John Shurna Scoring Record Countdown: Who is Billy McKinney?

John Shurna is 16 points away from being Northwestern's all-time scoring leader. Barring some horrific calamity or a surprise Coble-ing, he will take that title within the next few days. We'll be examining various aspects of how cool and weird it is that the shy guy with the busted jumper is about to be the most prolific scorer in this school's history.

Today: a look at the guy who he's displacing.

I'll be honest: I was born in 1990. I didn't follow Northwestern sports closely until my interest in applying here in 2007. Billy McKinney's Northwestern career ended in 1977, and his subsequent NBA career ended in 1985. Suffice it to say, I had never heard of him before coming to Northwestern, and as I sat down to write this post, I knew nothing about him besides the fact that he is Northwestern's all-time leading scorer, and that none of the teams he played for made the NCAA Tournament. And this is from a guy with a disturbing wealth of knowledge about Northwestern sports. Evan Eschmeyer graduated years before I got here, and yet I'm pretty familiar with his career, his game, and his brief NBA exploits. I suspect I'm not the only person on this site who knows very little about McKinney.

I suspect this isn't true of most schools. Let's take a look at other all-time scoring leaders around the conference:

Illinois: Deon Thomas. My bad, I got nothing.

Indiana: Calbert Cheaney. Check. Remember him from the Bullets.

Iowa: Roy Marble - Check, but mainly from his son.

Michigan: Glen Rice. Check. I mean, he played on the Knicks, hipsters buy his Hornets jersesy, and he did things with a Vice Presidential candidate. (I'm talking, of course, of his album of classic country duets that he released with Joe Lieberman.)

Michigan State: Shawn Respert. Check. Not sure how, but I knew who he was.

Minnesota: Mychal Thompson. Check. Former No. 1 pick, and the kiddies Klay and... Mychel are in the NBA now. Klay Thompson, also, we don't like him.

Nebraska: Dave Hoppen. Um, no.

Northwestern: We're going over this right now.

Ohio State: Dennis Hopson. Between Hoppen and Hopson...

Penn State: Talor Battle. Check. He has ruined my life on many occasions.

Purdue: Rick Mount. Nope, I got nothing.

Wisconsin: Alando Tucker. Check. I missed out on getting to see Tucker, but knew what he was doing at Wisky even before paying that much attention to Big Ten basketball.

So, I was aware of the leading scorers of seven of 11 Big Ten teams by being a basketball fan, but never came across Northwestern's besides when I actively looked up Northwestern's all-time leading scorer. That doesn't make sense.

To prevent this from being the case for all of us, here's a brief biography of Billy McKinney.

Let's start by discussing his Northwestern career: McKinney was a 6 foot tall guard who played from 1973-1977, which, in terms of collegiate scoring records, can best be described as after players were allowed to play four years on varsity - i.e., there was no freshman team, which kept many old-timers from holding their school records - but before the three-point shot was added, meaning some of McKinney's longer shots may have been worth more. (It seems unlikely this would be the case for McKinney - in his seven-year NBA career, he shot 3-for-48 from behind the arc, a .063 3-point shooting percentage.) He was coached all four years by the innovator of the Triangle Offense, Tex Winter, and McKinney was therefore in the Kobe/Jordan role. He wasn't as successful as Kobe or Jordan - no McKinney team finished with a winning record, the best placement in conference was seventh - but he put up some absolute numbers. McKinney led his squad in scoring all four years, yes, even as a freshman, and also led the team in assists his junior and senior years. He finished averaging 18.6 points per game and was named second-team Big Ten in each of his final three years in addition to a first-team Big Ten honor as a senior (media had him second, coaches had him first). He was a bit of a high-usage player: he also holds the records for most field goals and field goal attempts by any NU player. He doesn't hold any in-game records, but his 37 (in a 100-84 loss to Notre Dame) is tied for the eighth best game in NU history. (He also took 26 shots, the tenth most in school history.)

After college, McKinney was deemed too small for the pros, he was drafted in the sixth round - yeah, that doesn't exist anymore - by the Phoenix Suns and didn't make the team. A year later he caught on with the Kansas City Kings - yeah, that doesn't exist anymore - and played a significant role, playing in 78 games and averaging nearly eight points. After two years in KC, he would set the only record he holds in 1980-81: by being traded from a team (Utah) that had already played 35 games to one with 49 left on the schedule (Denver), McKinney played in a league-high 84 games. His time in Denver was the most successful of his career: McKinney was an occasional starter and averaged over ten points and four assists in two full seasons with Denver. However, his minutes dropped off and he didn't see much playing time in stints with the San Diego Clippers - yeah, that doesn't exist anymore - and Chicago.

After his playing career ended in Chicago, just a few miles from Welsh-Ryan, Jerry Krause brought him on-board to work in the Bulls' front office. He left in 1988 before Chicago's multiple title runs to become the head of player personnel for the fledgling Timberwolves. After getting them out to a mediocre start as a franchise, McKinney took over for the recent two time NBA champion Detroit Pistons in 1992 and promptly made a mess of things. The Pistons went from winning the title in 1990, they were 20-62 in 1993-1994. McKinney traded away a large part of the Pistons' title core and ended up with a squad based around promising prospect Grant Hill, who unfortunately had knee problems his whole time in Detroit and I have no clue how he's still in the NBA. McKinney bounced around as a scout and announcer, and since 2008 has been Director of Scouting for the Milwaukee Bucks, aka the guy they brought in after firing the living balls out of some other guy who drafted Yi Jianlian and Joe Alexander with back-to-back first round picks.

So, now you know who Billy McKinney is. Let us celebrate his work during the last few days of his reign. (Can you call it a reign?)

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