Mike Evans- Kansas State’s 2nd all time leading scorer in men’s basketball was doing a routine player background check as an assistant coach for the Denver Nuggets during the 1996 season, when he learned for the first time from North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith- how he was recruited by Kansas State.
“Toward the end of our conversation coach Smith asked me if I knew how I actually got to Kansas State,” said Evans. “I told Coach Smith I had heard different versions but would like to hear his.” Smith told Evans - he and Jack Hartman met at a coaches meeting and Hartman said he needed a point guard. “Coach Smith told coach Hartman he thought I could help,” said Evans. “Coach Hartman never went in to any detail about recruiting me, so I was very appreciative to get that first hand information from Coach Smith.”
Evans was recruited by North Carolina while he played for Laurinburg, NC- an African American Prep school- rich in basketball tradition. “Coach Smith had promised top North Carolina recruit Phil Ford - North Carolina would not recruit another point guard once Ford signed,” said Evans. Smith encouraged Evans to walk on and wait a year for a scholarship, but Evans noted, “I didn’t feel I could be a walk on at that time.” Now- flash back 39 years to 1974. Hartman’s assistant coach Chuck Garrett made Kansas State’s first contact with Evans- without Evan’s knowledge of the Hartman- Smith conversation.
“It was exam time at Laurinburg and all the basketball goals were removed from the gym,” said Evans. “When President McDuffie heard a K-State coach was coming to recruit me, they put them back up.” “Coach Garrett liked what he saw and invited me for a recruiting trip to Manhattan.” said Evans.
“Playing at Kansas State was one of the greatest experiences of my life- and coming so far away from home to Kansas was a dream come true for me,” said Evans. “I met some wonderful people and we had some really good teams”
It didn’t take long for Evans to adjust. He started as a freshmen and Kansas State reached the Eastern Regional finals during March of 1975- after beating the University of Pennsylvania, and Boston College before losing to Syracuse who denied K-State’s trip to the final four. “We returned home to the athletic dorm after that defeat by Syracuse in the wee hours of the morning and went to bed- then later heard a faint chant outside the dorm that got louder and louder,” Evans said. “We woke up and saw thousands of people in the parking lot. It was the most incredible feeling to see so much school spirit for what we had achieved that year and -that was very special to me.”
I asked Evans what he remembered most about Coach Hartman. “Oh man, no nonsense, stern disciplinarian, adaptable to his personnel, and commanding respect,” said Evans. “He was tough as nails and required his players to be tough as nails as well.” “Not everyone may have liked him or thought as highly of him but he was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Evans said.
The University of Kansas –Kansas State rivalry was one of Evans best memories. “When the Kansas starters were announced in Ahearn, these chickens came flying out of the stands,” said Evans. “It was the most remarkable thing I had ever seen. - And- I’ve always wondered -how did they get those chickens into Ahearn?”
“Another time we were playing KU in Ahearn and went on a 15-2 run. The crowd was so loud you could not hear the ball bouncing off the floor or hear the officials whistle blow”, said Evans. “A foul was committed at the other end while we were on a fast break and the officials came running after us and had to stop play.” “That game has stuck with me forever-and- I’ve attended a few games in Bramlage, but have never heard it as loud as Ahearn,” Evans said.
We talked about the lopsided turn of events where KU has dominated the rivalry on Kansas State’s home court in Bramlage with 23 wins and 2 losses. I asked how we get it back to the good old days when Evans played. “Move the game from Bramlage to Ahearn”, said Evans with a laugh. I asked what we need to do in recruiting to get the type of players like we had when he played with Curtis Redding. “We haven’t had a player like Curtis since Mitch Richmond” said Evans. “We were the only team to beat the Russians the year we had Redding and had he stayed in school he would have shattered every school record- he was a prolific shooter.”
“Recruiting good players now is much more difficult then when I was recruited,” said Evans. “Exposure was not the same.” “You have to recruit early- because players are asking how I can get to the next level,” Evans said. “You have to go into the inner city and deal with these AAU coaches and set up networks to establish these relationships but in the very early stages and you can get this type of talent.”
“You have to find at least four guys who can put the ball in the hole including guys like Daryl Winston who could shoot from the outside,” Evans said. “Bill Russell said that the game is always going to be about buckets, but you must be able to stretch the defense and post up inside and if you can’t do that it will be difficult to win in any league.”
Evans was drafted by the Kansas City Kings in 1978 when Cotton Fitzsimmons was coaching and Evans didn’t make the team. “Bob Bass of the San Antonio Spurs called and this time after competing with 40 others for three positions, I made the team,” said Evans. Evans played a year, got hurt and got picked up by the Milwaukee Bucks where he played two years. He was traded by Milwaukee to Cleveland but had a knee injury and ended up in the CBA in Great Falls Montana. “George Carl was the head coach and said if I played with him a few months, I’d get back in the NBA,” said Evans. “I was there about a month when Denver called in 1983 and I played with the Nuggets for about five years.”
I left the Nuggets after the 1987-88 seasons, then went to Italy for a year and broke my hand playing in Torino. The Denver Nuggets called again and offered me the video coordinator job which didn’t pay much but I took It.” said Evans. Evans moved up in the Nugget’s organization to scout- color analyst- assistant and then was named interim head coach for a brief period to replace Dan Issel and finish out the remainder of the 2001-02 season.
Evans who is in the midst of a job change- lives in Denver with his wife Kim who works as the receptionist at Thunder-Ridge High School. They have three children. Mike Jr. played in the Canadian league for a while but now works for a developmental organization helping kids with basketball -and is also coaching basketball for high school kids in the Denver area.
Daughter Michelle works with at risk youth in North Carolina and his youngest daughter D’ambra just graduated from Colorado University. “Kansas State University is one of the greatest institutions a young man or young lady could ever attend,” said Evans. “I will always remember the generosity, compassion and love the fans had for their student athletes.” “Tell Coach Weber I wish him the very best. He does a great job and tell him I’m watching because I love what he does,” Evans said.
And, we love what you did for Kansas State Mike- and wish you all the best as well.
You can reach Mike Evans at: Highland Ranch, 9931 S. Cottoncreek Dr., Denver Colorado 80130, email: email@example.com phone: 303-963-6403
(Action photo of Evans and Evans receiving recognition award- courtesy of Kansas State Sports Information.)