Essential Elements of Successful Financial Strategies
Peach Basket Parables: Kansas vs. Oklahoma,
1988 NCAA Championship Game
We have discussed the story of how the Kansas Jayhawks lost to North Carolina in the 1957 NCAA Championship game, so it’s only fair to give Kansas its due by putting the Jayhawks on the winning side of one of these parables.
As many college basketball fans know, the annals of Kansas are full of happy endings. Like North Carolina, Kansas has been among college basketball’s traditionally elite programs for most of the last century, in no small part because of the influential legacy of James Naismith, who invented the game of basketball in 1891 and was the Jayhawk’s first official coach.
Following Kansas’ loss to the Tar Heels in 1957, however, thirty-one years went by before the Jayhawks made another trip to the NCAA Tournament’s final game. Strangely enough, that game was played in Kansas City, like Kansas’ previous title-game appearance all those years earlier. Despite the fortunate proximity to their home campus for the 1988 championship game, the Jayhawks were considered underdogs.
Kansas had not had a terrific season. It had started off a shaky 12-8 and finished the regular season with a solid but less-than-sensational record of 21-11. Seeded sixth in its NCAA Tournament regional bracket, Kansas managed to reach the Final Four without playing any powerhouse teams.
The Jayhawks championship opponent was a different story. The Sooners from University of Oklahoma (OU) were a number one seed, and for good reason. Their roster included three future NBA first-round draftees: Mookie Blaylock, Stacey King, and Harvey Grant. They had finished the season 35-4 while garnering national attention for their up-tempo, high-scoring style. They had scored 100 points twenty times that season, including a remarkable 151 in one game, and had crushed twelve opponents by 30 points or more. Most importantly, they had beaten their conference rivals, the Kansas Jayhawks, in both regular season meetings.
No one had expected Kansas to reach the championship game, let alone win it, which was just fine with Coach Larry Brown. He had devised a game plan that he believed could at least keep his team close-perhaps just close enough to pull off a shocking upset. Unlike UNC’s unrelenting strategy of smothering Wilt Chamberlain thirty-one years earlier, Brown’s game plan was a symphony of complementary components, which the Kansas players executed-if not perfectly, at least well enough to work.
• The first priority was getting through OU’s vicious full-court press, which was notorious for forcing turnovers and creating easy baskets for the lightning-quick Sooners. Brown’s predesigned play broke down the press and led OU to call it off in the second half.
• Brown substituted players regularly to prevent fatigue against OU’s blazing speed. He made forty-two lineup changes to 0U’s twelve.
• Kansas’s defenders pushed OU’s dominant big men out of position, forcing them to catch the ball far from the basket, out of their comfort zone.
• To take OU further out of its running game, Kansas slowed the pace in the second half, waiting until late in the shot clock to attempt high-percentage field goals. The fact that the Sooners had been forced to retreat from their full-court press played right into Brown’s hands.
Against the odds, the Jayhawks hung around. It was 50-50 at halftime. When the Sooners took a five-point lead with twelve minutes left, Kansas did not panic. Brown, who had expressed complete faith in his star, Danny Manning, put the ball in his hands and let him go to work. In a grind to the final horn, Kansas won by four points.
The box score showed that Kansas shot a sizzling 71 percent from the field. Manning scored 31 points and grabbed eighteen rebounds. The championship team would come to be known as “Danny and the Miracles,” but the basketball media did not hesitate to credit Larry Brown for his masterful performance as orchestrator. Houston Chronicle Sports writer Eddie Sefko, who called Brown’s game plan “flawless,” summed it up: “It was like a hodge-podge of obvious ingredients that Brown mixed into a potion nobody else could conjure up.”
The basketball community is a small world, especially for a frequent mover like Larry Brown. In the 1960s, Brown had been a standout point guard for the North Carolina Tar Heels, first under Frank McGuire and then Dean Smith. He had also coached two seasons at UCLA in the post-John Wooden years. The Hall of Famer has also coached ten different professional teams (he is the only coach in history to win both an NCAA title and an NBA championship). As of this writing, Brown is back in the college ranks on the high side of seventy, coaching Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Chapter-Ending Three Pointer
1. Specify your three most important financial planning goals/dreams.
2. Determine which types of retirement accounts are available to your family.
3. Consider the risks you need to insure and whether you currently have coverage.
© 2014 Chuck Thoele
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