Larry Brown's day usually begins with breakfast at a local doughnut shop. It continues at his Allen Fieldhouse office, where the University of Kansas basketball coach spends the morning fielding phone calls.
On game days, he often assembles his assistants and heads to a neighborhood bowling alley for a few games, passing time on a frigid afternoon. Pretty soon it's time to don his preppy coaching attire and direct the Jayhawks, this time to a 100-66 home massacre of rival Missouri.
"I like to get out, do some running not to mention bowling , stay in shape to combat stress," Brown said after Tuesday's victory -- Kansas' 23rd in 26 games. "I'm as active as I can be. I'm very happy right now. I'm lucky in that I enjoy my job."
What's not to enjoy? This 46-year-old coach, aging as unnoticeably as Dick Clark, has a town in the palm of his hand. Fans often chant "Larry, Larry" at Jayhawks home games. His third-ranked team has been winning with remarkable ease.
"I'm amazed at some of the things we're doing. I couldn't be prouder," said Brown, now in his third year at Kansas. "What's happening here is beautiful."
Kansas, which has won 30 straight at home, is playing so well the fans have started to talk of a Final Four appearance, the school's first since the 1973-74 season, when Ted Owens' team dropped the NCAA semifinal and third-place games.
"It Final Four talk bothers me a lot. I've been there and I know what it takes," said Brown, whose UCLA team lost to Louisville in the 1980 championship game. "Yes, we can make it, but I think there are 40 other teams that can make it, too."
Final Four talk is interesting, considering Kansas has yet to wrap up the Big Eight title. It holds a 1 1/2-game lead over Oklahoma and still must play at Oklahoma. The Jayhawks last won the league in 1978.
"It's all around us," said 7-foot-1 center Greg Dreiling, referring to Final Four frenzy. "Right now, we want the Big Eight. We realize so many things are within our grasp, but we can only take it one step at a time.
"We're on our way up," added Dreiling, who along with 6-11 Danny Manning has provided a strong attack down low. Dreiling averages 11.6 points and 6.9 rebounds; Manning 16.7 points and 6.5 rebounds.
"We've had some good performances lately," said Dreiling. So good that some Jayhawks acknowledge that this team could be playing in Dallas in late March.
"If everybody is on at the same time, there's no telling how far we can go," said 6-6 senior guard Calvin Thompson, who along with 6-5 senior forward Ron Kellogg, has taken care of the outside shooting. Thompson has averaged 13.4 points on 59.3 percent shooting, while Kellogg has hit for 15.9 points on 53.5 percent accuracy.
Point guard Cedric Hunter, who has passed Darnell Valentine as school single-season assist leader (180), runs the floor show and has hit a surprising 74.6 percent from the field in league games, averaging 9.3 points.
"We'll let the way we play speak for itself," said Kellogg. "The Final Four is in the back of my mind. It was there even before the season started."
Kellogg was terribly disappointed by last year's 66-64 loss to Auburn in the NCAA subregionals. It followed a first-round victory over Ohio. It was the second year in a row that Kansas won just one game before being eliminated in the NCAA tournament.
But this season, the Jayhawks have beaten Louisville twice, Kentucky, North Carolina State, Pepperdine, Washington, Arkansas and Oklahoma. The only losses were to Duke (by six points), Memphis State (three) and at Iowa State (three).
"I look at our team and say, 'Damn, I wish Tad Boyle a reserve guard who graduated was here to enjoy this,' " said Dreiling. "We have the exact same team except for Tad. We do have a different mentality this year. We're more mature.
"Coach Brown is doing a great job. He knows exactly what to say before each game. He knows just what to say to get us going."
"What makes our offense go is our defense and rebounding," said Dreiling. "When you get a lot of layups, and we do, you'll shoot for a high percentage. Danny has developed a jump hook inside that is unstoppable."
Manning's continued offensive improvement -- he averages 20.9 points in Big Eight play -- opens up the attack. Most of his points come from four to six feet, though he also drifts out to the free-throw line and will occasionally shoot from the corner.
"When I'm scoring," said Manning, "the defense comes to me and that leaves Greg open. Or I'll kick it outside."
From there, Kellogg and Thompson possess radar range.
Some say the Jayhawks will go as far as Manning takes them. He's been criticized in the past for not taking charge.
"If he was selfish, he'd score more," said Brown. "I like him the way he is."
"Danny is the future star at Kansas," said Kellogg, emphasizing the word future. "Right now, we're all equal. I'm happy for him. And I'm happy for us. I think you're starting to see the real Kansas Jayhawks."