Bob Brannum Born: May 28, 1926 (Winfield, KS)
Graduated: Winfield High School, 1943.
Michigan State University, 1948.
Attended: University of Kentucky,
Died: February 25, 2005
Bob Brannum was someone you didn’t mess with on the basketball court. Nicknamed “Tank,” he and his twin brother Clarence were born in 1926 in Winfield. Hardened by growing up in the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression, and made tougher by his service in the U.S. Army during World War II, Brannum had the physical stature and attitude that made him a force to be reckoned with: first as a player, and later as a coach.
In Brannum’s own words, he was tough. “I didn’t give crap to anybody,” he said. “But I didn’t take it, either.” Brannum’s toughness was his calling card, but his 6’-5” frame, legendary strength, and polished basketball skills, made him one of the best basketball players in the nation. His twin brother Clarence was a four-year letterman and two-time first team All-Conference center for Jack Gardner’s K-State Wildcats from 1947-50. The 1948 Kansas State squad reached the Final Four for the first time in school history with sophomore center Clarence Brannum claiming All-Big 7 First Team accolades.
Bob Brannum graduated from Winfield High School in 1943, in the middle of World War II, at the age of sixteen. Still too young to be drafted, he accepted an invitation from coaching legend Adolph Rupp for a tryout at the University of Kentucky. Rupp was so impressed with Brannum that he offered him a scholarship.
Brannum led the Wildcats in scoring as a freshman and was a first-team All-SEC performer and a consensus first-team All-American at the age of only seventeen, the youngest collegiate All-American in NCAA history. Following the season, Brannum turned eighteen and was drafted into the U.S. Army where he served until 1946.
He returned to Kentucky after the war and found that much had changed since his freshman season, and he transferred to Michigan State. Brannum was the Spartans’ team captain in 1948, earning first-team all-conference honors and All-American honorable mention. Following his graduation, he signed with the Shoboygan Redskins of the fledgling NBA.
Brannum played three seasons with the Redskins before being traded to the Boston Celtics where the legend of his toughness grew. Playing for head coach Red Auerbach, Brannum became the unofficial “body guard” for NBA Hall of Famer Bob Cousy. Cousy noted that Brannum was built like a “bulldog” and “teams learned pretty quickly not to pick on the 5’-11” skinny kid from Holy Cross.” Brannum played four seasons with the Celtics, scoring 1,742 points, grabbing 1,944 rebounds, and he totaled 1,034 personal fouls – evidence of the reputation of toughness he carried throughout his career.
He retired from the NBA after the 1955 season to finish school and begin another chapter in his life, that of a father and coach. Brannum was offered the head coaching positions for both golf and basketball at Norwich University where he coached for seven years before taking the same positions at Kenyon College in Ohio. Following success at both stops, Brannum found a home where he coached basketball and golf at Brandeis University until his retirement in 1986. While at Brandeis, he became the school’s all-time win leader with 204 victories, including the 1978 NCAA Division III Regional Championship. Brannum was elected into the Brandeis Hall of Fame in 2001 and the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003. He passed away on February 25, 2005.