As Oklahoma State Coach Travis Ford left his postgame press conference after Saturday’s victory at Kansas, ending the Jayhawks’ 33-game losing streak, I stopped him for memory refresher.
“Didn’t you win here as a player?” I asked.
Competitors never forget.
“1990,” Ford said. “They were No. 1. Heckava game.”
Indeed it was in my first year covering college sports for The Star. Ford played for Missouri, and that was the amazing 1989-90 season when Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma dominated the top ranking. The Tigers beat KU twice with the Jayhawks’ as the nation’s top-ranked team, including a 77-71 decision in Lawrence. Ford finished with four points and three assists in 22 minutes.
Kansas’ home losses are so rare _ Saturday’s outcome dropped KU’s record in Allen Field House since the 1983-84 season to an incredible 427-30 (93.4 percent) _ I wondered how many had won in the building as a player and a coach.
A Twitter request brought immediate feedback from the regional fan bases. Norm Stewart was a player on the first visiting team to win in the building named for Phog Allen when his Missouri Tigers prevailed 85-78 on Feb. 6, 1956. That was the building’s first full season and KU had won its first six in the new digs.
Stewart also won several games in Lawrence as a coach, including the 71-64 decision on Jan. 24, 1999, his final season on the bench.
Lon Kruger also pulled off the double, helping Kansas State win 77-68 on Jan. 23, 1973. On Jan. 30, 1988, Kruger, now K-State’s coach, ended the Jayhawks’ 55-game winning streak with a 72-61 victory.
So, who else?
The Jayhawks lost plenty of home games before 1983 _ 78 in the building’s first 29 years – but the timing makes it difficult for a former player to have won as a coach in Allen for several years after the building opened.
We found three more, and all have an Oklahoma State connection.
Moe Iba played for some of his dad Henry’s Cowboys teams that won four in a row in Lawrence from 1960-1963. Moe coached Nebraska in the 1980s, and the Cornhuskers won in Lawrence in 1983.
Eddie Sutton was a standout guard for the Oklahoma State team that won at Allen in 1958. Kansas played the game without Wilt Chamberlain, who, according to The Star, missed the game because of an “infection caused by a bruise to the groin.”
Sutton never defeated Kansas in Lawrence as the Cowboys’ coach, but he collected a victory over the Jayhawks as the Arkansas coach in 1976. It marked the first time a Southwest Conference school had won at Kansas.
Finally, there’s Bill Self. As an Oklahoma State guard in 1983, Self’s team was one of six visitors to win in Lawrence in Ted Owens' final season. The Cowboys’ broke an 18-game losing streak at Allen Fieldhouse that day, with Self chipping in six points. Kansas hasn’t lost more than four at home in a season since then.
There may be others. But losses happen so infrequently at Kansas, the list must be short.