W. O. HAMILTON 1909-1918 

                                                    KU Record:  125-59, .679, 10 Seasons

  • A Century of Basketball
  • The Crimson & Blue Handbook
  • Phog Allen
  • A Century of Jayhawk Triumphs



The Jayhawks' third head coach, Hamilton bridged the gap between Phog Allen's two tenures as Kansas' coach.

Hamilton came to Kansas in 1909 as track and basketball coach, and accepted the athletics director's position in addition to his coaching duties. Prior to his appointment at Kansas, he served as director of physical education at Central High School in Kansas City, Mo., and acted in the same capacity at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo.

Hamilton's teams compiled a 125-59 record and captured five conference championships, including three straight from 1910-1912. Under his guidance three players achieved All-American status: Tommy Johnson in 1909 (KU's first All-American in any sport), Ralph "Lefty" Sproull in 1915 and A.C. "Dutch" Lonborg in 1919.

Source:  A Century of Basketball


Perhaps unfairly, William O. Hamilton seems to be best known for “filling in” the gap for the 10 seasons between Phog Allen’s two stints as head coach of the Jayhawks.  In fact, Hamilton’s record, especially through his first six seasons, was impressive.  Hamilton’s Jayhawks won the Missouri Valley Conference in his first three seasons.  In his first six seasons, the Jayhawks collected four outright titles, one co-championship, and one second-place finish.

Hamilton’s teams produced the Valley scoring championship five times, with the honor going three times to Ralph “Lefty” Sproull, an All-American in the 1914-15 season.  Hamilton also coached two other All-Americans, Tommy Johnson and Arthur C. “Dutch” Lonborg.

Hamilton came to KU in 1909 and served as the university’s athletic director from 1911 to 1919.  Before coming to Lawrence, Hamilton had been director of physical education at Central High School in Kansas City, Mo., and at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo.

After resigning in 1919, Hamilton concentrated on his automobile dealership and stayed in lawrence until his death on December 30, 1951.

Source:  The Crimson & Blue handbook, page 14.

For the 1909-10 season, Kansas hired William O. Hamilton, who had been the coach of Central High in Kansas City.

Hamilton had carved a small place in history as a coach.  Before Naismith arrived at Kansas, Hamilton had formed and was coaching a basketball team as an undergraduate at William Jewell College in the 1890s.  Phog may be considered the father of basketball coaching, but he did not beat Hamilton to the occupation.

From William Jewell, Hamilton went to Central High in 1902, then moved to Kansas.  He remained in Lawrence for the decade and, early on, did nothing to impeded the school’s progress in basketball.  His teams won or shared five Missouri Valley championships in 10 seasons.  Three of his teams posted overall records of 18-1, 17-1 and 16-1.  The era also produced one of the program’s first great players in Ralph “Lefty” Sproull, whose 40 points in a 1915 game eclipsed Phog’s mark of 26 and stood as a school record until 1952.

Source:  Phog Allen, p. 49


William O. Hamilton has been a coach at Central high in Kansas City from 1902-1909.  Before then, he coached basketball and ran the physical education department at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo.  Kansas wasn’t getting a novice.

Phog Allen started the Jayhawks’ winning tradition, building a 43-9 record over the previous two seasons.  Hamilton’s teams picked up where Allen left off.

The 1910 Jayhawks went 18-1, for a .947 winning percentage that remains a school record.  The lone loss in Hamilton’s first year was to Washington of St. Louis, a team Kansas defeated three other times that year, including a 46-7 decision in the season’s third game.  The team’s stars were Vern “Shorty” Long, who led Kansas with 221 points and Tommy Johnson.

Hamilton’s teams followed with records of 12-6, 11-7, 16-6, 17-1 and 16-1.  Kansas State was the only team to beat the Jayhawks in 1914 and 1915.  In Hamilton’s first six years, Kansas won or shared five Missouri Valley championships and went 23-1 against Missouri.  The 1913 team was the first not to win a league title.

Hamilton differed from many coaches of his era by substituting freely.  At a time when players needed to accumulate enough playing time to earn a letter, several of Hamilton’s teams included nine or 10 letterwinners.

Ralph “Lefty” Sproull became the first player to lead the Missouri Valley in scoring for three straight years (1913-15).  Sproull, a 6-3 forward, was considered the ideal athlete by James Naismith simply because of his physical measurements.

When the Sproull-era ended, so did Hamilton’s success.  His final four teams finished 35-37.  League dominance passed to Nebraska and Kansas State, then to Missouri, which won four conference championships between 1918 and 1922.

Hamilton had also served as the Jayhawks’ athletic director.  He stepped down from both jobs after the 1919 season, ending 23 years as a coach, to devote more time to a budding Chevrolet dealership.  He remained in Lawrence, a supported of Kansas athletics until his death in 1951.

Hamilton’s daughter, Mary, married Tusten Ackerman, a standout basketball player in the 1920s.

Source:  A Century of Jayhawk Triumphs, p. 23.