In A Former Life, This Artistic Director Climbed The Ranks Of A Basketball Powerhouse

May 8, 2017

Lane Czaplinski has been the artistic director at On The Boards, a Seattle-based contemporary performing arts organization since 2002. He has basically been working in the arts since he graduated college. But in his senior year of college, a series of unusual circumstances led to him climbing the ranks of one of the most historic and decorated college basketball programs in the country.

Lane chose to go to the University of Kansas, but not to play basketball. He took basketball very seriously in high school, but wasn't recruited to any major college basketball programs, so when he chose the in-state public university, he basically felt that his basketball career was over.

Lane did, however, play on the Kansas junior varsity team for his first three years at the school. But in his senior year, things changed.

Lane, an English major, had gone off to Europe to study theater, and when he returned, he auditioned and was cast in a play.

One morning, Lane got a phone call telling him that one of the players on the Kansas varsity team wasn't going to be eligible to play that season, and they wanted Lane to practice with the team. The Kansas head coach, Roy Williams, was impressed enough with Lane's abilities that he invited Lane to join the team permanently for his senior year. Lane found himself all of a sudden as a member of one of the top-ranked teams in the country.

Lane didn't see a whole lot of playing time, but he ended up getting a lot of attention. When some of his theater friends found out that he was playing on the team, they would show up to the games and start chanting his name. This quickly caught on throughout the arena, and resulted in 17,000 people all chanting his name.

And the attention didn't stop there.  As Lane puts it, the team that year lacked certain leadership qualities, so coach Roy Williams ended up making Lane a captain of the team. In no time, Lane had gone from a junior varsity player, to member of the team, to one of the most popular players in the arena, to captain of a historic program.

Captains at Kansas, by the way, get their name immortalized on a wall, and by pure alphabetic coincidence, you can find Lane Czaplinski's name on the wall right next to Wilt Chamberlain's. 

That senior year was also influential in starting Lane's career. Roy Williams asked Lane what he wanted to do with the rest of his life, and Lane told him that he wanted a career in the arts. Williams made a phone call and set up a meeting for Lane, which resulted in his first job in the arts. He's been working in that field ever since. 

This story originally aired on April 29, 2017