KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In the minutes after Kansas’ 91-63 victory over Texas Tech on Thursday afternoon, Kansas coach Bill Self faced a minor dilemma.
His team had played well, shooting a scorching 66 percent from the field. They had achieved this while wearing shorts that could have been mistaken for any number of garish clothing items. Pick your pop-culture reference: 1990s Zubaz pants, maybe something from M.C. Hammer’s closet (C’mon Jayhawks, don’t hurt ’em!), maybe even a summer swimsuit.
“They feel like swimming trunks,” KU senior Elijah Johnson said.
This was the moment when pragmatism met superstition. Self, ever protective of his program’s tradition, had agreed to let Adidas outfit his players with these specialized camo uniforms for at least one Big 12 Tournament game at the Sprint Center. The Jayhawks have a licensing contract with Adidas, and other schools, including UCLA and Notre Dame, were in on the gambit as well. Self called it being a team player.
But, no, Self did not like the uniforms. And now he was wondering if KU should wear them again against Iowa State. Hey, his team had shot 66 percent.
“I don’t like them at all, but we shot good in them,” Self said. “I’ll ask our guys what they think, but I have no idea.”
In an otherwise quiet blowout, the Jayhawks made history of another sort of Thursday. This had nothing to do with Naismith or Chamberlain, Manning or Pierce. Instead, the Jayhawks joined the annals of suspect uniforms, and there wasn’t much debating that. Uniform style, of course, is open to interpretation. But Kansas’ camo uniforms could certainly hold their own against an infamous list that includes the 1970s Houston Astros, the U.S. men’s soccer team in the 1994 World Cup, and really anything from the ill-fated XFL.
Not that there wasn’t room for debate.
“A lot of people think that,” Johnson said, sticking up for the new duds. “I feel like ours actually look a little different. I don’t know if it’s our (colors), or if grey goes with red and blue better, but it doesn’t look that bad to me.”
By the end of the day, there was some question whether the jerseys were even the worst Kansas had worn this year. The Jayhawks wore all-blue road jerseys at West Virginia, inspiring similar cynicism. And if not those, the Jayhawks once wore beak-yellow jerseys in a game at Western Carolina in 1988. Kansas struggled that day, and coach Larry Brown made sure they were buried in the Jayhawks’ equipment closet forever.
“Larry was so (ticked) at the way they played,” longtime KU broadcaster Bob Davis said, “that I don’t think (the uniforms) ever saw the light again.”
It’s safe to say that, if Kansas had struggled on Thursday against Texas Tech, Self would have probably felt the same way. But inside the locker room, there was only tepid disapproval.
“It’s cool to wear something different,” walk-on Christian Garrett said, “But it was kind of mixed.… We didn’t know what it’s gonna look like. But we actually liked them overall. I know there’s a lot of mixed emotions from the KU faithful.”
Late in the afternoon, Self was asked again if he’d want to wear the uniforms again. It was a not-so-serious question, and probably called for a not-so-serious answer. But Self has a few of Brown’s traits, one of those being minor hints of superstition.
So for a moment, Self hedged. No, he did not like the jerseys. But he did not have to make up his mind right then.
“They’re gonna do laundry no matter what,” Self said. “… so I got a couple hours.”
Here he goes again — Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt has another coaching decision to make. It seems that’s all Hocutt, a former Kansas State linebacker, has been doing since becoming Tech’s A.D. in 2011.
In his first month, Hocutt hired Billy Gillispie to succeed Pat Knight as men’s basketball coach. Before this season, Hocutt fired Gillispie after revelations of player mistreatment and elevated assistant Chris Walker to interim coach. In between, Hocutt hired Kliff Kingsbury to replace Tommy Tuberville as football coach.
Tech wrapped up its basketball season Thursday with a 91-63 loss to Kansas in the Big 12 quarterfinals.
Hocutt said he wants to move soon on the decision to retain Walker as coach or go outside for a hire.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for the right person,” Hocutt said.
Tech to A&M: Let’s play — Texas Tech wants to renew a scheduling relationship with former Big 12 member Texas A&M.
“We would welcome the opportunity to play Texas A&M in every sport,” Hocutt said.
A&M played Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl and in the All-College Classic in men’s basketball this year. Those were the only football and men’s basketball games between the Big 12 and former league members A&M and Missouri, now in the SEC.
Long time coming — Iowa State is the final Big 12 team to win in the Sprint Center, not including first-year members West Virginia or TCU, which lost their debuts on Wednesday. Iowa State hadn’t won in the Big 12 tournament since a 2005 game at Kemper Arena and hasn’t reached the semifinals or finals since winning the event in 2000.
“This is for our fans,” Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg said. “They make the long trip here every year. I’m glad we could win for them.”
Next for Texas? — For the first time in 15 seasons under Rick Barnes, Texas will not play in the NCAA Tournament. That means next week will be an unusual experience for the Longhorns.
“I’ve never taken it for granted,” Barnes said. “Am I disappointed? I’m disappointed. But we are who we are. We weren’t good enough. We weren’t good enough to make the NCAA Tournament this year.”
But the season might not be over. The Longhorns are reportedly interested in playing in the College Basketball Invitational, which invites teams left out of both the NCAA Tournament and the NIT. If Texas plays in the CBI, it will be the first Big 12 team to play in a postseason tournament other than the NCAA Tournament and NIT.
The Eagle’s Rustin Dodd and Kellis Robinett and the Star’s Blair Kerkhoff contributed to this report.