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Know Your KU History: Paul Mokeski

Come for the great mustache, stay for the great basketball.

Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll be honest with you. When I was researching Paul Mokeski for this series of articles, I was blown away after looking at pictures of the former KU center. The guy looked like a tax accountant. He had it all: the great mustache, the supremely curly hair, and the greatest NBA jersey of all time.

And while we’re being honest, I have to admit that I’m absolutely fascinated with the late 70’s/early 80’s mustachioed athlete. It was a strange time. Current athletes are trying to emulate this trend, but something tells me that history won’t look kindly on the facial hair addictions of today’s athletes.

But looks aside, Paul Mokeski was a pretty good basketball player in his day, good enough to play in the NBA for 14 seasons, but we’ll get to that in a second. Mokeski came to KU from Encino, California as a seven-foot freshman and he made an impact from the very start. In fact, in his first year in 1975-76, he averaged 10.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per contest, but he only played in 18 games that season due to a pulled hamstring in the preseason. And after following that up by only playing in 14 games as a sophomore (he broke his ankle that season), he finally stayed healthy and played full seasons for the Jayhawks in his junior and senior campaigns.

In his final two seasons as a Jayhawk, Mokeski averaged 11.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per contest. Mokeski also chipped in almost two blocks per game from 1977 to 1979. Those seasons, along with his giant frame, were good enough for him to be drafted into the NBA. The Houston Rockets took Mokeski with the 42nd overall pick in the 1979 draft.

Mokeski played for fourteen years in the NBA for the Rockets, Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, and most notably, the Milwaukee Bucks. Primarily a backup, Mokeski racked up career averages of 4.0 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. I seem to remember former KU standout Scot Pollard being quoted as saying that being a backup player in the NBA was the greatest job in the world. Paul Mokeski probably has similar sentiments.

Since leaving the playing ranks, Mokeski has scouted for NBA franchises and has gone on to do a significant amount of coaching at the professional level. He has been an assistant in the NBA (Charlotte Bobcats) as well as an assistant and head coach at a few stops in the NBA-D League, including such exotic locations like Reno, Rio Grande Valley, and Fort Worth.

One notable stop in his coaching career took place in the United Kingdom. Mokeski was on the coaching staff of Great Britain’s basketball team, which participated in the 2012 London Olympics. That team featured Luol Deng and won for only the second time in British Olympic history when they beat China 90-58 in the group stage.

Too bad Mokeski isn’t rocking that mustache anymore.