Six mornings a
week, at 8:45, the silver bells jingle. The door to the Carol Lee doughnut shop
is opening, and the 44-year-old grandson of the baker for the czar of Russia
He knows as well
as anyone in Lawrence, Kans. that the strawberry butterflies and the blueberry
fritters at Muncher's Bakery are better than anything behind the glass counter
at Carol Lee. And yet, there's Larry Brown walking past the Kansas basketball
schedule and the lost-cat advertisement thumbtacked to the Carol Lee bulletin
board, looking at the pictures of the counter girl's new baby taped to the
wall, getting a grin from the baby's grandma, who bakes the doughnuts each
dawn, and trading "Mornin's" with the man in overalls refilling his
coffee cup for a dime. The regulars look up and shout, "Hey, Coach Brown,
great game last night!" and Larry kind of tucks his head into his shoulders
and says "Thanks," real soft. A Kansas student claps him on the back
and blurts, "We'll beat Oklahoma this week, won't we, Coach?" and Larry
grins, knocks on wood—the counter—and says, "I don't know, we'll have to
Grandma picks him
out a half dozen, and Larry asks her to give his best to her daughter and the
baby. He walks out to a chorus of "See ya, Coach!" and the bells jingle
as the door closes behind him.
wife, Barbara, will smile and ask why Larry doesn't go to Muncher's, even
though deep down she knows the answer.
"Ah, I don't
know," he'll say. "Carol Lee is a family place."
And when you've
been looking for that through one divorce and 12 jobs and 16 towns and 32
apartments, dormitories or houses, you take it in any doughnut shop that has
With 25 seconds
left and Kansas up by one point in last year's Big Eight Conference playoff
final against Oklahoma, Larry Brown turned to his three assistants and said two
With that, the
four men reached down and squeezed their left testicles, and the Jayhawks
squeezed their one-point lead. Of all his superstitions, this was the ultimate
bid to coax the cosmos by a man who still fears he must win tonight in order to
get six glazed and a grin from Grandma at Carol Lee tomorrow.
Kansas won 79-78,
and Brown had done it again. He had turned a 13-16 slow-footed collection of
individuals into a 21-9 NCAA tournament team and conference playoff champion,
boosted ticket sales by more than 2,200 per home game and completed his 14th
consecutive season of coaching without ever having a losing record.