By James Howey
At the end of this semester, the college will see the end of a legendary coaching career, as the golf program is shut down. Head golf coach Lafayette Norwood has had a prestigious career coaching in both basketball and golf at the high school and collegiate levels. Norwood has been a coach at the collegiate level for 31 years; nine as a head coach in basketball and 22 as a head coach in golf. Norwood was also recently selected for the Wichita Sports Hall of Fame.
“The fact that I was able to spend as long as I did working with people, particularly young people means a lot.” Norwood said. “Seeing them progress from the inception of their careers in a community college setting and then to advance to the next level, be it a major college, middle-level college, or just the fact that they become young men is important to me.”
Norwood has thoroughly enjoyed his time at Johnson County and it’s difficult for him to believe it’s over.
“Everything has been pretty positive in my life and I’ve enjoyed it.” Norwood said, “I never thought that it would come to this point that I would be departing from the work scene and working with kids.”
Norwood has had many people who have supported and helped him through his storied career but his parents stand out the most for him.
“They never saw me participate in any athletic event, but they were so positive and supportive, it was just like they were there.” Norwood said, “In my case, my parents didn’t have capabilities of travel and as time went on they could see their instructions and their teachings being manifested in my life.”
His coaching career has lasted 57 years but it started with his dream of becoming of a professional athlete.
“I wanted to become a professional athlete and at an early age I realized I didn’t have those capabilities.” Norwood said, “So I pursued the field of education and working with the youth programs in Wichita and then it stemmed that, well, if I can’t play maybe I’ll just be instrumental with some of the individuals that go from an amateur status to the professional level; I’ve been fortunate and blessed enough that I’ve had several young men not only become NBA players, but also successful in the field of boxing.”
In 1969 Norwood become the first-ever black head coach at Wichita Heights and the first ever black head coach at any Wichita high school. In eight years at Heights, Norwood tallied a 109-56 and won a 6A state title in 1976-77 season. He coached Antoine Carr and Darnell Valentine, who were both first-round picks and played more than ten years in the NBA. Norwood also coached other noteworthy players throughout his AAU coaching career; Wayne Simian, Brandon Rush, Earl Watson, Mike Miller, and Corey Maggette. Norwood has also coached Pro Football Hall of Famer Barry Sanders and former heavyweight boxer Renaldo “Mister” Snipes.
Following his final season at Heights, Norwood become an assistant coach at the University of Kansas under Head Coach Ted Owens. Along with the new opportunity, Norwood faced issues common for black coaches at that time.
“It wasn’t all peaches and cream when I took the assistant coaching job at the University of Kansas,” Norwood said. “It just wasn’t popular to always have black coaches at that level, so I ran into obstacles of opponents and even some of our own fans.”
Norwood spent four years at Kansas as an assistant before making his way to Johnson County where he has been for the remainder of his career. Norwood has a meaningful relationship with Kansas head basketball coach Bill Self who has had Norwood visit him and his players throughout the years.
“I go to his practices often during the season, maybe two or three times a week and now that I’ll be leaving Johnson County, I’ll be spending a lot of the time with him.” Norwood said, “They kind of consider me part of their family he lets me visit with the kids often and them as a team.”
Norwood plans on enjoying his life after coaching and making up for some lost time with his grandkids.
“I’ll spend a humongous amount of time with my grandchildren.” Norwood said, “I’ve been deprived because of my commitment to Johnson County so now I’ll be able to spend a lot of time with them.”
Contact James Howey, sports editor, at email@example.com.