Ernie Barrett, former NBA player and Kansas State basketball icon, dead at 93

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    Ernie Barrett, a member of the Boston Celtics in the mid-1950s and a fixture in Kansas State history, died on Friday morning at 93. 

    “Mr. K-State,” as he was adoringly referred to following 75 years of commitment to Kansas State, passed away in Manhattan, Kan., the university confirmed in a news release Friday. 

    Ernie Barrett statue outside of Bramlage Coliseum

    Ernie Barrett statue outside the Bramlage Coliseum before a college basketball game between the Marquette Golden Eagles and the Kansas State Wildcats on December 8, 2021, in Manhattan, Kansas.  (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

    “He came to visit me before every home game and was incredibly welcoming to me and my staff in our first year,” men’s basketball coach Jerome Tang told The Associated Press. “No one loved this university and its basketball team more than him.”

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    A Kansas native, Barrett never strayed from his roots. 

    Born in Wellington on Aug. 27, 1929, Barrett began his successful basketball career at Wellington High School, where he led the school to its only state championship in 1947. 

    He went on to play at Kansas State, where he led the Wildcats to the national championship game in 1951 – the program’s only NCAA Championship game appearance. 

    Ernie Barrett salutes the crowd

    Kansas State legend Ernie Barrett salutes the crowd at K-State’s pep rally on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2016, ahead of the Texas Bowl in Houston against Texas A&M at BVAA Compass Stadium.  (Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

    After three seasons and 675 career points, Barrett was selected by the Celtics as the seventh pick in the 1951 draft. He would serve two years in the Air Force before making his NBA debut. 

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    He played just two seasons with the Celtics, reaching the Eastern Division finals both times, before making his way back to Kansas State. 

    Barrett served in many roles at the university across his 75 years of affiliation, including as a player, coach and administrator. 

    “Ernie was the dearest of friends, one of the greatest K-Staters in the world,” longtime Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder told The Associated Press.  

    Ernie Barrett celebrates with Kansas State basketball

    Ernie Barrett celebrates Mike McGuirl, #00 of the Kansas State Wildcats, and Brian Patrick, #11. (Brett Wilhelm/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

    “Never in my 40-plus years here have I met anyone who meant more or did more for a university than Ernie. He sought out opportunities to promote Kansas State University and the athletics program everywhere he was.”

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    The university will hold a memorial for “Mr. K-State” at Bramlage Coliseum on Thursday. 

    Barrett is survived by his wife of 72 years, Bonnie, along with his son Brad and grandson Ryan. 

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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