I would've paid $60 as well.

"All the empty seats were behind the stage and wouldn't have been able to see very well."

Hmmm.. I think it's time for KU to put up a big flat screen HD TV somewhere to accommodate this kind of situation. Some colleges have already done that. It's not going to take away the 'soul', I believe. Just a thought.

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