Once upon a time: Sunflower rivalry hard to remember
Former Jayhawk Jeff Dishman remembers when Kansas State and Kansas was a big deal, but try telling that to his players at Hayden
photo: basketball
Hayden boys basketball coach Jeff Dishman was a senior on the 1982-83 University of Kansas men's basketball team, the last Jayhawk squad to lose to Kansas State in Manhattan. A foul called on Dishman led to the Wildcats' winning points in a 58-57 victory.
ANTHONY S. BUSH/The Capital-Journal

By Ric Anderson
The Capital-Journal

Jeff Dishman knows what's coming, but he can't help himself.

"When I tell kids about Kansas State and Kansas and how it's a big game, they look at me like I'm stupid," he said. "Those kids think, 'How can that be a rivalry when it's so one-sided?' "

Dishman tries to tell them. Lord, he tries. Because the story, damn it all, is worth retelling. The Hayden boys coach knows because he was there -- in blessed little Ahearn Fieldhouse in the early 1980s, a 6-foot-6 forward playing for former KU coach Ted Owens.

"I was just watching the Duke-North Carolina game, and in some regards the rivalry between KU and K-State was like that," he said. "People find that funny, but it was very much like that kind of rivalry. There was something about that rivalry that brought out the best in everybody."

But try as he might, Dishman can't relate that message to the under-20 set. Why? Because since Jan. 29, 1983, when Dishman and his teammates walked out of Ahearn with a 58-57 loss, no KU team has been defeated in Manhattan. Dishman's players have gone through their entire lives without seeing the Jayhawks lose at KSU.

KU and K-State a rivalry? You might as well try to thrill them with tales of driving your new Studebaker to a drive-in movie. Even Dishman has a tough time comprehending the Jayhawks' streak.

"For the Kansas guys who've been around the rivalry all their lives, it's hard to grasp because it's been a tight, tight ballgame so often in the past," he said.

Dishman found himself square in the middle of one such game in 1983, when he was whistled for a foul that allowed K-State to clinch its last win over KU in Manhattan.

"Les Craft made two free throws to give them a one-point lead after crawling all over my back for a stick-back," Dishman said, chuckling. "I had my back to him, and I got the foul. But that's just one of those deals."

Dishman said he'd love to see the series regain the electricity it packed from 1970 through 1982, when K-State entered nine games against the Jayhawks as a ranked team.

"My first time in Ahearn, I was the first one out on introductions," he recalled. "(Senior forward) Dave Magley came out and all of a sudden Dave's ducking and a chicken's coming right over his shoulder."

They don't throw chickens on the floor at Bramlage Coliseum, where KU will meet the Wildcats at 12:45 this afternoon.

But Owens saw a barnyard's worth of them at Ahearn, which he described as a goldmine of memories during his 19 seasons at KU.

"In 1978 we were going to play a nationally televised game there, and someone leaked word that they were saving up rotten bananas that they were going to throw at us during introductions," Owens said during a phone interview from his home in Tulsa, Okla. "I said, 'OK, guys, here's what you're going to do. When they introduce you, you're going to run straight over to coach (Jack) Hartman, shake hands and stay right with him.' They went over and just stood there, and I can still see the look on Jack's face, how puzzled he was. You could tell he was thinking, 'What is coming off here?' "

photo: basketball
Kansas assistant coach Jo Jo White, second from left, gives instructions to Jeff Guiot as head coach Ted Owens looks on in the waning seconds of KU's last loss to Kansas State in Manhattan on Jan. 29, 1983.
FILE PHOTO/The Capital-Journal

Owens went 6-13 against K-State in Manhattan, but he said he remembered little about the losses and nothing about the 1983 defeat.

"There's one good thing about getting older and that's that you forget any experience that was painful," he said.

Dishman said he hoped KU wasn't in for another painful experience today.

"Let's keep that streak going," he said. "For us guys out here who endured those losses, the more payback we can give them, the better."