KU alumni and fans still smarting from this year’s loss to Wichita State in the NCAA tournament may find some solace in recalling the thrill of victory in 1988, more than a quarter of a century ago. If that makes you feel old, just imagine how the players feel.
While ‘Danny and the Miracles’ have all gone on with their lives, the ’88 championship still unites them, especially this time of year.
Over the weekend, National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition featured interviews with three of the Jayhawks from that Cinderella team in their For the Record segment by Rachel Martin. Recalling how the championship changed their lives, Jeff Gueldner, b’91, Clint Normore, ’89, and Milt Newton, d’89, g’93, each offered their unique journeys since ’88. The full interview, which you can listen to below and online at npr.org, catches up with each Jayhawk, none of whom made it to the NBA. Well, at least not the way you might think.
Newton always wanted to be a professional basketball player, but when his prospects for playing in the NBA looked bleak after college, his father gave him some sage advice, encouraging him to pursue a career that kept him involved with the game he loved. Today, Newton is general manager for the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves.
Normore, who also played football at KU before joining the Jayhawk basketball team, leads diversity programs at Oklahoma City University and still remembers the surreal feeling of being in the moment, when he could tune out the crowd and only hear his KU coaches and teammates.
But Guelder’s life took a few twists and turns since ’88, and after a cancer diagnosis, he discovered how meaningful his championship moment really was.
“As soon as the folks at KU found out,” Martin reveals in her story, “he was overwhelmed with notes and care packages from people he’d never met before. But it didn’t matter. Gueldner was part of that storied ’88 Jayhawks team. They rooted for him then and they were doing so again when he needed it most.”
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.