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Kansas Jayhawks have big Muckety in NCAA

By A. James Memmott

April 1, 2008 at 8:30am

Advice to anyone who wants to become a successful (and rich) men’s college basketball coach: Connect to Kansas.

Three of the four teams remaining in this year’s NCAA Division I basketball tournament have coaches with some link to the University of Kansas.

And their Kansas influences can be stretched back rather easily to the invention of basketball itself.

But for starters, here are the current Kansas connections:

The first is obvious, as Kansas is one the four teams left.

It’s coached by Bill Self who took over the team in 2003, replacing Roy Williams, who had coached at Kansas for 15 seasons.

Williams left Kansas for the University of North Carolina, which is also one of the Final Four teams.

So while Self and Williams have the strongest links to Kansas, John Calipari, the coach of the University of Memphis, another one of the four teams, also has a tie to the school in Lawrence, Kansas. He was an assistant coach there from 1982 to 1985.

Coincidentally, when Calipari left in 1985 to go to the University of Pittsburgh as an assistant coach, his assistant’s position at Kansas was taken over by Self.

The fourth Final Four coach, Ben Howland of UCLA, doesn’t have a Kansas line on his resume.

However, he was at Pittsburgh after Calipari left, serving as the head coach from 1999 to 2003 before he departed for UCLA.

The Kansas connection can be traced in another way, by looking at the career and influence of Dean Smith, the North Carolina coach from 1961 to 1997.

Born in Kansas, Smith played for the University of Kansas in the early 1950s.

His coach was Phog Allen, who in turn, had been coached at Kansas by James Naismith, the inventor of basketball in 1891.

Consequently, anyone who played for Smith or coached with him can claim to be only two steps removed from basketball’s origins.

Williams can cite a double influence in this regard as he played junior varsity basketball at North Carolina during the time Smith was coaching there.

He also was an assistant coach for Smith from 1978 to 1988 before he went to Kansas.

There’s another connector, as well - Larry Brown, the much-traveled college and professional basketball coach.

Brown played for Smith at North Carolina and was briefly an assistant coach for him, as well.

Brown was later the head coach at Kansas from 1983 to 1988. Both Self and Calipari served as his assistants.

Calipari was also an assistant under Brown during the 1999-2000 season when Brown coached the professional Philadelphia 76ers.

And though they didn’t overlap, Brown and Howland have this in common: They’ve both coached UCLA.

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