In the minutes after Kansas’ 91-63 victory over Texas Tech on Thursday afternoon, Kansas coach Bill Self faced a minor dilemma.
His team had played well, shooting a scorching 66 percent from the field. They had also achieved this while wearing shorts that could have been mistaken for any number of garish clothing items. Pick your pop-culture reference: 1990s Zubaz pants, maybe something from M.C. Hammer’s closet (Please Jayhawks, don’t hurt ’em!), maybe even a summer swimsuit.
like swimming trunks,” KU senior Elijah Johnson said.
This was the moment when pragmatism met superstition. Self, ever protective of his program’s tradition, had agreed to let Adidas outfit his players with these specialized “camo” jerseys for at least one Big 12 Tournament game at the Sprint Center. The Jayhawks have a licensing contract with Adidas, and other schools, including UCLA and Notre Dame, were in on the gambit as well. Self called it being a team player.
But, no, Self did not like the jerseys. And now he was wondering if KU should wear them again against Iowa State on Friday. Hey, his team had shot 66 percent.
“I don’t like them at all, but we shot good in them,” Self said. “I’ll ask our guys what they think, but I have no ideas.”
In an otherwise quiet blowout, the Jayhawks made history of another sort of Thursday. This had nothing to do with Naismith or Chamberlain, Manning or Pierce. Instead, the Jayhawks joined the annals of suspect uniforms, and there wasn’t much debating that. Uniform style, of course, is open to interpretation. But Kansas’ “camo” jerseys could certainly hold their own against an infamous list that includes the 1970s Houston Astros, the U.S. men’s soccer team in the 1994 World Cup, and really anything from the ill-fated XFL.
Not that there wasn’t room for debate.
“A lot of people think that,” Johnson said, sticking up for the new duds. “I feel like ours actually look a little different. I don’t know if it’s our (colors), or if grey goes with red and blue better, but it doesn’t look that bad to me.”
By the end of the day, there was some question whether the jerseys were even the worst Kansas had worn this year. The Jayhawks wore all-blue road jerseys at West Virginia, inspiring similar cynicism. And if not those, the Jayhawks once wore beak-yellow jerseys in a game at Western Carolina in 1988. Kansas struggled that day, and coach Larry Brown made sure they were buried in the Jayhawks’ equipment closet forever.
“Larry was so (ticked) the way they played,” longtime KU broadcaster Bob Davis said, “that I don’t think they ever saw the light again.”
It’s safe to say that, if Kansas had struggled on Thursday against Texas Tech, Self would have probably felt the same way. But inside the locker room, there was only tepid disapproval.
“It’s cool to wear something different,” walk-on Christian Garrett said, “But it was kind of mixed … we didn’t know what it’s gonna look like. But we actually liked them overall. I know there’s a lot of mixed emotions from the KU faithful.”
Late in the afternoon, Self was asked again if he’d want to wear the jerseys again. It was a not-so-serious question, and probably called for a not-so-serious answer. But Self has a few of Brown’s traits, one of those being minor hints of superstition.
So for a moment, Self hedged. No, he did not like the jerseys. But he did not have to make up his mind right then.
“They’re gonna do laundry no matter what,” Self said. “… so I gotta couple hours.”