In my studio at KU this past Monday stood four men that have been a major part of my 45-year-photographic life. Each stood as a reminder once again of how blessed I have been to photograph them and to know them throughout what is now my long career. During the evening celebration of the 60 years of Allen Fieldhouse, these men, whom KU fans hold with such regard that they have become demigods, delighted the crowd of 7,500 in their cathedral of basketball glory.
As each coach reflected on their careers at Kansas, I did the same. I was 18-years-old when I first focused a lens on Ted Owens across the elevated basketball court in Allen Fieldhouse. A month short of my 20th birthday, I sat on the monstrously elevated court in Houston’s Astrodome photographing my second Final Four, and the first on my own, as Owens’ KU team fell to one of John Wooden’s great UCLA dynasty teams.
In March of 1988, one day after Easter, I flooded the court as a 36-year-old to photograph Larry Brown and the great Danny Manning in celebration of their National Championship in Kansas City after one of the truly great basketball games ever played and coached. The brief roller coaster ride on which Brown took KU fans was the precursor to even greater glory.
Virtually unknown when hired at KU, Roy Williams quickly took KU to new heights that included a 150-95 win on Dec. 9, 1989, in Allen Fieldhouse over Kentucky. That game remains the craziest basketball game I have ever photographed. The sustained noise in the Fieldhouse was the loudest a 38-year-old ever heard or has heard since. While I photographed Roy Williams often before coming to KU in 1997 at 46, he was the first coach I truly came to know well.
Bill Self’s amazing run through the Big 12, including the National Championship in 2008, began when I was 52 and continues through Monday’s celebration now at 63. Laura joined me for all that long run which included the end of the heated Missouri rivalry, culminating with a dramatic 19-point comeback, overtime victory in their last meeting in Allen Fieldhouse in 2012.
So many games, so much drama, so many wonderful photographs, yet, what I will remember is the casual ease and conversation we shared, along Laura, in the studio on Monday afternoon. During a day filled with countless autographs, plaudits and deserved acclaim, I tried with one photograph to thank them for all of those great moments, photographs and most of all their kindness and friendship.