Mayer: Buford helped get Self to Kansas — originally

After Larry Brown and Roy Williams left the Kansas University basketball coaching job, both expressed displeasure that KU didn’t offer the post to one of their assistants. It didn’t; Williams and, later, Bill Self were hired.

As for Larry, his key aides were Alvin Gentry, Ed Manning and R.C. Buford. Fact is, they may have wanted the job, but never formally applied before Bob Frederick settled on Carolina aide Williams.

It’s interesting that Buford, as a Brown aide, first suggested that Self be hired for tutelage under Larry. Self had worked at a summer camp here, and Bill and R.C. had Oklahoma State backgrounds. Self jumped at the chance to learn from Larry for a year; that figured in his being so eager to return to succeed Williams. Now Buford, general manager of the San Antonio Spurs for which Brown left Kansas, is being mentioned as a candidate for the KU athletic director post.

Would R.C. leave his job with the successful Spurs operation to shift back to Lawrence? Given the offer, he just might. Money is no problem, and his wife is the former Beth Boozer, onetime local golfing whiz with deep roots in the community. Her parents are Nancy and Warren Boozer, and the whole family has a strong athletic heritage.

Then when Williams said his Monday-afternoon farewell here in April and flew off to a Chapel Hill news conference, he commented that night he hoped KU would consider one of his aides, mainly Joe Holladay, as his successor. With Holladay and Steve Robinson, another assistant from Kansas, sitting right in the room?

It seems to me that whatever chance either had for the KU job was wiped out the minute they got on the plane with Roy and wife Wanda and soared east that day. Both guys, of course, became key men on Roy’s new staff at UNC.

(Anyone else picking up rumors that Roy might be second-guessing himself about leaving a great deal at Kansas to return and worship at the throne of His Deanness Smith? After all, Roy had Dick Harp, Ted Owens and Larry Brown to filter the icon image of Phog Allen, and Phog was dead when Roy took over. At Carolina, coach Smith still shows up at his Dean Dome office, and nobody thinks Williams is succeeding Bill Guthridge or Matt Doherty. Little different from Roy’s debut in Lawrence.)

  • I got warm and fuzzy the other night when Steve Kerr came off the bench and hit four vital three-pointers to spark San Antonio to that pro basketball win over Dallas. Steve had a fine career as an athlete and a scholar at Arizona, won three NBA title rings with Michael Jordan at Chicago, got a fourth one at San Antonio and soon could wind up with a fifth.

Steve had overcome serious knee problems to play for the 1988 ‘Zona team Oklahoma beat en route to losing to Kansas in the NCAA title game. But he’d had to clear an even tougher hurdle.

Steve was born in Lebanon. His dad wound up as president of Arizona U. and was on leave to Lebanon on an educational mission. He died in a terrorist attack while Steve was a Wildcat student, so unexpected, so quickly, so painfully for the family.

Now 37, the 6-foot-3, 180-pound Kerr long has been able to accept his job as a role player while staying prepared to deliver key plays. He has done it at Arizona, Chicago and San Antonio, and he’s a big reason I hope the Spurs capture another championship.

  • Amazing how the field of sports reaches into so many categories. Take entertainment immortals Big Crosby and Bob Hope. Bing’s gone, but Bob just turned 100 and got justifiable deification for his great career. I think those Crosby-Hope movies were among the funniest of all time; they’ve not deteriorated a bit.

As for their sports hookups, Crosby once was a part owner of baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates, owned horse races and did a great deal for the game of golf. Hope once was a boxer (Packy East), had part ownership of baseball’s Cleveland Indians and also did great things for golf.

As for his short boxing career, Hope said his manager was a sentimental guy who saved the teeth Bob got knocked out to string onto a necklace. Hope joked that he did a lot for the laundry business, keeping the machines busy providing towels for his manager to toss into the ring for surrender.

Hope did tremendous good in entertaining service people over the years, and I was lucky enough to see a great show. In early 1944 at the Santa Ana, Calif., Air Base, Hope, Bing Crosby, Frances Langford, Jerry Colonna and the Les Brown band performed before some 10,000 Air Corps cadets in an outdoor setting. They went for nearly three hours, with one encore after another until they were exhausted. Never saw a better live show.

  • We often hear about the legendary “game face” in sports. Nobody ever showed a better one than tennis star Serena Williams in her speedy 6-1, 6-2 dispatch of Amelie Mauresmo the past week. If you ever saw somebody determined to prevail, it was the ultra-intense Serena. She was boiling over the way the French Open audience has slighted sister Venus. Boy, was Serena into it, and she wasn’t playing some also-ran.

What a turnaround against Belgium’s Justine Henin-Hardenne. Serena never could get it going, and the French crowd really got on her case, as if it was venting frustrations about the tensions created by the Iraq War scenario.

Serena got quite emotional in a tough situation, and the pro-Belgian, anti-U.S. forces relished it. Surprise? Nope. Keep in mind that the French have always been there when they needed us.