By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
Declaring yourself a capital city does not come without much thought and consideration. And meetings. Yes, there must be meetings.
John McCarthy thought about it, considered it, called meetings and yes, came the conclusion, Kansas City could be — no, deserved to be — called the college basketball capital of America.
“Hey, it’s a great attention getter and we want it to be great publicity for Kansas City,” said McCarthy, the NAIA tournament director and bundle of energy driving the idea.
Besides, nobody else stepped up to clam it or designed a logo.
Kansas City did both. The skyline in a basketball.
What better time to let the hoops nation know a center of gravity has been claimed than today, as some of the nation’s best teams and many of the game’s great historical figures gather for the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame induction celebration.
Basketball legends like Jerry West and David Thompson, college heroes Christian Laettner and Sidney Wicks, coaching greats Tex Winter and Davey Whitney and behind-the-scenes stalwarts Tom Jernstedt and Wayne Duke will be honored.
On Monday and Tuesday, one of the nation’s best early-season tournaments tips off at the Sprint Center with top-ranked Duke, No. 3 Kansas State, No. 11 Gonzaga and Marquette on the CBE Classic card.
Undoubtedly, the eyes of college hoops nation will blaze on Kansas City for a few days. But is that enough to hold up the city as the sports’ focal point over, say, Indianapolis, Louisville, Ky., or the North Carolina triangle?
This is the sound of Indianapolis clearing its throat.
“I just wrote a column the other day comparing Indianapolis to Louisville as basketball cities,” said Bill Benner, senior associate commissioner of the Horizon League and former Indianapolis Star columnist. “I didn’t include Kansas City.”
Benner was OK with Kansas City calling itself the college hoops capital because he thinks of Indianapolis as having “a more global view about it. We’re in the Final Four rotation, we’ve had the NBA Finals, our high school tradition, I’d say we’re the capital of all of basketball.”
Yeah, but we have a logo and a plan.
McCarthy’s group, formally known as the Kansas City Collegiate Basketball Association, has met four times in the past two months and came up the several branding ideas like creating a basketball season kickoff event, selling games in Kansas City as a season ticket, marketing through billboards and social media.
Those attending the CBE Classic are likely to hear the same introduction announced at UMKC games: “Welcome to Kansas City, the college basketball capital of America!”
But are we, really?
When it comes strictly to the college game our present isn’t too shabby and nobody touches our history.
“We’re talking about what’s here now and the historical pieces,” McCarthy said.
At the moment, Kansas City is an epicenter of three teams currently ranked among the top 15 in Kansas State, Kansas and Missouri. They all play regularly in Kansas City, which is home to Division I UMKC.
The Big 12 men’s and women’s tournaments as well as the NAIA and MIAA tournaments are fixtures. The sport’s hall of fame is here, as is the national headquarters for the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
Then there’s the historical part that McCarthy has some familiarity with, but he had no idea how deeply college roots are planted when he arrived from Ohio in 2007. He had been a sports consultant, created a sports travel business and had been the athletic director at Lynn University in Florida.
It didn’t give him much opportunity to know that Kansas City has been home to more Final Fours, regional finals and NCAA Tournament games than any other city. Or know this is where the greatest championship player and coach — Bill Russell and John Wooden — won their first titles.
And that both of them, along with Dean Smith and Oscar Robertson, were honored in Kansas City during the inaugural Hall of Fame ceremony in 2006.
“It really is incredible the contributions of Kansas City,” McCarthy said.
There’s much more. The Big Eight Holiday Tournament started just after World War II, the NAIA Tournament debuted in 1937, the Olympic playoff series of 1936, the National AAU Tournaments of the 1920s and 1930s, even the 1905 series between the Kansas City Athletic Club and Buffalo Germans dubbed “The World Championship of Basketball” all helped mold Kansas City in a hoop destination.
Catalysts that promoted hoops in the region were the game’s inventor James Naismith, who arrived to teach physical education at Kansas in 1898 and spent much time refereeing games throughout the area; Phog Allen, who marketed then starred in the big KCAC event and later became a KU star and legendary coach; Municipal Auditorium, opened in 1936 and gave the NAIA and NCAA tournaments a showcase palace; and the downtown offices of the NCAA and Big Eight, which meant some of college sports’ most influential people called Kansas City home.
When the NABC got behind the formation of the Hall of Fame, then-Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson put it like this, “Every school, every conference has a home base, but what’s college basketball’s home base? It’s Kansas City.”
•WHEN: 6-9:45 tonight
•WHERE: Reception at College Basketball Experience followed by induction at 8 p.m. at the Midland by AMC
AT SPRINT CENTER
•No. 1 Duke vs. Marquette, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
•No. 3 Kansas State vs. No. 11 Gonzaga, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
•Consolation, 6:45 p.m. (ESPNU)
•Championship, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/2010/11/20/2456402/kansas-city-makes-its-claim-as.html#ixzz15ttVPF6S