Dr. James Naismith

Dr. James Naismith (1861-1939)

Teams coached: Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas record: 55-60 (.478)
Overall record: 55-60 (.478)

Career Accomplishments:

  • NCAA National Championships:  0
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances:  0
  • NIT Championships:  0
  • NIT Appearances:  0


  • Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (inducted 1959)
  • National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame (inducted 2006)

Coaching Career (head coach, unless noted):

1898-1907 Kansas

James Naismith Facts

  • Dr. James Naismith
  • Born November 6, 1861
  • Died November 28, 1939
  • Hometown: Almonte, Ontario, Canada
  • Alma Mater: McGill University (1890) / Springfield College (1891) / University of Colorado (PhD)
  • Naismith was born and raised in Ontario, Canada; a multi-sport athlete, he studied physical education at McGill University in Montreal
    • Worked at McGill as a teacher and as the school’s first athletic director before moving to the United States
  • It was while he was working and studying at YMCA International Training School (now Springfield College) in Springfield, Massachusetts that he invented the sport now known as basketball
    • Originally using a peach basket attached to a wall and a regulation football, Naismith was attempting to create a new indoor sport that could be played during the harsh New England winters and pulled in many elements from other popular sports at the time (specifically rugby, lacrosse, soccer, football, hockey, and baseball); he typed up the original rules of “Basket Ball” in December 1891
    • The sport quickly grew in popularity on campus and by 1893, it became a staple of the larger YMCA movement
    • Naismith worked with Spalding to create an official ball in 1894 and the official rulebook was published that same year
  • After receiving his doctorate at the University of Colorado, Naismith would move to Lawrence, KS, in 1898 to join the faculty at the University of Kansas
    • He started the basketball program at Kansas that same year, serving as the team’s coach for the next nine years (going 55-60 overall)
    • While he is ironically the only head coach in KU history with a losing record, his game and its impact on the United States (and later the World) is incalculable
    • His protege, Forrest “Phog” Allen, took over as KU’s head coach in 1907 and would lead the Jayhawks for a total of 39 years; the future Hall of Famer would coach several other players who would go on to make massive impacts on college basketball, including Dean Smith, Adolph Rupp, Ralph Miller, Dutch Lonborg, Frosty Cox, Dick Harp and Louis Menze
    • The original typed rules of basketball were purchased in 2010 for over $4.3 million by KU alum David Booth, who donated them to the school
  • Naismith continued to work as chaplain and physical education professor at Kansas until his retirement in 1937, becoming professor emeritus
    • He passed away two years later from a brain hemorrhage, just weeks after his 78th birthday
  • As the inventor of the sport, Naismith’s impact on modern basketball is rightfully immense; the Basketball Hall of Fame opened in 1959 in Springfield, MA and bears his name (he himself was a member of the inaugural class, as was his protege Allen)
  • Naismith has also been inducted into the College Basketball HOF, Canadian Basketball HOF, Canadian Olympic HOF, Canadian Sports HOF, Ontario Sports HOF, Ottawa Sports HOF, McGill University Sports HOF, Kansas State Sports HOF, Kansas HOF and FIBA HOF (likely among others)
    • The FIBA Basketball World Cup, an international tournament hosted every four years since 1950, awards its winner the “James Naismith Trophy”
    • The floor at Allen Fieldhouse, home arena of the Kansas Jayhawks since 1955, is named “James Naismith Court” in his honor

James Naismith Coaching Tree

  • Phog Allen (Kansas, Warrensburg, Haskell, Baker)
  • John McLendon (Cleveland State, Kentucky State, Tennessee State, Hampton, North Carolina Central, Cleveland Pipers, Denver Rockets)