Lawrence, Kan., rocks as it chalks up recent title
It's always been a small town with big town expectations, yet it owns a small-town personality.
The town's college basketball players are like gods that walk among us as yet they are one of us. Jayhawk basketball players are treated with a worship-like love and yet a respect of privacy when seen at the local movie theater or shopping on Mass Street by everyone in town.
They can be found arguing sports at Watson's barbershop like any other sports fan. But they aren't any other sports fan because they are always hit with a high expectation comment like "National Champions this year guys!" It is expected here.
Lawrence, "Titletown USA" Kan. Lawrence, Kan., is home of the Jayhawk Nation, home of the Kansas Jayhawks and of the little-known but no less accustomed to winning Lawrence High School Chesty Lions.
Every sports fan knows about the Kansas Jayhawks, especially after this year. But many don't know about the other prestigious school in Lawrence with deep heritage.
First a little history, Jayhawkers were abolitionists in the state of Kansas, and, well, their side did win the [Civil] War, the beginnings of winning ways!
The Jayhawks in college basketball alone have five championships. Yes five, not the widely reported three. There are three championships in the Final Four era and two prior to the Final Four era (Helms Basketball Champions) 1922, 1923, 1952, 1988 and 2008. The Jayhawks have five national championships, 13 Final Four appearances, 37 NCAA bids, 51 conference titles (the most of any men's collegiate team), 36 20-win seasons, eight 30-win seasons, 15 first team All-Americans, 142 first team all-conference and 73 first-round draft picks.
The 1988 championship team nicknamed "Danny and the Miracles" is the last team to enter the tournament not ranked in the top 20 and with double digit losses to win the national championship, if my memory serves me right.
The 2008 championship team, now nicknamed "Mario and the Miracles" prompted celebrations in historic downtown Lawrence after getting into the Final Four, beating rival North Carolina in the semifinal game and a thrilling come-from-behind overtime victory on the games biggest stage against Memphis.
The heritage of champion names that roamed the streets of Lawrence at Kansas University basketball began with James A. Naismith, the inventor of basketball and coach of Kansas University. They are followed by Phog Allen, who played for Coach Naismith and later coached K.U. to the before mentioned Helms Basketball Championships.
Dean Smith, Kansas born, ... won a championship in 1952 under Phog Allen, graduated from Kansas and then went on to an incredible career as the basketball coach of the University of North Carolina, where he amassed two championships and 879 wins (second all-time).
Coach Adolph Rupp, longtime and all-time winningest University of Kentucky basketball coach, was also Kansas-born, a graduate of Kansas University and played under Coach Phog Allen. Rupp played on the teams that won Helms Basketball Championships in 1922 and 1923. Rupp went on to win four national championships and 876 total wins (third all-time) at Kentucky. Coach Larry Brown, who coached the Kansas 1988 championship team is the only coach to win an NCAA and NBA title.
Coach Roy Williams, regarded as one of the top five current coaches in NCAA basketball, won over 400 games at Kansas University.
Coach Bill Self, also listed in the top five best current coaches, has won over 100 games and a national championship while at Kansas University.
The heritage of players at Kansas University includes Wilt Chamberlain, Dean Smith, Clyde Lovellette, Jo Jo White, Danny Manning and other players that went on to the NBA such as Paul Pierce, Drew Gooden, Kirk Hinrich, Jacque Vaughn, Wayne Simien and Scot Pollard.
Four former Kansas basketball players have gone on to win NBA Championships: Wilt Chamberlain (1957-58 at K.U.), Philadelphia 76ers 1967, L.A. Lakers 1972; Jo Jo White (1966-69 at K.U.) Boston Celtics 1974, 1976; Jacque Vaughn (1993-1997 at K.U.) San Antonio Spurs 2007; Wayne Simien (2002-05 at K.U.) Miami Heat 2006.
Kansas University women's basketball greats include Lynette Woodard and Coach Marion Washington.
Kansas University track champion and former world record holder Jim Ryun went on to become a Kansas congressman.
And don't sleep on Kansas University's football tradition. Anyone know the name of these hall of famers: Gale Sayers, John Riggins and Mike McCormack? Super Bowl winners that played football in Lawrence include John Riggins ('83 Redskins), Gilbert Brown ('97 Packers), Dana Stubblefield ('95 49ers) and, as a coach, Nolan Cromwell ('97 Packers) . Other notable football players are John Hadl, Lawrence-born and raised, who attended K.U. and was a two-time All-American. He went on to play 16 years in the NFL as a quarterback.
Because of the great accomplishments by Kansas University athletics, little is known nationally about the 6A high school less than a mile away from Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Lawrence High School, home of the Lions, leads the state of Kansas with the most state championships (103). Lawrence High's football team leads the nation with the most undefeated seasons (31).
One of those Lawrence High championships, the 1983 6A boys basketball state championship, had members of the 1988 Kansas NCAA men's basketball champions Danny Manning and Chris Piper. Also on that same Kansas team was current Portland Trailblazers GM Kevin Pritchard. Kevin Pritchard won an ABA Championship with the Kansas City Knights in 2001.
So when we talk TitleTown, let's keep the mythical but well-deserved media title in a place that embodies the name: Lawrence, Kan., a place where titles are won, champions live and grow and fans expect nothing less year in and year out.
Talk about the Sooners, the cowboys and the buffs,
talk about the tiger and his tail,
Talk about the wildcat and those cornhuskin' boys
But I'm the bird to make 'em weep and wail
'Cause Im a Jay Jay Jay Jayhawk,
Up at Lawrence on the Kaw,
'Cause I'm a Jay Jay Jay Jayhawk,
With a Sis-Boom Hip Hoorah,
Got a bill that's big enough to twist the tiger's tail,
Husk some corn and listen to the Cornhusker wail,
'Cause Im a Jay Jay Jay Jayhawk,
Ridin' on a Kansas Gail. ...
Walking into Allen Fieldhouse you pass the pictures and faces of yesteryear. The cut laces of the nets, the smiles, fingers raised in the air. The banners, five national championships all together but we only count three. As if the men who played pretournament sweat any less or sacrificed less than any other year.
We sit in the same seats our fathers sat in, we watch the best players in the land at the exact same place as our grandfathers. We expect no less all these years later, and I would like to say we enjoy it more, but that would be short-sighted. ...
The coaches are the foundation on which our tradition is built. "Take heed all who enter. Beware of the Phog." This sign lets opponents know they have a tough task before them, and when they hear the "Rock Chalk, Jayhawk" chants they know they are done. (It used to be "chalk rock, Jayhawk" because Lawrence was built on a foundation of chalk rock.)
There has been only one coach in the history of the program with a losing record, and he invented the game: Dr. James Naismith. ...
The football program is relatively less decorated but successful all the same. We won the Orange Bowl this past year. ...
Some may say there are other schools with more tradition and that is certainly not true. After all, North Carolina basketball was born in K.U. Dean Smith was a Phi Gamma Delta and a player for the Crimson and the Blue and ol' Roy Boy, well, he wore a Jayhawk sticker didn't he?
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