SE: K-State Roots Readied Chipman for Coaching Success

As Bob Chipman likes to tell it, he broke one of Wilt Chamberlain’s records while playing basketball at K-State. Chipman prefers to leave the story there, but doesn’t mind sharing the extended version, either. 

In the Big Eight Holiday Tournament during his junior year, Chipman came off the bench to handle the ball and make free throws. 

“Well, I handled the ball and I missed free throws,” he recalled, adding that K-State’s next opponent paid attention to his woes at the line. “Same scenario: I get in, they foul me, I miss free throws again.”

By the end of the tournament, Chipman said he had posted its worst collection of free throw shooting since Chamberlain’s days at Kansas. 

“I just leave it as breaking one of Wilt Chamberlain’s records,” laughed Chipman, who was ironically put in a similar situation late in the season against Oklahoma. “I’m in, they foul me and I hit the free throws to win the Big Eight Championship.”

Many moments from Chipman’s time at K-State still feel like “yesterday” for the now legendary coach at Washburn. For Chipman, entering his 38th and final season as the Ichabods’ head coach, that’s partly because he still carries much of it in his coaching style and his day-to-day life. 

In so many ways, “everything” changed when he came to Manhattan.  

Pro Pursuit 

Coming out of Flint, Michigan, Chipman was admittedly immature and sought a life he wasn’t destined to reach. That all changed in two years at K-State. 

Chipman, a high school star in Michigan, played two more seasons in his hometown at Mott Community Junior College before catching the attention of major Division I programs such as Michigan, Michigan State and LSU, the last of which had just produced “Pistol Pete” Maravich. 

“I thought I was a pro,” said Chipman, who passed on those three schools for the chance to play for Jack Hartman, then an up-and-coming coach in his first year at K-State. Hartman had recently coached Walt Frazier, now a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, at Southern Illinois. Chipman felt Hartman could maximize his potential in the same way, and in a way Hartman did, just not how Chipman imagined it initially.  

“At the time I’m thinking, ‘I want to play under a great coach but also I want to be a pro.’ Little did I know I was going to get an education in basketball,” said Chipman, now with 788 wins at Washburn that includes an NAIA national championship in 1987. 

Chipman played two seasons at K-State, winning a pair of Big Eight titles and coming a game shy of reaching the Final Four in each season. He averaged nearly eight points a game as a senior, playing alongside Lon Kruger, a longtime friend and coaching resource currently leading Oklahoma’s program. 

Simply put, Chipman left K-State with more than a memorable playing career. While playing with the Wildcats, he acquired the knowledge and resources needed to break into the coaching world, where he’s now a household name. 
 
“That learning experience coming out of K-State, knowing a lot more basketball than most guys would ever have a chance to learn, gave me an opportunity to get into coaching,” Chipman said. “Without that experience, there’s no way.” 

Without it, there’s no way Chipman compiles a winning percentage of .697 in more than 1,100 games at Washburn. There’s no way he ranks third for wins among Division II coaches (17th all-time for all NCAA levels). There’s no way he takes the Ichabods to the NCAA Tournament 12 times, including a national championship game appearance in 2001. 

“Some of the things Coach Hartman taught us and told us, you didn’t like it at the time, but now, as I look back, those are the things that changed my life,” he said of Hartman, who won 295 games in 16 seasons with K-State. “He was tough and I was very immature, so I needed that. I didn’t like it at the time, but, man, did he make me grow up and be a man.”

Chipman has no shortage of praise for the late Hartman, who died in 1998 at the age of 73. Chipman has never used a whistle as a coach, because Hartman never used one. Chipman shakes the hand of each of his players after every game, because Hartman did so. 

The list goes on and on. 

“What I learned from Coach Hartman at Kansas State — how to play the game, all the fundamentals of the game and how to really work at the game — nobody was better,” Chipman said. “His teams were so prepared, so conditioned. I just kind of used that plan throughout my 40 years, and it’s been pretty effective. I can’t do it as well as Coach. Coach was pretty demanding. You did it exactly right under him, but I’ve been trying to incorporate all of those fundamental, little things that I think make the difference. The intensity, playing hard and the conditioning stuff — trying to make practices harder than games — that’s what Coach used to do and he was incredible.”

Chipman’s relationship with Hartman continued to develop well after his playing days were over. Often Hartman would travel to Topeka to watch Washburn practice, creating a bond that goes well beyond player and coach. 

“We got really close through the years. During our run to the national championship, we got really close. He helped me so much early on in my coaching career, and we became great friends,” said Chipman, before his words really started to sink in. “Wow, I miss him. I wish I had him in my final year. He was the greatest ever. No one can compare. I know there’s some other (great coaches), but no one’s better than him, trust me.”

Family Finale

As much as Chipman credits K-State and Hartman for his coaching success, he’s quick to point out another major factor: his family.

His wife Carol, who also attended K-State, has been there “every game, in every way,” Chipman said. His daughter Kelsey, a four-year letterwinner for K-State’s volleyball team, has been his “greatest fan” and “rock,” centering him when needed. Then there’s Chipman’s son, Bobby, who if not for playing four years at Washburn for his father would likely have attended K-State as well. 

“We’re a great K-State family. They’ve been the family behind me here. I wouldn’t have been able to make it here without them, that’s for sure,” Chipman said. “There may be better coaches to come through here in the years to come, but there will never be a better family.”

Chipman’s family attends the majority of his games and has for some time. They were in Allen Fieldhouse on Monday when Washburn faced Kansas in an exhibition and they will be at Bramlage Coliseum when Chipman makes his final coaching appearance against K-State on Friday at 8 p.m.

“I’m just real excited to be able to, in my last season, take my team in there and play at my alma mater,” said Chipman, grateful for another opportunity to play a Bruce Weber-coached team. “He’s a great basketball coach and, wow, his teams play very hard. They always play together. I’ve been so impressed with him throughout the years.” 

Chipman has coached against K-State five times, highlighted by taking the Wildcats to triple overtime in 2006. For him, each trip back to K-State is special. 

“It’s kind of bittersweet because, honestly, I’m really pulling for these guys. I really want them to do well,” said Chipman, whose teams have financially benefitted from exhibition games in the form of international trips and additional scholarship opportunities, along with an added recruiting advantage for in-state players. “I just want to thank K-State. Bruce doesn’t have to do this, but he’s played us every couple of years, so I really appreciate everything that he’s done. I really appreciate him and K-State in general for playing this game. They’ve been tremendous.”

Weber shared a similar appreciation for Chipman. 

“He’s a special guy and great for our profession,” said Weber, who’s known Chipman for more than 30 years through a connection with former Purdue coach Gene Keady. “He always has a smile on his face. When I got the job here, he was one of the first guys to call. He loves K-State, he loves the state of Kansas, he loves basketball. His camps have affected so many kids throughout the state through all the years. He’s had an unbelievable career and is a great representative for the game of basketball and our state.”

It’s only fitting then that Chipman’s final exhibition in Kansas is against his alma mater. 
 
“That’s so cool,” Chipman said. “It’s the place I’ll never forget and the place that gave me my education. I got one in physical education and a master’s in science, but I really got a doctorate in basketball coaching with Coach Hartman.”