KJ’s BB Newsletter                          February 11, 2001


The 1985-86 campaign was not unlike this season, with KU and ISU both atop the conference.  Johnny Orr’s Cyclones were led by senior guard Jeff Hornacek and soph forward Jeff Grayer, the teams leading scorer at 20.7 ppg.  Other ISU starters were juniors Sam Hill and Tom Schafer, who shared the post, and soph guard Gary Tompkins.  Off the bench were Elmer Robinson, David Moss and Lafester Rhodes.

Arguably one of the best teams KU ever put on the floor, the ‘86 squad featured sophomore Danny Manning, senior forwards Ron Kellogg and Calvin Thompson, junior point guard Cedric Hunter, and senior center Greg Dreiling.  Archie Marshall, Mark Turgeon and Chris Piper were the lead subs.  Larry Brown was in his third year as head coach of the Hawks.

On Jan. 28, the 12-6 Cyclones grabbed a 77-74 win in Ames, handing the Jayhawks their only Big 8 loss of the season.  Grayer poured in 19 points, followed by Hill with 17.  Hornacek garnered 16 points and had 12 assists.  KU’s Manning led all scorers with 26 and Dreiling had 14 in a hard fought offensive game, as ISU made 58.9% from the field and KU made 57.6%.

Kansas took the rematch on March 1 in Lawrence, 90-70, with KU forcing the Clones into a season-high 21 turnovers.  Kellogg led with 20 points, Manning had 19 and Thompson 15.  Grayer led all scorers with 26 and Hornacek added 12.

At 9-5 Iowa State finished second in the conference race to KU’s league-leading 13-1, and rightfully so, the two teams met a third time in the Big Eight postseason tourney final at KC’s Kemper Arena.  The Cyclones fought back from a 14 point deficit midway in the second half and had a chance to tie in the final seconds.  However, a traveling call on Sam Hill ended the game at 73-71, with KU taking the tournament championship.  Again, Grayer was the game’s leading scorer with 25 and Hill made 11.  Manning led the Jayhawks with 23 points and 7 rebounds.

In the post season, Hornacek’s last second jumper allowed the Clones to squeak by Miami 81-79.  That game was followed by what coach Johnny Orr called his “greatest victory ever as a coach,” as ISU defeated his old employer Michigan 72-69.  The Wolverines were the Big Ten champions and heavily favored.  Iowa State’s season ended in the third round as North Carolina State handed the Clones a 70-66 setback.  Ironically, had they won, they would have faced KU a fourth time.  ISU finished at 22-11.

After winning the Big 8 tournament, KU strong-armed North Carolina A&T, Temple, Michigan State, and North Carolina State to reach the Final Four, where they succumbed to Duke 67-71, in a heartbreaker.  The Jayhawks finished 35-4.

I remember that season fondly, as both my daughter’s were attending KU, and I developed a friendship with Johnny Orr’s daughter, Becky.  Coaches Brown and Orr were great friends, and the rivalry between the two teams was like brothers competing.  Unfortunately, I don’t think that the coaches and teams this year have that same affinity.  Nevertheless, both squads are very good this year and, as with ’86, I see them again going deep into the NCAA tourney.


Working for Roy Williams is almost a sure stepping stone to basketball success.  During his 13 years at KU, Williams has had eight assistant coaches, five of which have gone onto head coaching positions at other Division I schools. The remaining three, Joe Holladay, Neil Dougherty, and Ben Miller are current KU assistants.

Williams came to KU for the 1989 season and his initial set of assistant coaches, Jerry Green, Kevin Stallings, Steve Robinson, and Mark Turgeon have since moved on to prestigious coaching positions.  After four seasons under Williams, Green took the Oregon head coach position and then moved to Tennessee, where he has led the Volunteers the past three years.  Tennessee has been ranked in the top ten all year.

Stallings stayed five seasons at KU and then took over at Illinois State, where he enjoyed great success in the MVC before being named head coach at Vanderbilt two years ago.  Steve Robinson lasted seven years with the Jayhawks before being tabbed for the head coach position at Tulsa.  After success there, he now leads Florida State.  Mark Turgeon followed Green to Oregon, then to the NBA, before taking over as head coach at Wichita State this season.

Matt Doherty, who assisted Roy for seven seasons, 1994-99, left KU for Notre Dame and then was named head coach at his alma mater, North Carolina, this past year.  His Tarheels are currently ranked No. 1 in the nation.  If Roy had accepted the position at Carolina, Doherty was a shoo in to take over at KU.

Joe Holladay is currently in his eighth year at KU and Neil Dougherty in his sixth.  Both have received offers in recent years, and are likely bets to leave KU for head positions within the next year or so.  Ben Miller just came to KU this year, so will probably be around for awhile.

Two of Williams’ players are now coaches too.  Eric Pauley, a two-year player at KU who led the team to the Final Four in ’93, currently is an assistant to Green at Tennessee.  Kevin Pritchard (’87-’90), and who helped KU win the National Championship in 1988, now serves as head coach of the ABA’s Kansas City Knights.  Two other former players are now on the KU basketball staff as Administrative Assistants, Jerod Haase (95-97) and C. B. McGrath (95-98).  Two former KU student-managers have also received Williams’ golden touch, as Jay Price has been an assistant at Purdue for eight years, and  Matt Wingate served as an assistant under Steve Robinson at both Tulsa and Florida State. 

KU assistants under Larry Brown have also had success in the coaching ranks.  John Calipari, a Brown assistant in 1984 and 1985, currently heads Memphis State, after head coaching stints at Massachusetts and the New Jersey Nets.  Bill Self, who only stayed at KU one year, 1986, replaced Robinson at Tulsa and now leads Illinois, currently the Big Ten leader.  Bill Bayno, who was fired earlier this year at UNLV, was at KU under Brown in 1987.  Alvin Gentry, at KU from 86-88, heads the Detroit Pistons.

Gale Catlett, at KU from 1968-71, during the Ted Owens era, has been head coach at West Virginia for 22 years, where he has compiled a 414-249 record.


As a Kansas basketball fan and amateur historian, it was with a great deal of sadness that I read of Ted O’Leary’s death last Sunday.

O’Leary was believed to be KU’s oldest living letter winner, and was one of the last links to basketball inventor James Naismith.  Naismith taught physical education at KU for almost 40 years and O’Leary was one of his students.  O’Leary played for Phog Allen, lettering three years (1930-32).  He started all 51 games KU played then, with a career average of 7.5 ppg.  He came on strong his senior year, garnering All-American honors, leading the Big Six in scoring with 11.1 ppg.  To put that in perspective, KU averaged 30 points per game that year, on their way to a 13-5 overall record and first in the league.  He was also the No. 1 player on KU’s tennis team and earned a Phi Beta Kappa key for academic excellence.

On February 27, 1932, the Jayhawks and Oklahoma were tied for the league lead heading into the season finale that evening at Hoch Auditorium.  Star center Bill Johnson wasn’t expected in the lineup, as his father’s funeral was set in Oklahoma City that afternoon.  Coach Allen used the story of this game as a motivational tool for many years thereafter.  The Jayhawks were trailing when (and Phog would put his hand cupping his ear, as if hearing the drone of the incoming plane carrying Johnson to the game), his arrival inspired the team to eventually win, capturing the conference crown.  In replaying the game, Phog never mentioned that Johnson had actually fouled out in the first half.  Actually, the real hero of the game was O’Leary, who scored a game-high 14 points.

O’Leary was a hometown boy from Lawrence and his father, R. D. O’Leary, was dean of the English department at KU.  Following graduation, he compiled a 26-9 record in two years as head basketball coach at George Washington University.  Declaring that “coaching wasn’t for me,” O’Leary returned to work as a reporter for the Kansas City Times, served as a midwest correspondent for Sports Illustrated, reviewed books for the Kansas City Star and edited a hobbyists’ magazine.  He was also an accomplished handball player and was named to the National Handball Hall of Fame.

Bill Mayer, Lawrence Journal-World contributing editor, was a longtime acquaintance of O’Leary.  “Ted was a sensational athlete – basketball, handball, tennis – and had on the fiercest competitive spirits you ever saw.  He refused to accept defeat,” Mayer said.  “But he was so much more that that.  Ted was an amazing intellectual with an incredible range of interests.”  Kansas University Athletic Director Bob Frederick called O’Leary “a great gentleman.  He lived 90 really productive years.  It was great to be around a person who knew James Naismith.  We will all miss him greatly.”

A renaissance man. A hero on and off the court. Real Kansas fans will never forget him.