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Archive for Sunday, April 11, 1999

BILL MAYER COLUMN

April 11, 1999

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The Kansas University athletics family has been richly blessed by a number of wonderful people who so productively have woven themselves into the fabric over a long period of time.

You think immediately of the Phog Allens and Don Fambroughs, but you need also to drop into the mix the likes of retired coach-administrator Floyd Temple and football office icons Marge Hazlett and Carole Hadl.

And, for sure, Jerry Waugh, who at age 72 will retire from the staff as women's golf coach after this spring. Things never again are quite the same when people of this stature, ability, good humor and commitment depart. They leave high standards.

There are the come-and-go's who exert their efforts but don't stay around for various reasons. Then there are the mainstays, not always high-profilers, who give the whole recipe the substance it must have to be nutritive and palatable.

Waugh, once a Wellington High all-sports star, has never been one to seek the spotlight even though he deservedly has been in its focus as an athlete, coach, administrator, Kansas golf hall of fame personality and good citizen.

He enrolled at KU in the spring of 1947 after serving as an Army paratrooper. He was a brilliant basketball guard and captain of the 1950-51 club. Jerry could shoot the ball and score. Coach Phog Allen cast him in the role as a banner defender and quarterback who distributed to other threats like Clyde Lovellette, Bob Kenney, Bill Lienhard and Bill Hougland. Jerry (1948-51) missed an NCAA title ring by one year.

Unselfish. That was his unofficial middle name. He was formally chronicled by Phog as "The Sheriff," because of stifling defense that arrested so many touted foes. Typical Jerry "unselfish" story: He and Lovellette appeared on a radio quiz show during a trip back East and each got $50, big money then. Jerry quickly shared his loot with teammates; Clyde was inclined, until Phog intervened, to pocket his take. That led Allen to snort, "Big turkey, trying to gobble up all the grain!" Phog's "Big Turkey" label also stuck.

Waugh coached basketball at Emporia High (1951-54), Lawrence High (1954-56), then was head assistant to Kansas' Dick Harp from 1956-60. Jerry often was called on to "handle" superstar Wilt Chamberlain, and they built fabulous respect for each other. When Wilt was inducted into the Kansas All-Sports Hall of Fame, Jerry represented The Big Dipper when he couldn't make it.

The witty Waugh was, and is, never at a loss for a good quote. After hearing that Wilt in one of his books claimed 20,000 sexual conquests, Jerry deadpanned, "I guess that explains why he was late to some practices." Waugh says Wilt was more team-conscious than some believe but that Uncle Dippy had a periodic tendency to be "politely disobedient." Did he ever!

But many old wounds were healed when Wilt came back for his jersey dedication last year. Jerry has a special way of teaching, ameliorating and leading people, and any athletic staff risks losing some substance when such loyal guys are gone. He represents KU so very well and is a classy dresser, too.

Jerry and first wife Ada (Hatfield, Valley Falls) had a son and two daughters. Ada died in 1980 after a brutal bout with cancer. Then Waugh wed Dolores, who has four children. Any guy fortunate enough to have two wives as wondrous as Ada and Dolores must have at least one angel on his shoulder. You badly need a program to keep track of the seven Jerry-Dolores kids and 17 grandkids when they try to dovetail their various holiday activities.

Jerry was a coach and administrator at high schools in Arizona in the 1960s and early 1970s and was head cage coach at Chico (Calif.) State and San Francisco State for a pair of two-year stints. He's been the men's and women's golf coach at KU and has held several administrative posts in the department.

He worked in Bob Billings' Alvamar empire for a while and has been one of the best-known golf figures in the area for a long time. He's deeply grateful for the many roles he been allowed to play at KU.

How good a teacher is he? Any time I played golf with the guy, I wound up at least five strokes better than normal because of his calm, friendly and penetrating advice. Almost broke 100 once with him as a tutor, so you know he's gotta be good. I'm normally a 110-and-up links butcher. No wonder Roy Williams relishes his company. Jerry's candid basketball acumen isn't too shabby, either.

Some coaches can be tough, others tender; some wander around on the misty flats and never quite come across. With his compassion, intelligence, humor and ability to inject lilt into life, Waugh has been one of the dead-solid mainstays of the KU athletics program over a 50-year period. KU employees looking for a role model with warmth, humor, perspective and excellence would do well to emulate Jerry.

If I had a son or grandson with athletic talent, I'd love to have him play with the guidance of fellows like Jerry Waugh, Roy Williams and Dean Smith. Ahead of a John Wooden, even. Heck, I'd love to play for those guys.

Yet if Roy thinks his hair has grayed because of the Greg Ostertags and Nick Bradfords and Jerry thinks his coiffure has been thinned by coaching demands, imagine what a clod like I could do for (to) them.

-- Bill Mayer's phone number is 832-7185. His e-mail address is bmayer@ljworld.com.

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