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Archive for Sunday, March 9, 1997

WITH PHOG, BE AWARE OF LEFT HOOKS AND YEAST CAKES

March 9, 1997

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— The legendary Phog Allen coached KU basketball for 39 seasons and wrote a book that helped set a course for college basketball.

For Max Falkenstien, the Kansas Jayhawks' divine stoning Saturday of the Iowa State Cyclones rekindled memories of a man who wrote a bible for the game he loved.

Dr. Forrest "Phog" Allen, who holds the KU record for coaching victories, authored "My Basket-Ball Bible" in 1924.

Falkenstien, a Jayhawk broadcaster for half a century, said Allen's book put down in chapter and verse THE way for a team to overcome rivals.

"Phog was a perfectionist," he said.

On Saturday, it was as if the 1996-97 KU team executed a game plan from the Book of Allen.

KU defeated ISU 72-48 in the Big 12 Conference tournament semifinals at Kemper Arena. KU plays for the championship at noon today against the University of Missouri.

MU may need Allen's insight against the No. 1 team in the nation, which has revenge on its mind. KU's only loss this season was to the Tigers.

"Loosed souls -- afire, forgetting all but the sting of probable defeat," Allen wrote. "It is men like these -- inspired men, if you please -- that lead athletic squads to victory, just as truly as it was an inspired Joan d'Arc that led the people on the fields of France."

Ray Evans, who played for Allen in 1942-43 and 1946-47, said during halftime of the KU-ISU game that it was this kind of talk that inspired teams to greatness.

"He could get you fired up to the point you wanted to knock the door down," Evans said.

Much of Allen's advice, nearly 75 years old, rings true.

"Some ideas were a bit eccentric, but a lot of them were well founded," said Lawrence attorney Mick Allen, Phog's grandson.

The coach urged basketball teams to play as a unit, to look no further than the next game, to remain vigilant even when situations appeared grim.

Coach Allen was ahead of his time in terms of marketing basketball shoes. He pushed the Phog Allen Basketball Shoe well before collegiate coaches jumped on the bandwagon.

That's not to say the Allen shoe was worth lacing up.

"You should have seen the thing," Mick Allen said. "Each shoe weighed about 40 pounds. They're laughable!"

Coach Allen also suggested the soles of basketball shoes be washed with gasoline just before each game to open pores in the rubber. The idea, he wrote, was to give players the "proper foot purchase."

At the same time, he advocated staging three-minute boxing or wrestling bouts to entertain crowds at halftime.

"Next to basketball, he probably enjoyed prizefighting the most," Mick Allen said.

He said Coach Allen boxed as a teen-ager under an assumed name to keep knowledge of his bouts secret.

Elsewhere in his Bible, the coach recommended fieldhouse heating systems be turned off and all windows opened two hours prior to tipoff.

"I can relate to that," Mick Allen said. "When I was 12, I traveled with him on a speaking tour to Denver. We stayed in a hotel with a double bed and I slept with my granddad. I remember a cool breeze hitting my head. The windows were wide open. He was a fresh air fanatic."

The coach's reach extended to the dinner table. He insisted players eat three oranges a day, chew each bite 50 times and regularly consume yeast.

"He made them eat yeast cakes," Falkenstien said. "They're awful."

For a game in 1923, Coach Allen demonstrated his reverence for George Washington's birthday by dressing five players in blue uniforms, five players in red uniforms and five players in white uniforms. He substituted in units of five.

"Even if they got beat, they were patriotic," Mick Allen said.

While it's easy to chuckle at some of Coach Allen's inclinations, his grandson believes the man's contributions to basketball have stood the test of time. He should be remembered for focusing on the big picture.

He wrote: "The game and the sport that it brings is the thing worth while and not the winning -- especially at the sacrifice of one's sportsmanship."

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