Kansas basketball: Ranking the top coaches in program history

Kansas basketball (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Kansas basketball (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /
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Kansas basketball
Kansas basketball (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images) /

No. 8: Dr. James Naismith (1898–1907)

While James Naismith’s contributions to the game of basketball (literally inventing it) were numerous, he wasn’t the best coach. As a matter of fact, Naismith is actually the only coach in Kansas basketball history with a losing record (55-60).

Naismith’s best season came in 1899 when he led the Jayhawks to a 7-4 record with wins over William Jewell, Haskell, and the Topeka YMCA (three times).

There’s no doubt that Naismith’s legacy will live on forever as the inventor of basketball and Kansas’ first coach. If there’s anything that explains Naismith’s relatively poor coaching record though, it’s what he told Phog Allen: “You can’t coach basketball; you just play it.”

When it comes to basketball, Naismith was wrong about one thing, and it’s that you can’t coach it. Ironically, Allen would go on to become “the father of modern basketball coaching.”

After his coaching days were finished, Naismith continued to teach at the university before serving during World War I. In 1919, Naismith became involved with the university again until 1937. In 1939, Naismith passed away in Lawrence, Kansas.

James Naismith will always be a legend at Kansas, despite his record. His name is on the court.