KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City’s high school basketball scene was forever altered Thursday when legendary Raytown South boys’ basketball coach Bud Lathrop died shortly before noon at his south Kansas City home.
“It’s a huge loss,” said St. Michael the Archangel coach Mark Scanlon, who was at Raytown during the heyday of the Cardinals-Bluejays hoops rivalry. “He was the dean of high school basketball in Kansas City for more than 40 years. The record he’s got and what he accomplished, I don’t anybody will match it.”
Lathrop, 82, was on the bench for 955 career victories, which are the most in Missouri history and rank 20th all-time in the nation among boys’ basketball coaches, according to the National Federation of High Schools.
“Probably my most fun times as a coach were at Raytown with those Raytown South games once we got the program up and going,” Scanlon said. “For about 10 years, those games were as good as it gets in high school basketball — the kind of games where they had to lock the doors at halftime of the JV game, because the crowds were so big.”
Lathrop, who started kidney dialysis four years ago, had been in and out of the hospital recently with bouts of with low blood pressure, according to his wife, Gay.
“He’d been having a rough time,” Gay said. “The dialysis was very hard on him.”
Last week, Lathrop cut short a dialysis session, because he was in too much pain. But the dialysis was also keeping him alive.
Asked what she’d want people to remember about her husband, Gay said, “How much he loved kids — the ones he coached, yes, but his own kids. He loved those players like they were his sons too, and he was the kind of coach to get the best out of you. He loved what he did. He was meant to be a coach.”
In addition to his wife, Bud Lathrop leaves behind two sons — Lance, 58, of Raytown, and Brad, 53, of Overland Park. Lance played on Ray South’s 1977 state championship team, one of the four state titles his father won.
The Cardinals also claimed state crowns in 1970, 1972 and 1990, when the team finished 31-0 led by forward and future Mizzou star Jevon Crudup.
Raytown South made the state semifinals six other times under Lathrop (1974, 1975, 1985, 1992, 1993, 2003) and won 35 conference championships during his tenure.
Pittsburg State coach Kim Anderson, who recruited Crudup to the Tigers under Norm Stewart, called Lathrop: “A great friend and a great coach. Always enjoyed my conversations with him. When you played for Bud, you were part of his family for life. We lost a great one today. Our condolences to Gay and the family.”
Crudup was among those looking after Gay on Thursday afternoon at the family home.
Former Raytown South point guard Trey Griggs, a 1996 graduate, was saddened to learn of Lathrop’s passing.
“He was like a father to me when things were falling apart at home,” Griggs said. “He was one of the reasons I made it through high school. I love him dearly. … He was a special man.”
Griggs visited the Lathrops in June and said Bud and Gay, who was his sixth-grade social studies teacher, “welcomed my family into their home … and treated my kids like their own grandchildren. It was special to watch, but not surprising.”
Lathrop, a 1954 Raytown graduate and 1958 William Jewell College graduate, started his coaching career at Mound City High School for two seasons and spent one year at Fulton High School.
He moved back home and started the Ray South program when the school opened in 1961.
Lathrop has been elected to the Missouri Basketball Hall of Fame, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, the William Jewell College Athletic Hall of Fame and won more than 20 Coach of the Year awards during his career.
“He’s by far the most competitive person that I’ve ever been around — played against, played with, coached against, coached with,” Scanlon said.
Sometimes perhaps to his detriment. He was suspended in 2003 for using a paddle on players during practice and suspended again in 2004 for verbal abuse at practice.
“Bud was — if there was a high school coach that reminded me of Bobby Knight’s style, it was Bud Lathrop,” Nusbaum said. “He was old school, but he loved his kids. Talking to the players who played for him, they all loved him and would do anything he asked.”
Former Raytown boys’ basketball star Terry Nooner, who is now an assistant coach for the Maryland women’s basketball team, laughs about it now, but he remembers the great lengths to which Lathrop would go to win.
“I loved that rivalry,” Nooner said. “That first year, when I hit the free throws to win it in their gym, my mom had the printout when he had the custodians turn up the heat. With stuff like that, he’d do anything to get an edge.”
Nooner, who was quick to point out that he never lost to the Cardinals as a player, gushed about Lathrop and his place in the pantheon of Kansas City’s rich high school basketball tradition.
“He’s on Kansas City’s Mount Rushmore, that’s for sure,” Nooner said. “That’s who everybody wanted to play for.”
When Nooner was a young player and his family was considering a move to Raytown, Lathrop urged him to move into Ray South’s borders.
“But they didn’t have Tyronn Lue,” Nooner said, referring to his former Raytown teammate turned NBA world champion coach.
Lathrop and Nooner reconnected a few years later during a two-week camp. Lathrop ran the camp and Nooner served as a college camp counselor to Lue, Central graduate and former University of Arkansas star Derek Hood and former University of Nebraska star Cookie Belcher, who was Lue’s cousin.
“Bud was every bit as intense during the camp as he was on the sideline,” Nooner said, “but it was fun. That was the most fun two weeks, playing with those kids and learning from him.”