A gathering of MHS basketball legends

By Steve Sell
April 08, 2014
Jennifer Alexander

I felt like I was in a McPherson High basketball time machine Saturday night.

As I looked around the room at a gathering hosted by Todd and Jennifer Alexander, I felt a good chunk of my reporting career flashing right before my eyes.

In one corner chatting you had Brian Henson and Ryan Herrs, the 1991 and 1992 Mr. Basketball in Kansas, respectively.

Talking basketball in another corner were Kurt Kinnamon, Mike Henson and Gordon Peck. All Kinnamon has done at MHS is win 380 games while losing only 70, punctuated by five state championships. Henson won 250 games and lost just 34 for the Bullpups, with four state championships. The common denominator for both coaches was Peck, who has won more than 400 JV games while at MHS and been the right-hand man for nine state championships, as he needs only one more to put a ring on every finger.

There was the "Alexander triumvirate" — Todd, Chad and Josh — who were each unique in their own way. Todd and Chad were the pure scorers, while Josh did a little bit of everything and was the ultimate competitor, yet he was the school's all-time scorer at the time he graduated. All would go on for highly successful collegiate careers.

What would a McPherson basketball gathering be without some Pyles? Before all is said and done, maybe no family in McPherson history will have a greater impact on the program from a sheer volume of numbers, going back to Tom in 1965. Drew Pyle continued the tradition this year with his amazing state championship game and there are more coming.

And, of course, eloquently holding court was the affable Jonathan Coachman, a member of two MHS state championship teams and now a renown anchor for ESPN’s Sport Center. Coachman has more tales to tell than there are days in the year, but the best part was that success has not changed him one iota. He’s still just one of the guys, still the guy who used to bus tables at a local restaurant and perfect his broadcasting technique on his entertained customers.

This group encompassed the last 30 years of MHS basketball, give or take a couple. It also was a time when the MHS program relaunched, as it had not won a state championship since the legendary Jay Frazier guided Bullpup teams to the 1972, 1973 and 1974 titles.

It wasn't until 1990 that MHS returned into the championship circle in what actually was Henson's seventh year. The Bullpups' decade of the '90s may have been as good as any that a school has ever enjoyed. MHS won state championships in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1996 and 1999 and finished second two other years. Henson's last six years produced a record of 140-7, with 21-3 in 1993 (when MHS took second in the state) the worst year. I think a lot of teams would like to have a stretch like that. When you add in the 1988-89 season, MHS played for the Class 5A state title a staggering eight years in a row even though the Bullpups were one of the smallest teams in the class.

Kinnamon continued the trend when the Bullpups won state in his first year of 1996 and he also coached the 1999 team to the title. Subsequent titles came in 2003, 2011 and 2014. So think about it, combine Henson and Kinnamon's records and MHS is 630-104 over the last 31 years. MHS has not had a losing record since 1982-83, the year before Henson took over.

There was some good-natured bantering that transpired when I happened to bring up that I wrote a column about how I believed the 1991 team was the best of all time, which included Coachman, Herrs, Brian Henson, Bryan Vincent and Jason Totman. That drew an instant replay from Andy Berlin, who pointed out the 1990 team had gone undefeated the year before. Other starters that year were Henson, Vincent, T.J. Underwood and Chris Potter.

Tim Herrs also chimed in that he said it was hard to overlook the 1994 team, which also went undefeated and was the last of Mike Henson's state title teams. That team was the "cerebral assassins" as they were a lot like this year MHS' team in that it had great chemistry and never seemed to make mistakes. Other starters were Eric Schultz, Erik Vogel, Josh Alexander and Brian Grant.

Peck and Mike Henson both agreed with me about the 1991 team. As Henson pointed out, how many teams have a future NCAA Division I player (Chad Alexander of Oklahoma State) coming off the bench as the sixth man? It also was the team with the most panache, not to mention the best collection of athletes. It still played the greatest half of basketball I've ever seen when it took apart a ranked Class 6A school, Garden City, for a stunning 63 points in the first half of a 97-55 victory in the McPherson Invitational.

This was probably the greatest gathering of MHS "legends" since the celebration of the 1972-1973-1974 state championship teams a couple of years back. Both of these gatherings make me realize McPherson High's basketball history is second to none.

I'm just glad I was the one who was able to chronicle it to the masses. It will forever be the highlight of my career.

Here are the records of Henson and Kinnamon, which covers 31 years:

• Henson •

1983-84 — 17-7

1984-85 — 21-3

1985-86 — 19-2

1986-87 — 13-7

1987-88 — 19-5

1988-89 — 21-3

1989-90 — 24-0

1990-91 — 23-1

1991-92 — 24-1

1992-93 — 21-3

1993-94 — 25-0

1994-95 — 23-2

• Kinnamon •

1995-96 — 24-1

1996-97 — 16-9

1997-98 — 17-5

1998-99 — 24-1

1999-00 — 18-4

2000-01 — 12-9

2001-02 — 19-6

2002-03 — 24-1

2003-04 — 21-1

2004-05 — 18-5

2005-06 — 19-6

2006-07 — 23-2

2007-08 — 19-4

2008-09 — 20-2

2009-10 — 22-3

2010-11 — 24-1

2011-12 — 18-6

2012-13 — 19-3

2013-14 — 23-1