Reliving the glory years Ark City native has jersey retired at Kansas

Traveler Staff Writer
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The only former University of Kansas basketball player who ever coached the Jayhawks was a basketball star in Arkansas City in the late 1930s. He is Howard Engleman, now a retired attorney in Salina. Engleman grew up in Ark City and led the Bulldogs to second- and third-place finishes in the state tournament in his junior and senior years, 1936 and 1937.

A decade later, as a KU Law School student, Howard Engleman coached the Jayhawk freshman team and took over for the legendary Phog Allen as coach. Mid-way through the season, Allen suffered a concussion in an accident during practice and was ordered to bed rest. Engleman became varsity coach for the rest of the season (1947). His record during that brief stint was 8-6.

During half-time at last Saturday's KU-Oklahoma State game in Lawrence, Engleman became the 10th former Jayhawk to have his jersey retired this season. The Jayhawks won the Senior Day game 79-61. "It was nice gesture," Engleman said in a phone interview Tuesday. "They changed the criteria, I guess, which enabled me to get (the jersey) retired."

Roy Williams, the current KU coach, decided to change the requirements so anyone who was a consensus All-American could be honored, he added.

Engleman played under Coach Allen for the Jayhawks from 1938-41, and was an All-American in 1941. He was a two-time All Big 6 in '40 and '41. Engleman met his future wife, Mary Beth, at KU. "I was on the tennis team and she was on the girls tennis team," he said. "We got married in December 1941."

After completing undergraduate studies, Engleman spent a year and a half playing AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) ball for Phillips Petroleum in Bartlesville, Okla. "They didn't have the NBA (National Basketball Association) or any pro teams then, so these AAU teams were the elite." he said.

Engleman served with the Navy in World War II in the Pacific. He was injured in fierce fighting in May 1945 on Okinawa and later was hospitalized in Saipan. "We got hit by kamikazes at Okinawa," he said. "They were suiciding everything there. I got burns from the bombs. Just bad burns is all, still got some scars, not too bad."

After the war, he returned to KU for law school, and worked as a freshman coach for Phog Allen. "I was in law school when (Allen) got hurt and finished the year (1947) for him," he said. "(Allen) got undercut out coaching in a fast break The guy didn't see him He lit on his head, and got a concussion.

Engleman commented on Allen: "He was an inspirational guy." He also reflected on his days playing basketball in Ark City: "My senior year is when we opened (the Auditorium-Gymnasium, now W. S. Scott Auditorium) there, (and played there). Junior year, we played down in the (old) junior high gym. We had a center-jump then after every goal."

When Engleman was a junior (1936), the Bulldogs beat Newton (to win) the Ark Valley, he said, "and we got down there and played them in the finals in Topeka and damned if they didn't beat us. So we got second." The following year, when Engleman was a senior, the Bulldogs ended up third in the state. In those days, Kansas had only two divisions for the state tournament "A" and "B." Teams from larger Kansas cities and towns, including Wichita and Kansas City and Ark City were in the "A" division.

While at KU, Engleman played in the old Hoch Auditorium. Allen Fieldhouse was built in 1955. Commenting on the Jayhawks' chances this year in the "March Madness" tournament, he said: "If they had (Wayne) Simien, they could be contenders for whole damned thing. They aren't real deep, but with all the TV time-outs, people don't get too exhausted. They have to watch their fouls."

Howard Engleman, an Arkansas City High School basketball star in the late 1930s, is honored at Allen Fieldhouse at the University of Kansas during a ceremony at the KU versus Oklahoma State game last Saturday. Engleman became the 10th former Jayhawk to have his jersey retired this year.

Source: 3/8/2003