The KU men’s basketball team won the 1988 NCAA Divison I Men’s Basketball Tournament on April 4, 1988. The Jayhawks defeated Big 8 foe Oklahoma 83-79 in Kansas City’s Kemper Arena. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1988 National Champions, we collected everything we’ve ever written about that season: the players, the fans, the students, and the history of one of the greatest runs the NCAA tournament has ever seen.
All KU alumni have special memories of KU’s magical run to the 1988 NCAA Championship– even those who played in it. Danny Manning, now head basketball coach at Wake Forest, remembers exactly how it felt to “seal the deal” and secure the Jayhawks’ first NCAA title since 1952. The former NCAA Player of the Year and number one pick of the 1988 NBA draft opened up about his championship experience in The Players’ Tribune, a blog featuring the voices of professional athletes from a first-person perspective.
In Manning’s post titled “It’s Over,” he vividly recalls the moment he put the game away, hitting two free throws with five seconds left, and the euphoria that followed. Yet the most memorable moment for Manning came during a quiet moment after the celebration.
“Sitting in the locker room with my teammates after winning the national championship, we talked about our season, which was my senior season. We talked about the tournament. And that’s when it hit us: That was the last time we’d ever be together on the court as a team. It was a somber moment for me, but also a very satisfying one knowing that I was a part of a group that was able to win a national championship.”
Manning’s team finished the 2015 season–his first as head coach of the Deamon Deacons–with a 13-19 record, placing 12th in the ACC conference and will miss the Big Dance this year. But don’t count Manning out. He aims to be back, because he knows what it takes to get there, and he can still recall exactly how good it feels to reign supreme as NCAA Tournament Champion.
“It’s a gamut of emotions that hits you at that point, but lastly, there’s a sense of calm after the storm, and all that’s left is the joy of what you’ve accomplished with your teammates.”
Never fond of the moniker ‘Danny and the Miracles,’ Manning reflected on the sheer joy of playing with his teammates in what he emphasized is a team sport.
“We weren’t the most talented and we weren’t the most athletic, but we played together and we played for each other. That’s what made us great. It wasn’t “Danny and the Miracles.” It was just the Kansas Jayhawks.”
Former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian died Wednesday at the age of 84. KU Alumni Association staff member David Johnston recalls an encounter with the famous coach on a day most Jayhawk fans will remember.
It was April 4, 1988.
We had scored seats to the NCAA championship game from disgruntled Duke fans on their way out of town following their loss to KU in the semifinal. The final horn sounded as Danny Manning snatched the ball out of the air and raised his fist in the air. The celebration began.
KU had just won the national championship.
My brother and I took in the scene from our seats until it was about time to bring out the ladders and award the trophy. While the fans all stayed in their seats, we made a run for it to reunite with our parents, who were seated in another part of Kemper Arena.
The concourse was completely empty—perfect for a couple of euphoric teenagers racing with abandon, eager to join the Jayhawks’ celebration, …when, without warning, I ran into “Tark the Shark”.
Somehow, I barely missed running smack into the famous coach of the UNLV “Runnin’ Rebels,” who, like us, was looking to make a quick getaway. With a trademark towel held to his mouth as he scurried toward the exit, he was as disinterested in watching the celebration as we were excited to see it.
For me, it was a rare brush with celebrity, but I was much more interested in the excitement inside the arena than my run-in with the future Hall of Fame coach in the hallway. A quick “sorry!” over my shoulder and a wave of his towel in response, and we were off in separate directions.
In hindsight, the epic first-half of that fast-paced championship game between the Sooners and the Jayhawks surely inspired Tarkanian. No doubt he’d seen enough, and he could see the future–his future. Just two years later, Tark the Shark would be back at the Final Four, celebrating his own NCAA title in 1990 with the Runnin’ Rebels.
Rest in peace, Coach (and sorry I almost ran you over).
In honor of the 25th anniversary of KU’s 1988 National Championship, we shared this video with members. We sat down with Kurt Messersmith, j’89, executive producer of the new documentary “The Miracles,” who shared what it was like to catch up with the players like Danny Manning, Archie Marshall and Milt Newton 25 years later. He found that their team chemistry was just as strong. Relive the drama of the ’88 season here, and purchase “The Miracles” on DVD from the KU Bookstore.
On Feb. 28, Adidas announced the new “camo” uniforms KU would be wearing this postseason along with six other teams, and KU alumni and fans immediately took to Twitter to air their feelings. For a tradition-rich program like Kansas, change doesn’t come easy. History shows that KU uniforms favor a classic look that’s always in season. And while men’s basketball uniforms have evolved over time—with shorts getting longer and tops ever tighter—KU has avoided the gimmicky trends lesser teams try (we could highlight Baylor as an example). Yet every now and then, the Jayhawks have debuted some short-lived looks that are worth remembering. Cue the runway music.
1983-84 Crimson and (Navy) Blue
Most fans know that KU basketball teams wore predominantly crimson before the traditional blue became more popular in the 1960’s. In the early 1980’s, however, KU wore dark navy blue uniforms, similar to Team USA Basketball colors worn at the Olympics that decade. The look didn’t last long, as Coach Larry Brown brought back royal blue jerseys just in time for a KU basketball resurgence.
1985-86 Red Scare
With Danny Manning on board in 1986, the Jayhawks looked better than ever, fielding what many fans consider one of the best KU teams in history. A trip to the Final Four in Dallas was made even more memorable when KU chose to go “old school” by bringing back crimson jerseys. The look was jarring to fans, and perhaps to the Jayhawks, who lost to Duke in a heartbreaker. The red jerseys remained unpopular with superstitious fans until “alternate” jerseys became a trend in 2003.
1987-88 Solid Gold
For one game in KU history—and only one—the Jayhawks took the court in yellow uniforms. Yellow, of course, is the color of the Jayhawk’s beak, so it seemed only fitting, right? Well, the game was a victory for Coach Larry Brown, but the look was a loss, with angry alumni and fans crying foul over the uniforms that many thought resembled something arch-rival Missouri might wear. Brown got the message, and the togs were retired permanently. And the “gold game” opponent became the answer to a favorite trivia question among fans (A: Western Carolina).
1989 Kansas University
For Coach Roy Williams’ first season, the Jayhawks took to the court with a new look that ruffled a few feathers. Reminiscent of North Carolina’s double-arching type surrounding the numbers, KU donned jerseys that read “Kansas University” for the first (and only) time. Probation meant KU was unable to defend its national title in the NCAA tournament, so the season—and the jersey—was quickly forgotten. But at least one iconic image endures. Who remembers the shot of senior Milt Newton dunking a gift-wrapped ball for the BMA Holiday Classic poster?
1996 Font Circus
A new Nike contract brought a new, stylized font that was well received by fans. Called “Circus” by those in the know, the typeface came to symbolize Kansas basketball during an era that featured stars like Paul and Raef, Kirk and Nick, and Drew and Wayne. When KU leaders established new visual identity standards for KU logos, colors and type in 2005, featuring a new jersey font called “Trajan,” a vocal minority pushed to preserve the circus font, wearing decidedly anti-Trajan t-shirts.
2008 Back to the Future
With KANSAS emblazoned on their chests in brand new “Trajan” type, the Jayhawks won their fifth NCAA National Championship in 2008. Mario’s miracle ensured the new look would be cherished by KU fans for years to come, and uniform outfitter Adidas got the message loud and clear, keeping the uniform scheme relatively consistent with few changes over the years that followed. At least until this season. The all-blue uniforms worn by KU against West Virginia definitely got the attention of fans and color commentators.
Given KU’s tendency toward traditional uniforms, don’t expect the new Adidas “camo” uniforms to, well, blend in.