Jayhawks bring back memories
Former KU star Guy says team reminds him of playing days
Tony Guy can’t contain his excitement. He has a job that he enjoys. A wife and three children whom he loves even more. And, for the first time in 25 years, his alma mater has a team that he adores.
Sure, Guy has pulled avidly for Kansas every year since he last played in 1982. And he’s stayed in touch with teammates and people in the program. But the 2005-06 season was different. KU tied for the Big 12 regular-season title before winning the Big 12 tournament. Then, of course, the Jayhawks were knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in the first round by Bradley.
The season is actually moving Guy, who has been a successful insurance agent in the Kansas City area for 20 years, to take action. “As soon as I get a chance, I’m going to send (Kansas coach Bill Self) a note and let him know how proud I am of these guys and how extraordinary of a job he did,” said Guy, who’s never written a letter like this to a coach. “Besides the teams I played on, I don’t recall ever cheering for a team as much as I cheered for this one. “You can tell by watching them that they enjoy what they’re doing and that they care for one another. It’s not about who gets the glory. It’s about playing the game in such a way that everybody enjoys it, shares in it and has fun.”
Guy lived through a similar attitude at KU, particularly in 1981. After failing to advance out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament since 1974, and suffering through a long 15-14 season in 1980, the seventh-seeded Jayhawks reached the Sweet 16 in 1981. Guy, who scored 1,488 points during his career, picked the second round against Arizona State, the nation’s No. 3-ranked team, to have the best game of his career. He scored 36 points (12 for 14 from both the field and the line) in KU’s 88-71 win. “I’m most proud that I did that within the context of our offense, and that everyone on the floor was a part of it,” said Guy, who was a junior that season. “Anybody can score a lot of points if they shoot a lot, but I did it within our offense.”
In their next game, the Jayhawks lost to Wichita State 66-65. “1980 was such a disappointing year that we didn’t dream of going to the Sweet 16 in ’81,” Guy said. “That was a tremendous year made possible by how much we were committed to working hard the summer before.”
The Boston Celtics drafted Guy in the second round of the 1982 draft, but he didn’t make the team. Instead, he spent the next two and a half seasons in the CBA and in Switzerland. Returning to Kansas City in 1985, Guy, a Baltimore native, went to UMKC to pursue his master’s degree in educational administration, during which time he was an assistant coach for the Kangaroos. The next year, Guy joined State Farm Insurance, where he’s been ever since. “Just like in athletics, even though I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” he says, “I’m still looking for ways to get better and show up with my ‘A’ game on a more consistent basis. I love what I do.”
But, if Guy’s 46-year-old knees didn’t bother him so much the morning after playing a pickup game nowadays — and he had any eligibility left, he’d love playing with these Jayhawks. “There’s no feeling like walking out there and having ‘Kansas’ on your jersey,” he said. “And now, Bill has a group of young men who trust his system that relies on everyone’s skill level instead of just one or two guys, and that system’s taking them places they want to go. They believe in Bill and in each other.” And, Guy will say, that mind-set helps players develop bonds that go beyond basketball.
“If you’re blessed like I was, you think more about the relationships and less about the basketball after you leave,” he said. “That’s why it’s important for those young men to develop the whole person and not just the athlete that’s in them. At some point, sooner than later, it’s the person that you are that you have to rely on to get you through life.”