Power of Sport

Former men’s basketball assistant coach Lafayette Norwood participates in the Power of Sport conference on Thursday, Feb. 1.

Former Kansas men’s basketball assistant coach Lafayette Norwood died in Lawrence Saturday, according to a Kansas Athletics news release. He was 86 years old.

Norwood spent four seasons on the coaching staff of Ted Owens (1978-81) at Kansas. The Jayhawks went 81-38 in that span, winning a Big Eight regular season, two Big Eight Holiday Tournament titles, and a conference tournament title. Kansas also advanced to the NCAA tournament in 1978 and 1981. 

Norwood was known for his high energy and building amazing relationships between himself and his players. He was known as a standout recruiter for Kansas men's basketball, and frequently attended home games at Allen Fieldhouse after his retirement.

“Lafayette was a lot more than an outstanding coach, he was a really good man," Owens said in the release. "He cared for his players everywhere he coached."

Norwood also had plenty of coaching success outside of Kansas. Throughout six decades he coached multiple sports at both the high school and collegiate levels. In 1969, Norwood made history when he was named the head basketball coach at Wichita Heights High School, becoming the first African American coach in the Wichita school district. 

During his tenure in Wichita, Norwood led his team to a 109-56 record, as well as a state championship in 1977. After his time at Kansas, he also spent 23 years as a golf coach and 10 years as a men's basketball coach at Johnson County Community College.

"I am extremely heartbroken," former Kansas player Darnell Valentine said in the release. "He was a father figure to me in every sense of the word other than biological. He was a pillar of virtue, integrity and character that if there was another one like him on this earth today, to me, we could solve America’s problems. That’s how strongly I feel about him."

Following his retirement, Norwood was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2016, the Southwestern College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1992, the Cowley College Hall of Fame in 2002, and the Wichita Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.