Despite CU doctorate, former forward not divided
Boulder, Colo. — Dr. T.J. Pugh, who played college basketball at Kansas University and went on to graduate from the University of Colorado School of Medicine, will have no mixed loyalties today.
“I will not be sitting behind the KU bench wearing a Colorado sweatshirt,” said Pugh, who played for the Jayhawks from 1995 to ’99.
He, his wife, Amy, and 2-year-old son, Charlie, will be sporting Jayhawk apparel.
“I’m proud of what we did. I’m proud of what this team is doing,” Pugh said of the 2007-08 Jayhawks, who take a 20-1 record into today’s 2:30 p.m. (Central time) clash at CU.
Pugh was hoping to witness history in person today.
Had the Jayhawks defeated Kansas State on Wednesday, they today would be trying to tie Pugh’s 1996-97 squad for best start in school annals.
That team, which boasted future NBA players in Paul Pierce, Raef LaFrentz, Jacque Vaughn, Scot Pollard, Billy Thomas and Ryan Robertson, opened 22-0 en route to a 34-2 season — the only losses at Missouri in overtime in Game 23 and against Arizona in the Sweet 16.
“It actually crossed my mind the other day. I remember it was a big deal when we went 22-0. I went down the schedule and figured when it might happen. I realized it’d be Boulder and I’d be at the game,” Pugh said.
Pugh — who at 6-foot-9 has to be the tallest doctor in Denver (he’s specializing in treating pediatric oncology patients and central nervous system tumors) — said he was rooting for Bill Self’s Jayhawks to eclipse his team’s record.
“I’d be extremely proud,” Pugh said. “I’d wear my Jayhawk tie to work the next day. I’m so impressed with this team. I’ve watched them play when I can. Their discipline, depth, intensity, focus ... it’s been impressive.”
Equally impressed has been Pugh’s KU roommate, Robertson, regional marketing director for The Hartford in suburban St. Louis.
“I’ve probably seen 10 games, 15 games,” Robertson said. “I love watching them. A couple of games I shook my head at how impressive they were.
“I’m as excited about this team as everybody else. I’m a little more tempered because I’ve seen this story before. I know how it can end,” Robertson added. “The crazy thing about college basketball ... as good as you can be for three months, it comes down to how good as you can be for three weeks (in NCAAs). The thing I learned during our great run in ’96-97 is, enjoy the great ride. I hope these guys are enjoying their great run in the Big 12 destroying people, that it’s a rare thing.”
Robertson paused when asked if his ’96-97 KU team could defeat this Jayhawk squad.
“Man, it’s tough to compare eras and players,” said Robertson, who played one year for the Sacramento Kings, entering the last game of the season after being on the inactive list all year.
“It’s one of those fun arguments you can have. I’ll believe in my heart of hearts we had the best team that ever played at the university. The reality is Danny’s (Manning) team in ’88 won a national title, and there were other ones. Rex’s (Walters) went to the Final Four. Several teams and this one included have something to get into that argument. Ask me point-blank and, I’ll say we’re up there, but that’s a debate for you and the fans.”
On a lighter note, Robertson and Pugh believe they likely have one record all their own — the highest combined grade-point average for a pair of roommates in KU hoops history, both just under a perfect 4.0.
“I think we’d compete with anybody,” Pugh said with a laugh. “We went back to Springfield (Mass.) for coach (Roy) Williams’ Hall of Fame induction, and Ryan was cracking me up. We were arguing about it with C.B. (McGrath). Ryan said, ‘After going through 8,000 years of school, my roommate was the Michael Jordan of academics.’”