|UMKC Hall of Fame Spotlight - Lee Hunt|
by Elyssa Brogdon
In 1986, UMKC began its journey to Division I status and at the forefront was Robert Lee Hunt, former Director of Athletics and men’s head basketball coach. While UMKC is where he retired, it was definitely not where his journey in basketball began.
“When I was just very small I used to shoot baskets in the house against the walls; my mother let me do it. I kind of look back on it and wonder why she did,” Hunt recalled.
Once Hunt got a basketball goal in the backyard of the house, he moved his free throws outside, but it wasn’t long until his was back inside again, this time on the court.
Hunt played basketball for and graduated from Central Missouri State, and immediately landed his first coaching job at Wellington High School.
“I always knew I wanted to be a coach,” Hunt said. “My freshman year of high school I had to take a citizenship class, and I wrote in my career notebook that I wanted to be a basketball coach.”
Hunt bounced around throughout his coaching career coaching for universities such as CMSU, Memphis State, Illinois, UCLA (where Hunt got a taste of the NCAA Final Four more than once), Alabama-Birmingham, and Mississippi before taking the coaching position in Kansas City. At many of the schools he served under Gene Bartow.
At Ole Miss, Hunt took the position of men’s head basketball coach and Assistant Athletics Director in 1982. After being picked to finish eighth in the pre-season polls, Hunt led the Rebels to a 19-12 overall record and a second place SEC finish. As a result, Hunt was selected as the SEC Coach of the Year in 1983 and was awarded the Rupp Cup, which was a namesake of legendary Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp.
During the summer of ‘86, Hunt came to UMKC as a consultant, but it wasn’t long until there was more in store for him when it came to the ‘Roos.
“They called me and asked me if I could be a candidate for basketball coach and Athletics Director, and they made an attractive offer,” Hunt said. “So I came here in the fall of 1986.”
Hunt led the Kangaroos in their first Division I game on Nov. 30, 1987, against Rice in front of 4,256 fans at Municipal Auditorium. The program's first win came in the third game of the season in a victory over Prairie View A&M, and the squad finished the inaugural Division I season with a 9-18 overall record.
In 1989, Hunt welcomed the first of a pair of recruits from Memphis who would go on to become two of the best players in UMKC history. Ronnie Schmitz joined the Kangaroos prior to the 1989-90 season before Tony Dumas joined the squad in 1990-91. Schmitz ended his career with 1,939 career points, while Dumas scored 2,459 points in three seasons in Blue and Gold. Dumas left UMKC after being a first round draft pick by the Dallas Mavericks in the 1994 NBA Draft.
Hunt is the coach behind the best season in UMKC history. With Schmitz and Dumas as his starting backcourt, Hunt guided the Kangaroos to a 21-7 overall record, which to this day is the only 20-win season in school history.
Following seven years as an Independent, Hunt oversaw UMKC as it joined the Mid-Continent Conference in 1994. Following the 1995-96 season, Hunt stepped down from his role as the head basketball coach. He then remained at the University until 1998, when he retired from his post as the Director of Athletics.
Since coming to Kansas City in 1986, Hunt has been a key figure in shaping UMKC Athletics. Even following his retirement, Hunt has been a regular on the UMKC Athletics scene, and by honoring the past, UMKC is recognizing a Kangaroo icon with a spot in the inaugural UMKC Athletics Hall of Fame.
Note: Coach Hunt was an asst basketball coach at Warrensburg High School for several years and was an integral part of the school winning the 1967 State Class M Championship.
My Journey with the Master Teacher and Coach
Feb. 13, 2007
My Journey with the Master Teacher and Coach
Reprinted with permission from Bruin Blue
By Bill Bennett
(From Nov. 19-21, it was my honor and privilege to accompany the legendary UCLA men's basketball coach John Wooden to his induction into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City. Also on the trip were Coach Wooden's daughter, Nancy (Nan), and Craig Impelman. Impelman has been married to Nan's daughter, Christy, since 1984 and they have two of Coach Wooden's great grandchildren (sons - John, 20, a basketball player at Occidental College and Kyle, 14, a freshman at Ocean View HS in Huntington Beach). Impelman was a Bruin men's basketball assistant under three different UCLA head coaches - Gene Bartow (1976-77), Gary Cunningham (1977-79) and Larry Farmer (1981-84). During the trip, Impelman took nearly 100 pictures and those images can be viewed by e-mailing him at email@example.com with an e-mail title of "Hall of Fame Photos").
Just the Facts
"College Basketball Experience"The National Basketball Coaches Association (NABC) is the sponsor of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame and the weekend was entitled the "College Basketball Experience". On Sunday (Nov. 19) was the press conference, reception and induction ceremony. Coach Wooden joined a phenomenal inaugural class -
-Dean Smith, college basketball's all-time second-winningest coach (879 wins) at North Carolina, who directed the Tar Heels to two NCAA Championships (1993/1982). He also led NC to 11 Final Fours and 13 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championships. While a player at Kansas, the Jayhawks won the NCAA title in 1952.
- Bill Russell, led the University of San Francisco to consecutive NCAA Championships in 1955 and '56 and was the National Player of the Year in 1956. The 6-10 center's rebounding and shot blocking skills established a defensive mentality that remains a focal part of championship basketball at every level. In the NBA with the Boston Celtics, he was a member of 11 NBA Championship teams in 13 seasons.
-Oscar Robertson, the "Big O" was named "Player of the Century" by the NABC. The 6-5 guard led the University of Cincinnati to the NCAA Championship game in 1959 and 1960. He was the first collegiate player to lead the NCAA in scoring for three consecutive years and the first player to be named National Player of the Year three times. In then played 14 seasons in the NBA with the Cincinnati Royals and the Milwaukee Bucks and was a 12-time NBA All-Star.
-Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of the game of basketball, he established the original 13 rules in a YMCA gymnasium in Springfield, MA back in 1891. Naismith, who spent his final 41 years as a professor at Kansas and who was the Jayhawks' first basketball coach, was represented by his grandson, Ian.
Competing Halls of FameThere is also the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. Naismith (1959), Smith (1982), Russell (1964), Robertson (1979) and Coach Wooden (1960 as a player/1972 as a coach, the first to be selected as both a player and coach) are all in the Naismith Hall of Fame. There are an additional 147 members in the Naismith Hall of Fame, with roots in college basketball, and they are automatically inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. Wooden, Smith, Russell, Robertson and Naismith were selected to represent the Founding Class at the inaugural Induction Celebration. The remaining Founding Class members will be officially inducted over a period of years at the annual induction ceremony in Kansas City.
Kansas City, MOWhy is the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City, MO? The NABC's home office is there. It was founded in 1927 by Phog Allen, the legendary Kansas head coach and a student of Naismith. The NABC has nearly 5000 members. The city has also hosted 10 Final Fours and more NCAA Tournament games than any other site in the nation.
Coach Wooden's and UCLA's basketball history intertwines with the area. For Coach Wooden, it goes back to his days at Indiana State and the NAIA Tournament in 1946 and '47 that was hosted in Kansas City's Municipal Auditorium. And in 1964, Kansas City's Municipal Auditorium once again was the site of Coach Wooden's and UCLA's first NCAA Championship, beating Duke 98-83. The State of Kansas is also the home to three great Bruins - Fred Slaughter (Topeka, KS HS), the starting center on UCLA's 1964 NCAA title team; Lucius Allen (Wyandotte HS/Kansas City, KS), the All-American guard who played on two (1967/1968) of Coach Wooden's National Championship teams and Earl Watson (Washington HS/Kansas City, KS), the only Bruin in history to start every game of his career (129, 1998-2001).
The site of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame will be the new 18,500 seat Sprint Center, which opens in fall 2007 in downtown Kansas City, MO. In the Center will be a 41,500 interactive square foot testament to the sport of men's college basketball.
There is also a basketball tournament associated with the "College Basketball Experience". Duke, Marquette, Texas Tech and Stanford hosted two-game tournaments, with the winners traveling to Kansas City and playing in Municipal Auditorium. Duke, Marquette and Texas Tech all advanced with Air Force winning the Stanford regional. On Monday (Nov. 20) in Kansas City's Municipal Auditorium, Duke defeated Air Force 71-56 and Marquette beat Texas Tech 87-72. On Tuesday (Nov. 21), Marquette defeated Duke 73-62 to win the championship and Air Force beat Texas Tech 67-53 to take third-place.
UCLA will be a regional host next season in the "College Basketball Experience," along with Missouri, Maryland and Michigan State. The four advancing teams will play in the new Sprint Center next November.
Sunday, Nov. 19
Leaving for Kansas City
You get very spoiled traveling with Coach Wooden. There's the town car that picks him up at his condo in Encino and drives him to the Raytheon private terminal in Van Nuys. There, the private jet is waiting, and in less than three hours, you arrive in Kansas City, where a limousine is waiting to take us to the Kansas City Hyatt Regency.
Coach Wooden and his daughter are in adjoining rooms on the 15th floor, where I head to escort them to the private reception on the 40th floor of the hotel. Upon entering Coach Wooden's room, there sits Lee Hunt, with his wife, Elizabeth. Hunt was a Bruin assistant under Gene Bartow, the first UCLA head coach after Coach Wooden's retirement in 1975. Hunt ended his career as the head basketball coach and athletic director at Missouri-Kansas City.
When the Hunts depart, Impelman and I escort the Wooden's to the 40th floor. Walking into the reception, there sit Smith, Russell and Robertson, joined by Coach Wooden. As people gather around the four Hall of Famers, everyone is frantically taking pictures.
Press Conference/Public ReceptionFrom the reception, we head down to the adjoining Crown Center Exhibit Hall for the press conference and induction ceremony. Although this is a celebration for the history of college basketball, it could just as well be a highlight reel for UCLA basketball. Present in the Exhibit Hall for the press conference are -
Also present is my good friend and ESPN college basketball analyst Steve Lavin. He and I go back to 1991 when he first arrived at UCLA as an assistant coach. During his Bruin head coaching days (1996-2003), I was his basketball sports information director. Lavin is here to moderate the press conference and speak at the induction ceremony.
Following the press conference, at the public reception, Coach Wooden stayed seated at the dais signing a steady steam of autographs. The Air Force basketball team is also there, in their military uniform, roaming the Exhibit Hall, taking their picture with every basketball luminary in the place.
Induction CeremonyIt is a first class, elite event from start to finish.
CBS analyst Billy Packer is the Master of Ceremonies. There are speeches from - Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski; a prerecorded video presentation by ESPN's Dick Vitale; Tom Jernstedt, NCAA Executive Vice President; Kansas City's mayor Kay Barnes and Jim Haney, the executive director of the NABC.
"This is a big night for college basketball," Haney said. "It captures more than 100 years of history and lays the groundwork for the future of it."
Brown presents his college coach, Dean Smith. During his presentation, he looks out into the audience at Coach Wooden and says, "I always felt kind of uncomfortable being introduced as the UCLA head coach, because we all know there is only one UCLA head coach and that's John Wooden (acknowledging and pointing to where Coach Wooden is sitting in the crowd)."
Texas Tech's Bobby Knight, who this season bypassed Smith to become college basketball's all-time winningest coach, inducts Bill Russell and describes him as the "all-time MVP."
In his speech, Russell says it was the "highest honor he ever had in basketball." He commends coaches Smith and Wooden for their work and efforts during the civil rights movement. Coach Smith participated in sit-ins in North Carolina in the 1960s and Russell says Coach Wooden was the only head coach who played more than one Black player on the West Coast.
Lavin then steps up to introduce Bill Walton, who is to present Coach Wooden. In his remarks, Lavin says "the brightest lights in the history of college basketball are here tonight." When talking about Coach Wooden, he says, "The most valuable aspect of coaching at UCLA for 12 years was, without a doubt, the opportunity to learn from a master teacher. Through his character, compassion and coaching, John Wooden has been a source of inspiration for his family, his players and his friends.
"One of Coach's favorite sayings is - `The most powerful form of teaching is leading by example.' "And at 96 years young," Lavin says, "he is still a living example of that truth. Coach is still teaching us all through his example."
Next up is Walton's 22-minute tribute to Coach Wooden. It is serious, it is comedy, it is opinionated - it is Bill Walton at his best. Some of his comments include-
Walton then introduces Coach Wooden - "It is now my deepest honor to present the most positive, the most upbeat, the most constructive person I have ever known - John Wooden, a man who never looks back and who's always about what's next."
Coach Wooden then comes to the stage and looking at Walton, jokingly says, "Now you all know what I had to put up with all those years."
He says it's nice for him to come back to Kansas City. Coach Wooden reminisces about the Bruins' first NCAA title in 1964 at Kansas City's Municipal Auditorium.
He then talks about his two teams from Indiana State that had a chance to play in the NAIA Tournament, hosted by Kansas City. In 1947, Wooden refused to bring his Sycamore squad because the NAIA did not allow African-Americans in the event and Indiana State had a Black player (Clarence Walker) on its roster. In 1948, Wooden again refused to bring Indiana State to Kansas City. But before the tournament started, the NAIA allowed African-Americans to play (according the Kansas City Star sportswriter Blair Kerkhoff, 1948 was an Olympic year and the NAIA team champion had a spot in the Olympic Trials tournament. The Olympic Committee threatened to pull the invitation if African-Americans were not allowed to play in the NAIA Tournament). The NAACP, Indiana State's university president and Walker's parents also urged Coach Wooden to take his team to Kansas City. While there, the Sycamores stayed at the Muehlebach Hotel and Walker housed with a local minister.
"I'm pleased whenever I think of that NAIA Tournament," Coach Wooden says. "I think that was a big moment in our sports history. A few years later, an All-Black team (Tennessee State) won that tournament. Maybe we opened the door a little bit."
Coach Wooden goes on to say he is proud to have been selected into the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame and is "so grateful to those that love this wonderful game."
He ends his acceptance with a poem, entitled God's Hall of Fame -
God's Hall of FameThis crowd on Earth, they soon forget, the heroes of the past.
They cheer like mad, until you fall and that's how long you last.
But God, He never does forget, and in his Hall of Fame, inscribed up there beyond the stars, engraved you'll find your name.
I'll tell you friends I wouldn't trade, my name however small - inscribed up there beyond the stars in that celestial hall.
For any famous name on earth or glory that they share - I'd rather be an unknown here and have my name up There.
After Coach Wooden's poem recital, you could hear a pin drop as the tears flowed.
Monday, Nov. 20
NABC InterviewThat morning in the Hyatt Regency, Coach Wooden sits for more than an hour for an interview that can be viewed once the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame opens next season at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
The interview spans his entire life, from his upbringing in rural Indiana, to his college days at Purdue, through his UCLA head coaching years.
-Coach Wooden will always say one of the great influences in his life was his father, Joshua Hugh Wooden. He talks about the philosophies his father handed down to him: "Two Sets of Threes" -
On the day Coach Wooden graduated from elementary school in Centerton IN, he received from his father a two-dollar bill (which Coach Wooden would give to his own son Jim) and a 3 x 5 card. Written on one side of that card was a verse by the Rev. Henry Van Dyke and on the opposite side, Joshua's personal Seven Point Creed (Coach Wooden still carries a copy of the Creed with him) -
Four things a man must learn to do
If he would make his life more true:
To think without confusion clearly,
To love his fellow-man sincerely,
To act from honest motives purely,
To trust in God and Heaven securely.
Henry Van Dyke
-As a player at Purdue, Wooden's coach, Ward "Piggy" Lambert, influenced much of Coach Wooden's basketball philosophy. He says Lambert's teachings contributed to the three middle building blocks, the heart of Coach Wooden's "Pyramid of Success" - Condition, Skill and Team Spirit. As an All-American guard at Purdue from 1930-32, Coach Wooden led the Boilermakers to Big 10 titles and the 1932 National Championship.
-Every year, in the first meeting with his Bruin teams, Coach Wooden would emphasize - Be on time, Never criticize a teammate and No profanity.
-He talks about his retirement decision in San Diego on March 29, 1975, following UCLA's 75-74 (OT) NCAA semi-final victory over Louisville, coached by his great friend Denny Crum. "I remember having to go to the media room and I didn't want to go. I had never felt that way before. I said to myself, if you feel this way, it's time to go." Coach Wooden then went to his lockerroom and told the Bruins -
From the book "Wooden", co-authored by Steve Jamison, here's Coach Wooden's lockerroom speech after the win over Louisville. "I'm so proud of you, this was a great game. I don't know what's going to happen in the Championship game against Kentucky, although I think we'll be all right. But I want you fellows to know now that regardless of how things turn out, I've never had a team of whom I've been more proud than you young men. And that's important to me because you are the last team I will ever coach."
In the NCAA Championship game, UCLA defeated Kentucky 92-85 giving Coach Wooden and the Bruin program their 10th national championship.
-Coach Wooden tells a story about speaking at a CostCo gathering several years ago, arranged by Swen Nater. Nater played for Coach Wooden on UCLA's 1972/1973 NCAA Championship teams and is an executive with CostCo. During the session, someone asked Coach Wooden if he was afraid of dying.
"That is a strange question to ask a man in his 90s," said Wooden laughing. He then recited the following poem, written by Nater.
YonderOnce I was afraid of dying, terrified of ever lying.
Petrified of leaving family, home and friends.
Thoughts of absence from my dear ones, brought a melancholy tear once and a dreadful thought of when life ends.
But those days are long behind me, fear of leaving does not bind me and departure doesn't hold a single care.
Peace does comfort as I ponder, a reunion in the Yonder, with my dearest one who is waiting for me there.
Basketball Game in Municipal Auditorium
Municipal Auditorium is quite the historic site for college basketball, hosting nine NCAA men's basketball Final Fours between 1950 and 1964, including three of the first four.
There is a VIP reception at Municipal before the games. Sitting there with Coach Wooden, Nan and Craig, a family asks if they can have their picture taken with the Coach. Of course he agrees, but the family's husband is perturbed because his friend, who was to take the picture, was nowhere to be found. Craig then jumps up and happily volunteers to take the portrait - it is a great shot, Coach Wooden with that beaming family. Everywhere we go, everyone wants a photo with Coach.
From the reception, we walk Coach Wooden into the arena and everyone stands and applauds. His front row seat is behind the ESPN broadcast desk. Coach Wooden sits next to Smith, Russell, Robertson and their families. Vitale, who is the ESPN color analyst for the games, turns around and spends a few minutes with all the honorees.
We watch all of the Duke-Air Force game and most of the Marquette-Texas Tech contest. Early in the second half of the Marquette-Texas Tech game, the Hall of Fame inductees are introduced at center court. Back in his seat, Coach Wooden notes that he was most impressed with Marquette's athleticism and aggressiveness.
As we walk out, sitting down from us in the front row is Kansas City Royals great George Brett and long-time sports broadcaster Roger Twibell. Wooden stops to shake hands as everyone around are again giving him a standing ovation.
Tuesday, Nov. 21
Coming HomeOn the way back to Van Nuys, because of head winds, we make a scheduled stop in Farmington, NM to refuel. Throughout the trip home, Coach Wooden is telling stories about . . .
- recruiting some of his star players
Gail Goodrich - "I was recruiting him as an underclassman and sitting in the gym one night, I was talking about how I thought Gail would continue to grow, how I already liked his basketball talents and thought he was a very good player. I got a tap on my shoulder and the gentleman behind me asked, "Do you really feel that way about Gail?" When I turned around, I realized it was Gail's father (Gail P. Goodrich), who had been a USC basketball letterman (1937-39). I told his Dad that I certainly did feel that way about Gail's talents. That chance meeting with Gail's Dad certainly got our recruiting of Gail off to a positive start."
Michael Warren -"His high school coach (Jim Powers) at South Bend Central played for me at both South Bend Central and Indiana State. And Coach Powers' assistant coach at South Bend, Walter Kindy, was also my assistant when I was the head coach at South Bend Central."
Bill Walton - "Denny Crum went to one of Bill's games and came back to tell me that he thought Bill was one of the finest players to ever come out of southern California and one of the best high school players he had ever seen. I remember telling Denny, "Now let's not get too carried away, historically the San Diego area hasn't produced a lot of great players." Denny said I had to come see Bill play. So we went together one night to watch Bill and after the game, Denny turned to me and said, "So what did you think Coach," and I looked at Denny and said, "Well, he is pretty good isn't he?"
- memories of Kansas City"It was Easter Sunday, the day after we won our first NCAA title in 1964. Nellie (Coach Wooden's wife) and I were waiting outside the Muehlebach Hotel for a taxi. A bird overhead hit me right here on the top of my head."
At Sunday's press conference, Coach Wooden told J. A. Adande of the Los Angeles Times - "I felt, well, we just won the National Championship, don't let it go to your head. I think the Good Lord was letting me know, don't get carried away."
- quotations from Abraham Lincoln
"Things turnout the best for those who make the best of the way things turnout."
"It's better to trust and be disappointed once in awhile, than to mistrust and be miserable all the time."
"There is nothing stronger than gentleness."
Looking BackWhile in Kansas City, Coach Wooden was handing out autographed 4 x 5 cards. On the card was the illustration of an owl in a tree and a poem about listening and learning. Throughout the trip, and having the privilege and honor of listening and learning from Coach Wooden and all the college basketball greats that were in Kansas City, I understood the lesson of the owl.
A wise old owl sat in an oak.
The more he heard, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Now wasn't he a wise old bird?
"Listen if you want to be heard."