DR. FORREST C. "PHOG" ALLEN,
1908-1909 and 1920-1956
KU Record: 590-219, .729, 39 Seasons
Link to Basketball Hall of Fame
|ARTICLES ABOUT DR. ALLEN|
PHOG ALLEN (Player 1905-07, Coach 1908 to 1909, and 1920-1956)
“The game and the sport that it brings is the thing that
makes it all worthwhile, not the winning.” – Phog Allen
Dr. Forrest Clare “Phog” Allen is widely recognized as the ‘Father of Basketball Coaching’, and his legacy is forever etched into Kansas basketball history.
His nickname was originally Foghorn, stemming from his days when he umpired baseball games and bellowed his decisions. A sportswriter named Ward (Pinhead) Coble shortened and fancified it to Phog. Actually, his players and most people around the KU campus called him Doc although his grandchildren called him Phoggy.
Phog was born in 1885 in Jamesport, Missouri, the fourth of six boys in the Allen family. He grew up in Independence, and lived on the same street as future President Harry S. Truman. It was there that he learned and exhibited the athletic and organizational skills that garnered him so much success in later years.
When basketball was only ten years old, he and his brothers formed the Allen Brothers Basketball team and played all comers. Basketball was only 10 years old, and the early rules of basketball specified that one member of the team should toss all the free throws. Phog performed that duty for the Allen boys, and he was very good at it. It was reported that their father, William Allen, had to buy so many shoes for his athletic sons that he gained the nickname ‘Shoe’.
In 1905 he joined the Kansas City Athletic Club, nicknamed the Blue Diamonds and became their star forward, free thrower and manager. Phog came up with a plan to invite the Buffalo Germans, named by the AAU as the mythical national champion in 1904, to play the Blue Diamonds, a game he billed as the ‘World’s Championship of Basketball’. He rented the enormous Convention Hall for the match, which was to be the best of three games. The Germans won the first game, refereed by a Buffalo substitute. The second game was won by the KCAC, which was refereed by a Kansas City local. The Germans suggestion of James Naismith as the referee for the third game was accepted by the KCAC and Phog sank 17 free throws to lead the KCAC to a 45 to 14 victory in front of 4,000 fans.
Boxing was his second favorite sport. Mick Allen said his grandfather boxed as a teen-ager under an assumed name to keep knowledge of his bouts secret.
Going to College
Phog began as a student at the University of Kansas in 1904, where he lettered in basketball under Dr. James Naismith’s coaching. He also played baseball, lettering two years.
During his college tenure, he married Bessie E. Milton and started a family that eventually consisted of two sons and two daughters.
He succeeded Naismith as KU's second coach in his senior year in 1907-08 at KU, where he led the Jayhawks to an 18-4 record. The next year he also coached at two nearby schools, Baker University and Haskell Indian Institute. Kansas was 25-3 that season, Baker 22-2, and Haskell 27-5 for a combined record of 74 wins and 10 losses.
When Allen was first thinking about making a career of coaching he talked with Naismith and was told, "You don't coach basketball, Forrest; you play it." "Well," Allen replied, "you can coach them to pass at angles and run in curves." Despite the bit of advice, Allen went ahead with his career and disproved Naismith.
Becoming a physician
After coaching KU for two years, Allen took a hiatus for three years to study osteopathic medicine at the Kansas College of Osteopathy, gaining the skill he became famous for in the treatment of athletic injuries.
He returned to coaching in 1912, to coach all sports at Warrensburg Teachers College (now Central Missouri State), from 1912-13 through the 1919 season. His basketball teams won championships all seven seasons, with an astounding record of 102-7.
Back to Mt. Oread
Allen left Warrensburg to become Kansas’ Athletic Director in 1919 as well as football coach. He only coached football for a single season where he had a record of 5-2. After the first basketball game of the season, KU coach Karl Schlademan left the job to concentrate on his duties as track coach, so Phog took over the team. After a couple of mediocre seasons in 1920 and ‘21, the team jelled and the Helms Foundation named his 1922 and 1923 squads national champions. His 1924 book, "My Basket-Ball Bible," helped set a course for college basketball. During the next four seasons, his teams compiled a 64-8 record and won four league championships.
When the dribble was abolished in basketball in 1927, Allen became so angry that he quickly formed a meeting of coaches in Des Moines, Iowa, after the Drake Relays. He spread so much dissention toward the new rule that it was overturned, and the dribble was back in the games. From that protest, the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) was formed and Allen served as its first president.
In the fifteen seasons from 1930 through 1943, the Jayhawks captured the conference crown eleven times, during which they became the NCAA national runner-up in 1940. While Phog’s technical competence was extraordinary, his greatest asset was his ability to motivate players and establish a winning attitude. “Somehow he convinced you that when you played for Kansas you were supposed to win”, recalled Ted O’Leary, former player and later journalist at Sports Illustrated. “He was a very enthusiastic, positive man, and he made you share his enthusiasm.” Ray Evans said "He could get you fired up to the point you wanted to knock the door down."
Above his office desk hung a portrait of the late Dr. Naismith, inscribed in 1936: “With kindest regards to Dr. Forrest C. Allen, the father of basketball coaching, from the father of the game.”
Allen coached two of his sons, Mit, who won letters in 1934-36 and went on to law school and Bob, who lettered in 1939-41, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa and went on to medical school. He became, in time, the progenitor of a long line of prominent coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Adolph Rupp at Kentucky, Dutch Lonborg at Northwestern, Dean Smith at North Carolina, Frosty Cox at Colorado, and Ralph Miller a Wichita State, Iowa and Oregon State.
He was the driving force behind basketball becoming accepted as an official sport in the Olympics in 1936, and later became an assistant coach on the 1952 Olympic team. He was also instrumental in the creation of the NCAA tournament established in 1939. In January 1943, the Helms Foundation named Allen as “the greatest basketball coach of all time”, based on their survey of coaches and basketball authorities across the country.
During the war, Doc Allen began his "Jayhawk Rebounds," a series of 18 newsletters communicating with his players and close friends in the armed forces. Allen, who also served and headed the Douglas County Draft Board, wrote to the guys about everything, reprinted some of their replies and compiled an ever-growing list of addresses so they could reach each other.
He was a colorful figure on the University of Kansas campus, coaching all sports and becoming widely known for his osteopathic manipulation techniques for ailing athletes. Dr. Allen was a legend in the field of treatment of athletic injuries and included a long list of high-profile performers, especially baseball players such as the likes of Mickey Mantle, Grover Cleveland Alexander and Johnny Mize.
Although there were some relatively down years after WWII, Allen did an excellent job of recruiting in the late 40’s, building a team led by All-American Clyde Lovellette that culminated in winning the national championship in 1952. After the NCAA title game, which the Jayhawks won, 80-63, over St. John’s, Phog wrote a letter to his players, saying: “It’s been great fun. But twenty-five or thirty years from now you boys will radiate and multiply the recollections of your struggles and your successes and your defeats and your dejections. All these will be rolled into a fine philosophy of life which will give you durable satisfactions down through the years.”
Allen long campaigned loudly to increase the height of the basket to 12 feet. “The tall men are killing the passing, the dribbling, the teamwork that makes basketball exciting.” “If we raised the goals” he said in 1940, “these mezzanine-peeping goons wouldn’t be able to score like little children pushing pennies into gum machines. They would have to throw the ball like anyone else. They would have to make the team on real skill, not merely on height.” However, after recruiting Wilt Chamberlain, he said with a quiet smile: “Twelve-foot baskets? What are you talking about? I’ve developed amnesia.”
Allen Fieldhouse, opened in March 1, 1955, was named for him, and is still the home court for KU basketball. A mandatory retirement age of 70 forced him from the bench against his wishes after the 1956 season. He said with some bitterness he had reached the state of “statutory senility”. Nonetheless, he then established a successful private osteopathic practice and many he treated contended he had a "magic touch" for such ailments as bad backs, knees and ankles.
He coached college basketball for 49 seasons and compiled a 771-223 record, retiring with the all-time best coaching record in collegiate basketball history.
The fruits of his efforts are forever etched into Kansas basketball history. In 39 seasons at KU, Allen won an amazing 590 games, a winning percentage of 73%, including three national championships and 24 conference championships.
He was named National Coach of the Year in 1950 and was a charter inductee to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959. He was also inducted into the University of Kansas Athletic Hall of Fame and the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
Phog died on September 16, 1974 at the age of 88 and is buried in Lawrence Oak Hill Cemetery, not far from the grave of Dr. Naismith.
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Painting of doc Allen in the University of Kansas byTed Watts
My father-in-law, Frank (Hank) Burrow, late of Topeka, had this April 23, 1955 letter from Mrs. Phog Allen in his files:
Tell me, could they have been more precious for all of you who were young there? In my heart, none of you boys have ever grown older than you were then. I doubt if you ever will.
Hank, I thought I heard you cheering when they made me
queen for the night. Weren’t all
of you nice to cheer for me?
Be good children. We
hope to see you, of not before, at the games next year.
Don’t forget that this will be our last.