University of Kansas

Bill Hougland, national and Olympic basketball champion from KU, dies at 86

Bill Hougland played on KU’s 1952 NCAA championship team.
Bill Hougland played on KU’s 1952 NCAA championship team.

Bill Hougland, who helped the Kansas men’s basketball team to the 1952 NCAA championship and then won two Olympic gold medals, died Monday in Lawrence. He was 86.

“Everybody that knew Bill loved Bill,” KU coach Bill Self said on his radio show Monday. “He’s been a fixture in Lawrence a lot of years. He had a stroke about a week ago and it was a bad one and he’d been laboring.

“ … It’s a sad day but certainly one that I know I feel fortunate and blessed I was able to have contact not only with Bill but with those other guys (on the ’52 team) as well.”

Hougland played in 77 games during his Kansas career. He was the third-leading scorer on the Jayhawks’ 1952 title team, averaging 7.1 points and 3.3 rebounds.

“That ’52 group has been so instrumental in the legacy and history of what’s taken place with our basketball program and our university,” Self said. “At KU we’ve been so blessed to have so many of those guys stay healthy and be around us for so many years.”

In 1952, KU players made up nearly half of the U.S. Olympic team. Hougland played in all eight games and averaged 5.8 points as the United States defeated the Soviet Union for the championship.

Four years later, Hougland, playing for the Phillips 66ers of the National Industrial Basketball League, was captain of the U.S. Olympic team and again averaged 5.8 points as the Americans defeated the Soviets for the gold medal.

Hougland became the first player to win two gold medals in basketball. He grew up in El Dorado, Kan., and played at Beloit High, helping that school to the 1948 Class A championship game.

He served as vice-president for Koch Industries and president of Koch Oil before he retired in 1991.

Hougland was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2006, and the Kansas Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008.

“He was a longtime friend and we’ll really miss him,” said Jerry Waugh, whose final year as a player at KU was 1950-51. “Bill was a good player, a good shooter, a great competitor, a good athlete.

“ … Bill Hougland was one of those guys who had the ability to really rebound the ball. He was 6-4, a good jumper, had the ability to get to the ball. … As a result he got a lot of shots inside.”

“In that (1952) group, Hougland and Bill Lienhard and Bob Kenney, they were a good bunch of Kansas kids. Doc (Phog Allen) was able to recruit (Clyde) Lovellette about that time and he was able to hang onto the kids in the area and we had a great run. It was a good era of players that included small-town kids.

Waugh, who later became an assistant coach for the Jayhawks, added: “(Hougland) had the stroke and hung on as long as he could. He just ran out of gas.”

The Star’s Gary Bedore contributed to this report.

Blair Kerkhoff: 816-234-4730, @BlairKerkhoff