Archive for Tuesday, August 15, 2000

KC Knights tap ex-Jayhawk Pritchard as next coach

August 15, 2000


Kevin Pritchard is back in basketball.

"Basketball is in my blood and always will be," said Pritchard, a former Kansas University, NBA and European league point guard/shooting guard, who on Monday was named head coach of the ABA's Kansas City Knights.

He'd been out of basketball the past three years, most recently working as portfolio manager for Trust Company of Kansas.

"I loved the business world, but when it's in your blood it's in your blood," Pritchard said of hoops. "There were many times last season I wanted to be out there and helping kids and I was not part of it. I am invigorated and ready to tackle this project."

Pritchard, 33, first was approached about playing for the Knights by ex-Jayhawk Paul Mokeski, who was fired as KC coach on July 27 after it was revealed he'd been charged with DUI and possession of cocaine in a June 9 incident in Wisconsin.

Knights management recently contacted Pritchard about coaching and playing or a combination of the two. He jumped at the coaching/player personnel director offer, deciding not to lace his basketball shoes again.

"The subject was broached we did talk about it," Pritchard said of playing. "I think I'd be too hard on myself. I'd be yelling at me all the time. So many things are going on I want to give my full attention to coaching. My experience about the profession is so positive playing for coach (Roy) Williams and (Larry) Brown."

Pritchard played two years at KU for Brown (87-88) and two for Williams (89-90). He started on KU's 1988 national championship team.

"Kevin will make a phenomenal coach because he has always accepted challenges and met them head on," Williams said. "He'll do the same with this challenge with the Knights.

"My guess is his coaching career will mirror his playing career in that he was an achiever as a player and will be an achiever as a coach."

Said Brown, "Kevin will be a good basketball coach because no one will out-work him. I was hard on him as a player and he responded in a positive way. I'm sure he'll respond the same way as a coach."

The Knights will play a 60-game schedule home and away in the new 11-team league that may resemble the old ABA, which merged with the NBA in 1977.

"I am just old enough to understand it and remember it," Pritchard said of the original ABA. "It's the league of Dr. J. and Larry Brown. It has a rich tradition. A lot of people don't realize when the NBA and ABA merged there were more ABA all-stars than NBA in the all-star game that first year."

Pritchard is confident the new league will succeed. He has been signed for more than one year (terms and length of the deal were not disclosed), accepting the job after declining other coaching positions in the past.

"None were right," Pritchard said. "One thing I've been conscious of ... my family traveled with me seven years professionally. I told 'em I'd do all I could to stay in this area."

Kevin and wife Shea have a son K.J. (6) and daughter Kendall, 3. They reside in Lawrence.

He planned a late night in the office Monday with the 12-round ABA Draft set for tonight. Teams will draft six rookies and six free agents to stock rosters for the season which begins in mid-November and runs until mid-April.

"I have 500 pieces of paper in front of me with 1,000 player names," Pritchard said. "We have a lot of players to choose from. It shows me there's a lot of interest in this league."

Pritchard has chosen former Kansas City King Reggie King as his assistant coach.

Pritchard on a variety of topics.

On his son, K.J.'s interest in basketball: "It's his decision if he wants to play basketball. He's always wanting to play in our backyard. Sure I'm excited, thrilled to death about him seeing how important basketball is to me and sharing things. My family is the most important thing to me."

Who will Pritchard emulate the most? Brown or Williams?: "The way I answer it is coach Brown had some great qualities and teachings; coach Williams unbelievable teachings and great qualities. I will pick what I feel is best from both of them. I played under Don Nelson (Golden State) who was innovative offensively.

"I'm a big fan of the secondary break which is coach Williams'. Coach Brown defensively was one of the great teachers. I will be picky and choose the best from all of them."

Pritchard on ex-Jayhawk Mokeski: "Paul is a good friend of mine. Absolutely it's a shock it did happen. He is a good guy, he truly is a good guy. I feel terrible for him."

On living in Lawrence and commuting to work: "I think Lawrence is almost a suburb of Kansas City now the way everything is growing. I'm looking forward to being part of the Kansas City sports scene and getting out in the community. I am comfortable here. I feel we're growing together."

On the league's future: "If it isn't going to happen, I'd be shocked. We have a league personnel director that's who has sent out all the stuff on the draft. He did a marvelous job. A lot of people have put in a lot of time, effort, money, contacts and networking to make it work."

On his style of play: "We'll play an exciting brand of ball, up and down very athletic."

On his last trip to Kemper Arena, home of the Knights: "I think it probably was my senior year for the Big Eight Tournament. I don't think I've been back since then."

Knight's GM Tom Cheatham on the hiring of Pritchard: Kevin is smart, aggressive and confident. He has a great basketball mind, having been exposed to some of the best teaching a player could have, both in college and the NBA. We feel he has the ability and drive to make our team competitive in the ABA. He also possesses the character and charisma to Kansas City sports fans proud of their pro basketball franchise's head coach."

Another Late Night visitor: A third Californian is ticketed to attend Late Night With Roy Williams on Oct. 13 at Allen Fieldhouse. Jamal Sampson, 6-11 from Santa Ana, Calif., told Doug Carr of Cat Tracks his prep teammate, 6-4 point guard Cedric Bozeman, also will attend.

Earlier, Josh Childress, 6-5 of Lakewood, Calif., said he'd attend Late Night. All three are buddies and told Carr they have talked about attending KU together as "a package deal." Bozeman, who committed to UCLA last year then removed the commitment, likes KU, Florida and UCLA and UConn. Childress is down to KU, Arizona, Stanford, UCLA and North Carolina. Sampson's main three schools are KU, Connecticut and Kentucky.

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