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Monday, April 21, 2003

Self news conference transcript

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The following is the transcript of comments from KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway and Bill Self from Monday's news conference introducing Self as the new KU men's basketball coach.

Chancellor Hemenway: This year the University of Kansas basketball team had a fabulous season. The young men represented over here made, I think, all of Kansas immensely proud. They represented their university in a wonderful manner.

(Applause)

Simply put, they're a great team, and it's my pleasure today to announce that the University of Kansas -- a great university -- its basketball team, which is a great team, has a great new coach, Bill Self.

(Applause)

When the KU coaching position became open last Monday, I said that we'd talk to the best coaches in the country and that we would act decisively. We accomplished both those goals. We spoke to
some outstanding coaches, but we focused on one man: Bill Self. We knew his record, we knew his reputation for integrity, and we knew of his strong respect for KU and all that it stands for -- both as an academic institution and as a basketball power.

It soon became clear that the interest was mutual, and on that basis we were able to act promptly and decisively to bring to KU the coach that we wanted. This decision is very important for the university, and it was made easier by the decision-making process set in motion by Drue Jennings, the interim athletic director. Drue Jennings is a highly accomplished KU alumnus. He's a person who inspires trust. I want to publicly thank him for his leadership in this process.

(Applause)

I also want to thank Richard Konzem and Doug Vance, who provided able assistance as we evaluated candidates and entered into the formal discussions with Bill. They're accomplished athletic professionals.

As you know, Bill Self will be only the eighth head coach in KU history. That's quite a tradition. From Dr. Naismith's peach baskets to Phog Allen's fieldhouse to W. O. Hamilton, Dick Cartettons, Larry Brown and Roy Williams, KU is synonymous with the best of college basketball because of its total program -- not only on the court, but also in the classroom. One reason that you can recruit great players at Kansas is because Kansas has a great faculty. We've hired a coach who will honor,
preserve and expand that winning Jayhawk tradition. And, admittedly, we're prejudiced, but we think it's a tradition second to none.

(Applause)

Bill, on behalf of the students and alumni of the University of Kansas, the entire KU community, Jayhawk fans everywhere, I'm proud to welcome you, your wife, Cindy, your children Lauren and Tyler, back to the Big 12 and back to Lawrence.

(Applause)

And before I turn this news conference over to you, Bill, I'd like to make a presentation. I know that you've dreamed of the head coach's chair at Kansas ever since you first coached at Allen Fieldhouse. So today's a time for dreams to come true. Here's the head coach's chair. We'd be pretty glad if you'd just keep it for the next 25 years or so.

(Applause)

Bill Self: I just touched that, and it already feels very hot.

(Laughter)

So, thank you very much, Chancellor, and thank you, Drue. As you guys know, this has been an emotional whirlwind for everybody in this room, and certainly it has been for me and my family and the people I'm closest to. And I can't tell you enough that I'm thrilled to be the basketball coach at the University of Kansas.

I know it's a big event, with as many media members that are here today. Obviously they thought here was a free meal probably went along with the press conference.

(Laughter)

They thought a press conference at 1, surely they'll feed us at noon. But, it's been wild. I stand before you very, very happy; I stand before you with mixed emotions. There's been a lot of things that have been said, there's been a lot of feelings that have been hurt, there's been a lot of things that have happened in the last seven or eight days at two wonderful institutions. And nobody picks the timing, and certainly I didn't pick this. The reason that it was difficult -- and it was a
difficult decision to leave -- and one of the biggest reasons why we made the decision was after visiting with Chancellor Hemenway, and what he saw and the visions that he had under his leadership certainly made it much easier.

But it was difficult, because I'm leaving behind an unbelievably good situation. I'm leaving behind a great fan base, a great administration, great young players that basically were committed to the cause and did everything they could possibly do to prop me up and make me look good. And, so, when that's being done, it always pulls on your emotional strings to walk away from people you know you've been good to, that's been very good to you.

And with that being said, Cindy and Lauren and Tyler and myself, we went on vacation on Wednesday morning after our banquet in Illinois on Tuesday night, and it wasn't much of a vacation. It was basically a very expensive flight.

(Laughter)

Because we went to Miami, and we spent two nights there to get away. And obviously that didn't happen, and the talks heated up, and I went back to Champaign. And it's been a whirlwind, and we haven't really caught our breath yet, but certainly with what we left behind, it's very, very
tough, but we're certainly looking forward to what we have.

I woke up this morning, and I'm driving to the office, and I on purpose drove up Naismith Drive. And, you know, I've always thought, how cool would it be to office on Naismith Drive? And now it actually gets to happen.

And this program is so big. This program's bigger than one player. It's bigger than one coach. And you've been spoiled. You've had a coach here the last 15 years that's done a remarkably great job.
He's done it the right way. He's done it with class, with dignity, and the performance on the court certainly equalled the performance off the court. And it's a tough act to follow. But, you know something? Larry Brown was a tough act to follow. Ted Owens went to two Final Fours and was a tough act to follow. Phog Allen was a very tough act to follow. And the guy who started it all is the toughest of all acts to follow.

So I see this as a great opportunity to sit in, in my opinion -- and it's a biased opinion -- the most prestigious chair in all of college basketball, and I certainly am looking forward to that.

When we were in Florida, Cindy and I and the kids, we labored a lot. Because when you pour yourself into a situation, it obviously makes it much tougher to let go. And we had poured ourself into the situation in Champaign, and it was tough. But we knew that this was a decision not based on the immediate future. This was a career-ending decision based on our family for the betterment of it. And certainly after a lot of talks with people that I strongly respect, it was a decision that had to be made and certainly a decision that I'm very happy with and very happy to be here.

For me, this all started, I say I played at Oklahoma State; I was one of those heady guys that took charges, and I told the players last night, and I said what does that really mean? And think Langford said, "Can't play."

(Laughter)

Which is basically true. I played at Oklahoma State and had a good career there. I had a school that I truly love and was able to meet Cindy, and Tyler, and -- well, I didn't meet Tyler and Lauren there yet, but...

(Laughter)

...and since then, it's been a whirlwind for me personally. One of my dearest friends in life, and to this day probably has as much to do with me being here and the success of my coaching career than anybody is R.C. Buford. And R.C. was a volunteer assistant at the University of Kansas, and he hired me to be a camp worker. You know, now you've got to play like 300 guys a week to handle all the campers that Kansas has.

I came up here the summer going into my senior year, to work camp with Coach Brown, and talk about spinning negative into positive, which we all need to do each and every day of our life. But while I was working camp, I hurt my knee, to the point where the KU team physician told Coach Brown and myself that I needed to have surgery when I went back. And those of you -- and most of you do -- that really know Coach Brown, Coach Brown is an unbelievable person, but he really cared about me
and liked me for whatever reason. And so I hung around him, and, as bad as it hurt, I limped worse than it hurt, and I tried to get as much pity loving from him as I possibly could.

(Laughter)

And at the end of the camp I walked up to him, and I said, "Hey coach, I just want to thank you for everything. This has been a remarkable week for me, even though I wasn't an athlete here, to have the opportunity to come work," because I felt Kansas that one week.

And while I was saying that, I caught him at a weak moment, and he said, "Hey Bill, if there's anything I can ever do for you, don't hesitate to ask."

(Laughter)

And opportunity knocked right there, and I said, "Coach, there is one thing." And he said, "What's that?" And I said, "You can hire me next year to be your graduate assistant." And on the spot -- I caught him off-guard -- he said, "You're hired." And that's how I got into coaching. I was a business major, and 30 seconds later I was going to be an assistant coach in Kansas. And I wrote Coach Brown a letter once a month to remind him that he'd hired me...

(Laughter)

...and he never, ever responded.

But in my time here, I came up here, and the year that I was, of course, you had Greg, and Ronnie and Calvin and Archie and Ced and Pipe and Turge and some guy named Manning, and the team was really good. And I saw the best that college basketball had to offer. That year we were 35-4, we were never ranked lower than fourth in America, and we lost in a game in Dallas, when Archie got hurt, and it could have easily gone the other way. But right then I knew that this place was different.

I used to talk to Coach Brown all the time, and he amazed me, because, you know, he's been at a few places. I don't know if you guys have followed that, but...

(Laughter)

...you know, here's a guy that played and coached at North Carolina. And here's a guy that coached and went to the national championship game at UCLA. And he used to tell me, "Those places are great, but there's no place like Kansas." And that's always stuck with me. He's been to the best, and he thought this was the best. And that's always stuck.

(Applause)

So, we've had a chance to go some different stops. Coaches can't win without great players, and you can't win consistently and have a great program without doing it the right way. And the goal of Kansas is not to have great teams. Great teams are expected to go Kansas to have great
programs. And one thing that Coach Williams, I thought, and the prior coaches have done is recruit quality student athletes that cared about education; the graduation rates here are unbelievable.
And not only cared about that, that were the best that America had to offer athletically. And also, maybe most importantly, instill pride in something that was much bigger than themselves.

And you look around here, and you see the players, and the players now feel it. They feel it; I talked to them last night; they feel it. These guys care about one thing after visiting with them last night, and that's winning. That's what matters to these guys, cause once you taste it, you want more of it. But to know that the pride that exists with the past players, and that is something that is a huge responsibility for anybody that sits in that hot seat right there to totally understand that and grasp that, because this is so much bigger than an individual. You
know, Kansas basketball is an institution, and it's certainly going to be challenging, but also very rewarding sitting in that chair.

Throughout the years, I've had a rabbit's foot. We work hard, we've had success, part of success is being lucky. And one of the smartest things that I've done as a coach was something I lucked into. Bill Pope -- you guys may remember Bill -- Bill called me and told me when I was looking for a coach at Oral Roberts, there's a guy in New York City that you don't know, but I promise you if you hire him, you'll never, never regret it. And I don't listen to Bill often on many things, but
certainly he told me about Norm Roberts, and Norm will be coming with us from the University of Illinois. And he will be our associate head coach here, and he is as good as it gets. His brother played here at Kansas for coach Owens, and he used to work camp here for years, so he feels it
too. And certainly we've been really successful, and he's played a huge role in everything we have going on.

(Applause)

In the last 10 days or so, or however long it's been, so much speculation. And one thing that has been short-changed with the speculation is the players. Fortunately for us, the first time we
played 'em -- unfortunately last year -- but the last two years we played Kansas when the stakes were high. And, you know, we've seen it first-hand. But these guys this year, with the injury to Wayne and the loss of Drew, have rallied around each other and played at a level that's been unbelievable. And to make it as far as they did, and of course disappointed with the last outcome, I think something's been lost. We haven't had a chance to celebrate the works and the efforts of
these guys. And these guys are stellar; they're studs. In the brief amount of time, one thing that's really impressed me, you know -- life's not about what happens to it, it's how we react to what happens to it. And I think that these guys have reacted to the coaching situation in a
stellar way. They've been strong. Because, you know, they hurt. And also, part of hurt is not knowing what's out there before them in the future, and I think everybody can thank these guys for staying united, because these guys care about Kansas, and I think that's very important, and certainly I got that feel last night.

(Applause)

Another coach I'd really like to thank is coach Ben Miller. I've talked to all the recruits and families, with the exception of one. I've tried several times to run Omar down; I talked to his brother and haven't been able to catch him at the right time. But everybody's told me that Ben has played a big role and really stepping up to the plate and helping hold this thing together -- even though it wasn't falling apart, but the appearance at the time is that it looked frayed. But I want to thank Ben. Of course Jerod and C.B. have also played a role in that as well.

This past year was great, and Kansas loses two of the premier players in all of college basketball. Two players that are probably much better people than they ever played. And you can say, man, Kansas loses a lot. And of course we're all going to miss Nick and Kirk, no question about that, but we've got good players coming back. And I'm excited about that. And you know something? The previous staff did a great job recruiting, and you know that. And this recruiting class is very, very good. Very good. Borderline great. And, of course, with the guys who are
coming in, and not very often does a new staff take over a situation where the previous recruiter's players fit his styles well. And so I'm really looking forward to working with these guys, and working with those guys, and really developing a personal relationship with them, and
having that grow and grow, and not take a step backwards. You know, we may take a step sideways, but we're not going to take a step backwards.

Last thing. I feel that this is an enormous responsibility. This has been something that people close to me -- I never spoke publicly about -- you know, when you're at Oral Roberts and you lose 18 in a row your first year, you don't speak publicly about "I'm going to coach at Kansas some day."

(Laughter)

You probably didn't know we lost 18 in a row, did you?

But that happened. But deep in my heart, once you've been here, you know what it's like. So certainly this is an enormous responsibility, and I think one of the first orders of business is to stay in contact and stay connected to the people that came before me -- the players that came before these guys -- and make sure that this is going to be a family. I'm looking forward to it, I can't thank Chancellor and Drue for the opportunity, and I look forward to working with everybody. And I do return phone calls better than I have this last week. OK? Thank you very much.

Here is Self's Q&A with reporters after his opening statement.

On his style of basketball:

"We're going to play fast. The thing about its,at Illinois, the Big 10 has a reputation of being a league that maybe doesn't play quite as fast as the Big 12, but we've (Illinois) played fast everywhere we've been and we've led the league in scoring the last three consecutive years and I think we it's also we've finished about eighth or ninth in the country in scoring. But that's because of pressure, defense feeds offense and at Illinois certainly we played fast and we recruited personnel to play fast. I believe in the game of pressure. The harder you guard, the faster and quicker you can shoot it. If we don't guard, we won't shoot, and I've watched these guys and they like to shoot, so I know we'll guard. It's a game of comfort zones and these guys have done a great job of living in theirs and getting their opponent out of theirs. We'll play very similar in a lot of ways. We will run more high-lows, we'll do some different things, because that's what I know and I believe, but as far as visually watching this team play, you're not going to see a lot of difference."

On whether he will tailor his style at all to the personnel returning and coming in:

"Absolutely. I think that until you've been at a place so long and until you go out and select your recruits, I think that's a coach's responsibility. I think NBA coaches tailor their style to fit personnel. I think that anybody that has a guy that can really shoot or a guy that can really seal in the post or whatever, you've got to do some things to make sure that they can catch the ball and give them the best chance. Certainly we'll tweak it, but these guys fit our style."

On whether he's made a decision on his other assistants:

"I have made a decision. Tim Jankovich who played at Kansas State has been with me, has worked with me at Oklahoma State and been with me will come. Right now I'm not going to say publicly what I'm leaning towards doing in the other spot, but a decision could come real soon on what we're going to do in the other spot. But when you look at staff, don't look at three assistants. Look at five. We'll gather information and massage it to give us the best staff in America. That will be our goal. I think it's real important that through this process -- even though I was at Kansas for a year and I know a lot of people in this room, and I still know how to get to Alvamar and have showed my family where I use to live although it's changed a little bit -- it's real important that we have somebody in place that helps tie the thing together that's been here and certainly understands Kansas and help sell Kansas."

On what his plans are for the next few days and if he will go visit the incoming recruits:

"I think that's the first order of business. I told the fellas (returning Kansas players) that I'm going to go see the families of our returning players, but I will wait till after the recruiting period's over since we only have nine days left. And instead of spending days where we could go see recruit's families and things like that we're gonna -- and I hope these guys (the returning KU players) understand that I'm going to go see their (families) beginning the first of May, but my first order of business is to get to the (David) Padgett's and the (Omar) Wilkes' and the (J.R> Giddens' and the (Jeremy) Cases'."

On whether he has any plans to fill Kansas' remaining scholarship:

"Recruiting's a never-ending process and who knows what's going to happen, obviously. But we'll evaluate and if there's somebody out there that fits what we're trying to do and gives us a better opportunity to play on Monday night in April, that's certainly what we'll attempt to do."

On his thoughts on Big 12 play coming over from the Big 10 and his experience playing Mizzou at Allen Fieldhouse:

"Unfortuanetly, we do return to game, is that right? To Hearnes (Center. in Columbia, Mo.). The Illinois/Missouri game is as good a non-conference game as there is in America. You guys that have covered that, know that. It's an unbelievable atmosphere and certainly as intense as the rivalry with them (Illinois facing Missouri at the Hearnes Center), I'm sure we could multiply it several times here (Allen Fieldhouse). I think I have a good feel for the Big 12. I guess technically I'm not a Big 12 guy, I'm a Big 8 guy, but certainly with the success, the Big 12 last year was the best league in America. I think that's unquestioned. Nobody can argue that. But the Big 10 last year was a far, far, far better league than what people gave it credit for. The Big 10 is certainly a league in which I think that being the coach at Kansas could help you prepare to win in the Big 12 because every game you play in is going to be sold out. The home courts mean a lot in that league and certainly the home court's always going to mean a lot when Kansas plays 'cause it's going to be a huge game for anybody who's competing against them. I've got a good feel for it (Big 12 style of play). The Big 12 obviously plays fast. The reputation of playing fast and I think the biggest reason for that is because how Kansas plays. But, it's a tough league and a coaches' league, obviously and certainly you've got to be your best night in and night out to win."

On whether he's had a chance to talk to Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton through this process:

"I've played him four times and the first time was 42 (point-spread), the second time was 39 and the third time was like 17, but we got him the fourth time and so I told him I'd never play him again. I've got bragging rights. We spoke the last two days. He came from Bucklin, Kan. and everything. He understands. He respects this very much and I think he was very happy for me."

On what his Illini family is feeling right now and what he has to say to them:

"They're upset and they're mad and they're disappointed and certainly any emotions that they have is warranted. I told all the players, 'However you feel is okay.' I don't think that when there's a split like this and a split where things were going so well and people were so supportive and you were really beginning to become entrenched not only in the community, but the state, a breakup I don't think is ever going to be very easy. The players asked me, belive it was Wayne (Simien), asked me the same question last night (what he was saying to his Illinois players/fans/staff). I don't think you can candy-coat it. This was a decision that we made for our family for the betterment of time. We didn't make this decision because we'd rather coach this Kansas player more than that Illinois player. This was a decision based over time. One thing that we will take great pride in -- and I know that people are upset -- but we will take great pride in that the foundation is set at Illinois. There's great young players in the program and they're tough and they're competitive and they are unselfish and they sacrifice for the good of others and they understand what it takes to win at the highest level. They're going to be good no matter who's coaching them. Ron Guenther is a fabulous AD and he'll bring in the very best."

On whether Kansas' search for a new athletics director played any factor in his decision to come to KU:

"We talked about that. I visited with the Chancellor about that and he made me feel real comfortable in the direction that it's headed. When you say frayed, I think that all things seem to be happening at once in a lot of ways -- at least from the outside looking in. What it seems like is uncertain today, three months from now it won't seem that way. We see the future so often as 'today' -- especially the younger you are -- and the future is what's best for the University over time. However long it takes the Chancellor and whoever to get the perfect guy in here to be the athletic director is how long it should take. And I think that this place is going to be fine until that occurs and that was not a factor in my decision at all."

On when he made his decision to accept the Kansas job:

"I was on the phone in my apartment in Miami thinking about it. The media has been made out to look real smart in this deal, and the reason why is because you projected or predicted some things to happen that hadn't happened. My first conversation with Chancellor Hemenway was Thursday for five minutes. My first conversation with Drue (Jennings) was Wednesday for maybe ten minutes. The thing that I wanted to do is -- and I know this bothered some people at Illinois -- I didn't want the talks to progress unless I felt like I could pull the trigger. So, a lot of people were projecting things. I told our players -- my wife knows this -- we left our vacation a day early, not to come back to tell players we were going to Kansas, to come back so we were at a place where we knew a decision was going to be made in 24 hours. I woke up Saturday morning -- I was going (to accept the position at KU). I talked to one person I totally respect -- and I wasn't going. And then by about 8:00 Saturday night, we had made the decision that we were going if in fact everything lined up, and that's when parties got busy."

On any assurance he can give the Kansas faithful he will be here in five or ten years when Eddie Sutton may retire at his (Self) alma mater Oklahoma State:

"This is a career-ending job. I love Oklahoma State. You talk about a tough act to follow -- Coach Sutton would be a tough act to follow as well. My future is not in Stillwater. My future is in Lawrence. Certainly, there's been some things, and it's in some ways ways flattering because I'm close to a lot of people there. This is a job -- I didn't take Illinois -- the job -- to posture myself in a better situation. That's a great job. But -- this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I think contractually, there'll probably be a couple of things in there to make sure that couldn't happen. But I can tell you right now that that is over."

On if he let himself think about coaching at Kansas at any other point, particularly three years ago when Coach Williams was offered the North Carolina job and his name was mentioned as Williams' replacement:

"When that was talked about then (Self taking Williams' job three years ago), that was not a possibility for me. I had taken the job at Illinois so there's no way. The timing wouldn't have been there. Over the course of time -- you cannot -- when I was in Archie's (Marshall), Pipe's (Chris Piper), Danny's (Manning) last home game, played Oklahoma State (Self was one of the Oklahoma State assistant coaches at the time) and I talked to coach (Leonard) Hamilton (former OSU coach) who I worked for and he played a huge role in my -- he and coach (Larry) Brown -- I've worked for three guys. One of them's a Hall-of-Famer, another one's going to be a Hall-of-Famer, another of them's been an NBA caoch, well, two of them have been NBA coaches, all three have been national coaches of the year -- I've worked for some guys that are pretty good. I tried hard to convince coach Hamilton -- because it was Danny's last game -- and I knew that Coach Brown (Kansas' head coach) knew all three officials real well and we had no shots, so I requested that we sit on the bench during the senior ceremonies before the game and coach (Hamilton) wouldn't do that, but I went out there and watched a little bit. Every time you come in this building, you get goose-bumps. I remember, I was the fifth or seventh guy on a really big staff (assistant at Kansas) back in '85-'86 and it was a thrill just watching the games here and it was a thrill playing here, so you can't help thinking about that stuff at some point and time."

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