Kansas whipped Kansas State 78-61 here in 1952 to tie for the Big Seven lead. KU then won the title outright, also clinching an NCAA berth, by downing Colorado 72-55 in a Boulder finale. The bad news was that the 6-5 Hougland, a KU mainstay from Beloit, received a deep bruise on his left thigh in the victory over K-State. Despite all the magic and elixirs of the fabled osteopath-coach Phog Allen, Hougland wasn't able to do much at Colorado.
With the NCAA tourney just around the corner, would KU have the veteran Hougland, who could score, rebound, defend and inspire? Not as much as was desired, despite all the efforts of Doc Allen. The treatments included the pioneering use of ultrasonic equipment that is commonplace nowadays, primitive then.
Hougland hobbled through the tournament victories over TCU, St. Louis and Santa Clara but he remained doubtful on the eve of KU's title showdown with St. John's in Seattle.
"That lump on my thigh got hard as a rock," Hougland said in a recent conversation. "With all the procedures and equipment these days, I might have been a lot better off. Doc and Dean Nesmith (famed KU athletic trainer) did everything they and various doctors could but I still was not doing well. Doc and Dean and all the rest of us tried to keep it low key in case opposing teams would try to whack me if they knew how bad it was. We couldn't talk much about it; we didn't want reporters dwelling on it and getting the opponents licking their chops.
"They (Allen and Nesmith) developed a special pad I wore to get me through but I'm afraid I didn't help much down the stretch. To this day, I have a knot on the front of my left thigh to remind me. It's a kind of souvenir. I hope Kirk (Hinrich) gets out of it better than that. Something like that can bother you a long time."
"The afternoon of the St. John's game, we all got frustrated and Doc threw up his hands and issued a challenge to me," added Bill. "Something like, 'I don't know what we can do, but we need you, really need you! Whatever it takes, you GOTTA GO tonight!"
If you're acquainted with the conscientious Bill Hougland, you know he's a guy you'd go to war with. Slap this competitor in the face with a demand like that from the Phogger, and what would you expect?
Hougland is too modest about his contributions for the championship game with St. John's. Ailing as he was, the determined Bill scored five points, bagged six rebounds and played his traditional fierce defense against the then- Redmen, now the politicially correct Red Storm. The only Jayhawk with more rebounds in the Big One was Clyde Lovellette with 17 (along with 33 points -- not a bad double-double even today).
That '52 team then beat Southwest Missouri and LaSalle and lost by two points to the AAU champions Peorie Caterpillars to earn seven berths on the U.S. Olympic team.
"Between the St. John's game and the Southwest Missouri game, I healed up enough that I didn't have many more problems. Then by the Olympics, I had the same knot I do now but no more hindrance," said Hougland.
Bill left school for Air Force duty, then joined Phillips Petroleum where his stellar AAU play won him a 1956 Olympic berth with the likes of San Francisco's Bill Russell and K.C. Jones. Hougland played basketball until 1958, then later left Phillips for Koch Industries.
"Won't be long before it's time for a 50th reunion of that '52 group," said Bill. Those guys are now in the age 70 range. "Boy, has it been 50 years? Only five of those Olympians are left. Dean Kelley and John Keller have died. Clyde, Bill Lienhard, Charlie Hoag, Bob Kenney and I are still around."
Something I'd forgotten was how often the names of the '52 KU starters got misprinted and mispronounced by the media. Lovellette, of course, was a prime example. But Hougland has seen his name printed as "Houghland, Hoglund, Hoagland, and others." Lienhard has been "Leinhard, Linehard, Lenhard, etc." Even Bob Kenney and Dean Kelley have been shortchanged because of the "ey" instead of traditional "y". But such world-class roses by any name would smell just as sweet. Same with Hinrich, who's also had numerous foulups, like "Heinrich."
Back to the incomparable Cumulus Clyde. Even KU athletics director Ernie Quigley stumbled. Phog used to advise media guys to think of then-famous Sen. Bob La Follette (Luh-FOLL-ut) and say Luh-VELL-ut. Quigley, never exactly a wordsmith, took a lot of correcting before he stopped referring to to Clyde as "Luh-VOLL-ut." And Ernie wasn't dyslexic.
At any rate, let's hope Kirk Hinrich's thigh knot is gone by next season. He could become good enough to spark the Jayhawks to another national title like the one Hougland helped produce, misspellings and all.