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Kansas Jayhawks basketball has one of the most unique program histories in the country. The program officially began when the University of Kansas hired Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of the game, to coach their new basketball team. However, despite the celebrity of being coached by the inventor of basketball, the inaugural Kansas Jayhawks are the only group to have an extended losing record; from 1898-1907 the Jayhawks went 55-60.
However, Kansas quickly rebounded and became perhaps the most dominant team in college basketball over the first half of the 20th century. Under coaches Forrest Allen (1907-1909, 1919-1956) and William Hamilton (1909-1919), Kansas went 715-278. The Jayhawks also won three Helms Championships (the earliest form of National Championship), reached three Final Fours in 1940, 1952, and 1953, and won NCAA National Championship in 1952. The Jayhawks also completely dominated their conference and the Southwest overall during this period by winning an unprecedented 29 Regular Season Conference Championships.
Following legendary coach Forrest Allen’s retirement in 1956, a new era of Kansas basketball began. Allen’s successor Dick Harp was relatively successful and reached an additional NCAA Championship Game in 1957 but the Jayhawks lost and were not dominant again for years. Under Harp’s successor Ted Owens, Kansas regularly produced impressive season results but were unable to capitalize in the tournament and were ousted in the NCAA Final Four in 1971 and 1974.
Predictable midlevel success is a goal of many programs but it was not enough for the Kansas Jayhawks. Owens was fired and replaced by future NBA legend Larry Brown. Brown became loved in Kansas for leading the program to its first national title in three decades in 1986 but left for the NBA in 1988. His replacement, Roy Williams, became the most successful coach by record in modern NCAA history with an exceptional 418-101 overall record from 1988-2003. However, William’s teams, despite appearing in four NCAA Final Fours in 1988, 1991, 1994, and 2002, repeatedly failed to produce in crunch time. Stunningly, William’s teams went 0-4 in NCAA Final Four games and he bolted Kansas for the University of North Carolina under a cloud of criticism.
Since William’s abrupt departure in 2003, Kansas has been coached by emerging legend Bill Self. Self has guided Kansas to an unprecedented 236-45 (.840) overall record in eight years at the helm. The Jayhawks have also won seven Regular Season Big Twelve Conference Championships and five Conference tournament titles. However, despite such incredible and consistent results, Self’s teams have repeatedly been ousted relatively early in the NCAA tournament. With the exception of a magical 2008 NCAA Championship run, his teams have failed to advance to the NCAA Final Four. Looking forward, Kansas Jayhawks fans know to expect a strong team on the court and will look for Self’s teams to break through in the tournament and win more NCAA college basketball titles.
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