When a list of basketball coaching proteges of Kansas’ Phog Allen is recited, you’re quick to hear the names of Adoph Rupp (Kentucky), Dean Smith (North Carolina), Ralph Miller (Iowa-Oregon State), Dutch Lonborg (Northwestern) and Dick Harp (Kansas).
Yet two of Doc’s most accomplished students can get lost in the shuffle — Frosty Cox (Colorado-Montana) and John Bunn (Stanford, Springfield, Colorado State). That’s too bad.
Bunn became a key contributor to basketball after playing 1918-20 under Phog at Kansas and serving as his assistant from 1921-30. John took over at Stanford in 1930 and coached the immortal Hank Luisetti, whose unique one-handed shot was developed into probably the best offensive weapon in the game’s history. After Stanford, Bunn coached at Springfield College and Colorado State.
Bunn was chairman of the Basketball Hall of Fame 1949-63 and in ’64 was inducted into the hall of fame as a major contributor. Wrote six books. The hall annually presents an award in his name.
As Springfield coach, Bunn brought a team here in 1950 and startled spectators with his unique game uniform — the same warmups as his team. Still, it wasn’t as goofy as the policy of Penn football coach George Munger, who prowled the Quaker sideline in full grid regalia, shoulder pads and all.
Forrest “Frosty” Cox starred here 1929-31 and earned a captaincy while earning All-Big Six and All-America honors in ’30 and ’31. Frosty was a hard-nosed coach whose physical defensive philosophy was “a basket saved is a basket earned.” He headed the Colorado University program from 1936-50 and guided his teams to a 7-4 advantage over the Jayhawks of mentor Phog Allen.
Cox’s record at CU was 147-89, darn good for a period when few considered basketball of much merit in the mountains. He won four league titles and got the Buffaloes into three NCAA Tournaments. One of his stars in the late 1930s was Whizzer White, also a Heisman Trophy football player of note who became a mainstay on the U.S. Supreme Court. During Cox’s reign, Jack Harvey became the first Buff ever to be named All-America.
Bear in mind that the NCAA Tournament hadn’t even been born when Cox led his CU team to the 1938 finals of the National Invitation Tournament, which ruled the collegiate roost at the time. The dating in the Buffs’ 1940 season is surprising because the NCAA was up and running, and Kansas reached the finals against Indiana. Yet two tourneys for CU.
On March 15, 1940, Cox’s Coloradoans walloped Duquesne to win the coveted NIT title. You could go both ways, and CU was invited to the NCAA Tournament. CU lost to mighty Southern Cal in Kansas City while Kansas was disposing of Rice. Next round, KU upset USC and later fell to Indiana in the ’40 title game.
Bad news for Phog, good news for Frosty in their first NCAA showdown in 1942. CU edged KU, 46-44. Champion Stanford then beat Colorado, 46-35, en route to the collegiate title.
Cox left CU for Montana after the 1950 season, and Bebe Lee and Sox Walseth followed as coaches.
But again, what a fabulous heritage KU can boast. Bunn tutored Luisetti, Frosty Cox coached Whizzer White, had countless successes, and both got their college tutelage under Phog at Kansas.
Kentucky and Carolina, eat your hearts out! Who dat school gonna top KU!