This Week in KC History

This Week in KC History

College Basketball Champions

By David Smale

Kansas City has a rich sports history that’s worth celebrating. With 2022 marking the 100th anniversary of 810 WHB, local author and historian David Smale will look back into Kansas City’s history and pick a significant sporting event that happened during that week in past years.

The rehashing of Kansas City’s rich basketball tradition often leaves out one of the best stories, when a local team knocked off a heavily favored opponent in front of a frenzied crowd near its home.

No, we’re not talking about Kansas’ victory over Oklahoma in the 1988 Final Four in Kemper Arena. We’re talking about Rockhurst University’s 66-55 victory over defending champion Texas-Pan American to win the 1964 NAIA crown. The championship game, played in KC’s Municipal Auditorium on March 14, 1964, outdrew the NCAA Final Four, which was played in the same building a week later.

Pat Caldwell scored 17 points and collected 10 rebounds in the Hawks’ victory, and that was nothing new. Caldwell was Rockhurst’s leading scorer as a freshman before a back injury caused him to miss his sophomore season (1962-63). The amazing thing was that Caldwell got all those stats in the second half.

Shutting down Pan American’s offense was the key to Rockhurst’s victory. The Hawks held the high-powered Broncs to 24 points in the second half. All-American Lucious Jackson, who later played eight seasons for the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, only scored 11 points on five-of-14 shooting. Jackson was still named the tournament’s MVP after averaging 24.8 points and 13.4 rebounds, which shows how effective the Hawks’ defense was.

Rockhurst head coach Joe Brehmer held Caldwell out of the starting lineup for the first time that season in the championship game. Brehmer went with a smaller and quicker lineup hoping to tire out the Broncs. The Hawks, who trailed 32-29 at halftime, wore down Pan American in the second half with the help of their strong bench play.

Dick Hennier, a graduate of Bishop Miege High School, was one of eight seniors who played for Rockhurst that season. He hit the biggest shot of the tournament in a second-round game. His 30-foot shot at the buzzer gave the Hawks a 76-74 win over Indiana Central. The Hawks went on to defeat St. Mary’s of Texas, 59-54, in the quarterfinals and Emporia State, 66-61, in the semifinals to reach the championship game. Rockhurst opened the tournament with a 77-70 win over Eastern Montana.

The 11-point victory in the championship game was Rockhurst’s largest of the week for the Hawks.

A week later, Kansas State, Michigan, Duke and UCLA played at Municipal Auditorium in the Final Four, the first of John Wooden’s 10 national championships, and the crowd was not as large as the 10,000-plus who witnessed Rockhurst bringing home the crown.

Kansas City is known recently for big parades to celebrate championships. But the Royals in 2015 and the Chiefs in 2020 have nothing on the fans of Rockhurst. Following the championship game, the Rockhurst team and fans paraded back to campus from downtown.

David Smale has published two dozen books, mostly on sports history. He has written thousands of articles for various publications. He also hosts “Sports Connections with David Smale,” which is available at under the podcasts tab.