Bob Chipman was determined to treat his 38th and final season as Washburn men’s basketball coach the same as the previous 37. There would be no more speeches than usual, no taking an extra moment to savor the little things that he wouldn’t experience again after retiring.
Chipman just wanted to finish his career the same way he started, coaching a hard-nosed team that plays every second for 40 minutes.
Everything was happening according to plan until the Ichabods’ regular-season home finale on Feb. 25. Washburn christened “Bob Chipman Court” before the game. The Ichabods won in front of a crowd of 3,233 that included approximately 100 of Chipman’s former players.
Those players and other friends and family gathered for a postgame reception, and it was there, with the help of a video produced by Chipman’s daughter, Kelsey, where it all hit him.
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A career’s worth of memories and well wishes poured out over the course of 24 minutes.
“There I was taking a lot of years in, but until then, it was pretty much business. You wonder if it was worth it, and with all the players coming back, wow,” Chipman said. “It made the 38 years seem valuable, and like, ‘Wow, I did make a difference.’ That was fun. I needed that.”
Washburn advanced to Thursday’s quarterfinals of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association tournament at Municipal Auditorium after beating Southwest Baptist in the first round Monday, the final home game of Chipman’s career.
“I was always hopeful I’d be here awhile, but I never dreamed it’d end up something like this,” Chipman said. “It’s kind of a day at a time in this profession. Now, it’s flashed before my eyes. It’s just gone by so quick.”
Chipman, who played basketball at Kansas State under Jack Hartman, didn’t think Washburn would be the last stop of his career when he arrived as an assistant coach in 1976. Life just worked out that way. He was hired as head coach by Glenn Cafer, who left the position to take a job as the school’s athletic director.
The biggest moments of Chipman’s personal life are also forever intertwined with Washburn.
“My wife, Carol, I proposed to her at a Washburn athletic banquet 30 years ago. I said we’re negotiating a lifetime, no-cut contract,” Chipman said with a laugh. “My daughter, Kelsey, she was born the first day of practice, and my son, Bobby, was born the last day of the season. Family, that’s how you stay at a place like this. They were just incredible. As the kids kept getting older, I realized it was going to be very hard to leave.”
Bobby Chipman played for his father at Washburn, and coached with him for three years while attending law school. The roles of dad, coach and colleague are distinct, and he is happy that he got to experience all three with his father.
“Growing up, he was always my dad and never my coach. He did a good job of keeping it that way, and that had to be hard on him at times. I was a late bloomer,” Bobby Chipman said. “I know he was competitive and he wanted to coach me more, and he never did. It didn’t get me burnt out on basketball, and it made me start to love the game and work hard at it.”
The Ichabods won a conference title during Bobby Chipman’s four years as a player, and his time as an assistant made him realize that law school was the right choice.
“I definitely wasn’t meant to be a coach. I wanted to get out there and play too much, instead of coach,” he said with a laugh. “It was a lot of fun behind the scenes, how they talk about the guys and seeing how he orchestrates everything. It was a special time to get another level of being around him. We became best friends over the years. It was a lot of fun.”
Players past and present
Washburn sophomore Javion Blake, an Olathe East grad, didn’t need long to decide where to spend his college career.
“The first time I met Coach Chip, I think I was at the top 150 unsigned seniors camp. We talked about my plan, and I talked it over with my family, and came down for a visit,” Blake said. “As soon I came here, it was a great atmosphere. He felt like my career could surpass my college days, and he just gave me a chance.”
While the current squad knew Chipman’s retirement was a possibility, it didn’t lessen the shock when they learned of it.
“It was pretty emotional. It caught a lot of us by surprise. We weren’t ready for him to be done yet, but we made the effort to send him out on a good note,” said junior Brady Skeens, a Shawnee Mission Northwest grad. “We knew as soon as he told us, we wanted to try even harder than we were to make sure his last year was a good one.”
Chipman maintains a hard line between coach and player, because that’s how he was raised.
“I came from Jack Hartman. You can never be their friend. If you do that, you can treat somebody a little different than others,” Chipman said. “I was pretty tough on them why they were here, conditioning-wise to make sure they play harder.”
It didn’t take long for former players to become friends. Dave Nelson was part of Chipman’s first recruiting class, and he was one of the players who spoke at a reception on Feb. 25
“It’s been a special experience. Not only when I played, but all the years since. It’s a special thing to have in your life when you can have that relationship,” Nelson said. “It’s a special place that I never would’ve counted on when I showed up as a freshman from Kansas City.”
Chipman enters Thursday with 808 career wins, the 24th 20-win season of his career, one national title and a national runner-up showing, and a lifetime of memories.
“We’ve had great players and people. My assistant coaches were usually former players of mine,” Chipman said. “We all care so much about Washburn basketball. I’ll miss that the most.”
MIAA basketball tournaments
When/where: Thursday-Sunday at Municipal Auditorium
Tickets: All seats are general admission. Each two-game session is $20 or $5 for students. An all-session pass is $65. Tickets are available at the box office or through Ticketmaster.
(3) Nebraska-Kearney vs. (6) Washburn, noon
(2) Central Missouri vs. (7) Central Oklahoma, about 2:30 p.m.
(1) Northwest Missouri vs. (9) Lincoln, 6 p.m.
(4) Missouri Southern vs. (5) Fort Hays State, about 8:30 p.m.
First two quarterfinal winners, noon
Second two quarterfinal winers, about 2:30 p.m.
Semifinal winners, 1 p.m. (winner earns automatic NCAA Division II Tournament berth)
(3) Emporia State vs. (6) Fort Hays State, noon
(2) Central Missouri vs. (10) Southwest Baptist, about 2:30 p.m.
(1) Pittsburg State vs. (9) Lindenwood, 6 p.m.
(4) Missouri Western vs. (5) Central Oklahoma, about 8:30 p.m.
First two quarterfinal winners, 6 p.m.
Second two quarterfinal winers, about 8:30 p.m.
Semifinal winners, about 3:30 p.m. (winner earns automatic NCAA Division II Tournament berth)