"HATS OFF TO LARRY"
(COACH: LARRY BROWN)
Students were peddling LATE NIGHT WITH LARRY BROWN T shirts at Allen Field House when the Jayhawks opened this year's workouts with their first-ever midnight practice. "Starting at midnight was probably more for my benefit than for the students'," said Brown. "I was that anxious to start."
His impatience was understandable. In his third season at KU, Brown finally has a team he can call his own. The coach can expect Danny Manning, the nation's top freshman last year, to continue reminding people of a king-sized Magic Johnson as he makes moves that somebody 6'11" has no right to make. Brown can be gratified by the steady improvement of 7'1" senior Greg Dreiling, who will man the pivot. And Kansas has all its other starters and significant subs back from last season, plus junior college transfer Archie Marshall, a 6'7" forward, who will provide quality depth.
Making Kansas a winner again has not been easy. At times last season, Brown went after his players with chair and whip, and at times they snarled right back. He accused them of "selfishness" after a 96-77 drubbing by Michigan. Another time, answering a caller on a radio show who wanted to know why the Jayhawks played so much zone defense, Brown replied, "Because we have four guys who can't guard the ground they stand on."
The selfish charge seemed aimed at forward Ron Kellogg, a streak shooter who gets so worked up when he's hot that he sometimes forgets the score, the time remaining and the law of averages. And then there was Calvin Thompson, a guard with a reputation for one-on-one play and overeating. But when the Jayhawks jelled, those two were the most responsible. Kellogg scored 30-plus points against tough opponents like Oklahoma and Memphis State, while Thompson showed an uncanny ability to hit game-winning shots.
"It wasn't about shooting," Thompson says, recalling Brown's lectures. "It was about setting screens, helping each other get open. If I didn't run my lane on the break, that was selfish." Says Dreiling, "We got along with each other, it wasn't that. Maybe it was subconscious—people having trouble fitting into their roles."
Brown assumes some of the blame, saying, "I'm a little hard on great shooters because I'm so insistent on hitting the open man." That causes some anxious moments for the coach because Kellogg, in particular, thinks he's open even when someone's hanging on his arms. Says Brown, "I'm always yelling, 'No! No!...Great shot!' Ron has so much self-confidence that he can tune me out before he shoots and not worry about what I'll say till later."