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Archive for Saturday, November 4, 2006

Mayer: Reesing key to ‘06 finish

November 4, 2006

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Coach Mark Mangino droned on about the need to keep "sawin' wood" and finally he discovered a chainsaw. Named Todd Reesing. Turns out Sparky was in the Kansas football tool shed all the time. Just pray Reesing can stay healthy and gets enough help to create more victorious sawdust.

It's like that rookie lumberjack who got a job cutting down trees but kept falling far short of his quota. One day the foreman grabbed his saw, yanked the starter cord and the stunned, low-production neophyte exclaimed: "What's that noise?!!" Ring a bell, Mark?

Kansas today encounters an Iowa State team that once had terrific potential but now is badly crippled. If Reesing and Co. can't empower their deforestation crew to hack out a rare win on the road, this season could implode. Exhibition season is over, time to get serious.

Kansas finally yanked the starter cord and prevailed in the fourth quarter against Colorado. People babble about how "short" Reesing is, at 5-foot-10. People know about 5-9 Doug Flutie; remember 5-7 Eddie LeBaron, 5-10 Fran Tarkenton, 5-10 Jerry Rhome?

KU's greatest all-time rally (26 points) happened at Ames in '92. The Jayhawks fell behind ISU, 47-21, before exploding to win, 50-47. KU trailed Colorado 21-0 here in 1950 but manufactured a 27-21 stunner. Kansas trailed Loyola, Calif., 20-0 here in '51 before surging to a 34-26 triumph. Quarterback of that Loyola team was Don Klosterman, who in '61 signed Kansas All-American John Hadl to a San Diego contract.

Whether Kansas wins early or late at Ames, it has to finish on top to give any major significance to the Kansas State and Missouri meetings. If the Jayhawks are 4-6 facing that gut-check tandem, you probably can forget a 6-6 finish.

The beauty is that Reesing is just gutsy and talented enough to orchestrate, manipulate and perambulate his team to a 3-0 finish - providing he remains hale and hearty and gets wise, inventive guidance from the KU brain trust. The players now believe they can beat anybody, anywhere, and that Reesing can lead them. As Bud Wilkinson often said, "It's not important if the quarterback calls the perfect play as long as his teammates think it is."

Reesing's that kind of spark.

l The late Red Auerbach is one of basketball's immortals but was always quick to declare the greatest contribution to his success was hall-of-famer Bill Russell. Sure, Auerbach won nine pro ball titles, but consider who was the triggerman for that feat.

Russell led San Francisco to the 1955 and '56 NCAA titles and starred as a '56 Olympian with Kansas's Bill Hougland as a roommate. Russell then hubbed 11 Boston Celtic title teams in a 13-year span (1957-69) and was the head coach-player for two of those 11. Auerbach grabbed Russ for the Celts, had the flawless judgment to surround him with brilliant support; there'll never be another pro or college sports dynasty that impressive. Red also had the good sense to nab Jo Jo White out of Kansas. Red knew how to win and could assemble the talent to do so.

Russell was the aorta of it all. Oklahoma A & M's 7-foot Bob Kurland and DePaul's George Mikan in the 1940s and Frisco's Russell and Kansas's Wilt Chamberlain in the 1950s did as much to set the tone for college basketball as anyone.

But none of them has ever matched the career title feats of Bill Russell.

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