CHICAGO — Kenny Arnold, the Iowa basketball star who led the Hawkeyes to their last Final Four in 1980, died Saturday in the Chicago area after a lengthy battle with a brain tumor and several strokes. He was 59.
Arnold had health issues for more than 30 years, resulting in limited speech and mobility as a result of the tumor and strokes.
“Kenny and I first met as we visited the University of Iowa as recruits,” recalled Kevin Boyle, who was also a key member of that 1980 FInal Four team. “I knew right then he would be a great friend and teammate.
“We proceeded to room together for four years and I will always treasure that experience.”
Arnold played for Iowa from 1979-82, helping the Hawkeyes to the 1979 Big Ten title and four NCAA Tournament appearances. During the Final Four run he led his team in scoring despite a broken thumb.
Arnold averaged 11.7 points and 3.9 assists as a junior. He was a third-team All-Big Ten pick as a senior.
“Kenny was a great player who was recruited as a shooting guard but transitioned into a point guard,” Boyle related. “Ronnie Lester went down with a knee injury in 1980 before the Big Ten Conference. Kenny played the point guard position all Big Ten season and played as well as any point guard in the country and was very instrumental in getting the Hawks to the Final Four.
“More importantly, Kenny was a better human being than a basketball player. He was humble, friendly and always had a smile on his face.”
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Iowa “lost one of the most inspirational players our program has ever had.
“Kenny always had a smile on his face and cared most about the happiness of others,” McCaffery added. “His spirit and legacy will not be forgotten.”
Iowa introduced the Kenny Arnold Spirit Award in 2017, honoring the player who exemplifies his character, courage and poise.
“He fought his medical conditions like a true competitor and I know he is in a better place today,” said Boyle. “Dawn (Kevin’s wife) and I will miss him dearly and we want to give a special thanks to Mike (Tree) Henry, who was always by his side during his medical challenges.”
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Sports Editor for The Courier