The "What if...?" Podcast (Vol. 1)

The KU Sports Hour

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Kyle Sybesma 5 years, 2 months ago

Gentlemen. I've always been curious of the What if Adolph Rupp or Dean Smith had come back to coach Kansas. I've never put the timeline together on where they were at in their careers when the KU job was open but why didn't either one come back?

Gavin Fritton 5 years, 2 months ago

Rupp coached at UK from 1930-1972. KU was coached until 1956 by Phog Allen. And even then he was forced into retirement by a Kansas legislature that had a lot of K-State fans in it or answered to a lot of K-State fan constituents. So, for Rupp to leave UK and come to KU would require that he abandon a program he had developed almost from from scratch. I mean, Kentucky basketball existed before Rupp, but it wasn't the monster it became under Rupp. And not only would it require that Rupp abandon his program after 26 years, it would require that he replace his mentor and a living legend. KU would probably have welcomed him back, but that's still a lot of things to expect Rupp to take on. Also, by 1956 KU was recruiting African-American players, something Rupp was resistant to doing (or, if you want to be more charitable, at least something he had never done before in his time at UK). I've heard stories that Rupp was something of a racist. I've no idea if they're true, but if they are, it would have worked against the progress KU had made and he'd have been a bad fit.

As for Dean Smith, a lot of the same things that would have been problematic for Rupp apply to Smith. Dean Smith didn't get his first head coaching job until 1961.Prior to that, he'd been an assistant. One could say that he might well have been ready to be a head coach prior to that, but even if that's true, the KU job would have had to have been open for him to take it. He was way too much of a gentleman to have been a part of getting rid of a coach for him to take the KU gig. The problem is that until 1964, KU was being coached by Dick Harp who had been Dean's coach and mentor (and he joined Smith's staff after he left KU). So there's no way he'd have taken over from Jarp, even if KU had thought he was ready.

That means the only real times KU could have offered him the job were in 1983 after Ted Owens was fired and again in 1988 after Larry Brown left. Both times KU offered him the job without any interview. But he, like Rupp, had already built something at his then-present school and asking him to leave would have been a big request (especially post-Owens, under whom the KU program had become moribund at best). Also, it's worth pointing out that both times Dean Smith was instrumental in getting coaches that helped KU reach pretty much unheard of levels of greatness.

I know you didn't ask me, but I hope this helps.

Jim Stauffer 5 years, 2 months ago

Rupp's career pretty much ran parallel to Phog. He was Phog's student but he started almost immediately out of school. Phog retired in '57 (?) and by then Rupp had 3 NC's at Kentucky. Not much reason to return from that point on. Rupp was also a big cattle farmer in Kentucky, so by then he had many ties to the area.

I am not as sure about Dean Smith. Not sure just where he stood with Carolina when Ted Owens was hired, but the situation may have similarities to Rupp's.

Gavin Fritton 5 years, 2 months ago

OK. I'm listening to the podcast and I agree that if Drew Gooden had returned, KU would have had an answer for Carmelo Anthony. And that would have likely made the difference in the game, given how close the final score was. We lost by three, so limiting Anthony to even five fewer than he got would have likely been huge.

But don't you think an argument could be made that the big failure in that game was the failure to control Gerry McNamara? I mean, Anthony was transcendent that year and especially in that tournament. He went for 20 in the final, but he was always going to get his even if we didn't give up 20. McNamara, though, at least in my recollection, pretty much came out of nowhere and he scored 18. As hot as he was, if we have Gooden to put on Anthony for even the whole game with no minutes off, Anthony probably still passes out to McNamara. We might have been able to limit Anthony to 15 or maybe even ten, but who's to say that McNamara doesn't end up going for 25? I don't remember who was responsible for guarding him, but I THINK it was Hinrich, so it's not as if we put a slouch on him, assuming my memory is correct.

Also, my recollection is that Gooden was simply atrocious at the free-throw line. Given how bad KU was at the line that night and how many likely FTs Gooden would have shot, is it reasonable to expect that Gooden would have made the difference in that game?

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