Why did Kansas basketball coach Bill Self diddle around so long before he dropped the errant C.J. Giles? Or J.R. Giddens? Or put up with some of the shenanigans by the likes of Jeff Graves, whom he tolerated for one season?
It has nothing to do with the fact all have talent and, with their heads on straight, could have done far better as Jayhawks. A lot of coaches have numerous loopholes for miscreants who can help them win games. That's not Self's bag.
Sometimes he gets so caught up in saving souls he reminds me of the late Dick Harp. As a KU assistant and head coach, Dick was always in the business of social reclamation, with guys like Wilt Chamberlain and Wayne Hightower, to cite one notable pair. Chancellor Franklin Murphy once exclaimed: "Lord, Dick, leave something for the rest of us to do!"
But Self has Harp's Disease. He outlined why he's that way in December of 2004 while serving on a panel regarding collegiate ethics, an event moderated by noted ethicist Michael Josephson. Josephson asked Self to discuss his pitch to recruits and his philosophy once he gets guys here.
Self said he visited with kids and families and emphasized that, while productive jockery is important, his goal is for the youngster to leave better-educated than when he came, whether here one or five years. Self added that, along with whatever book-learning and cultural enhancement an athlete gains, he hoped to help guide him along a path to become a better husband, parent, friend and citizen via the osmosis of membership in the Jayhawk Nation.
"Meanwhile," Self added, "as a coach I have to keep asking myself if I'm the best citizen and role model I can be."
But even a crusader such as Self has to admit to a few failures, and Giles certainly merits a scarlet "F" on his T-shirt.
Things were dicey when C.J. was involved with the infamous leg-slashing incident with party-lover Giddens in that Moon Bar brawl in May of '05. Giles was one of the punchers of Jeremiah Creswell of Olathe, whose knife navigated its way to Gidden's leg from ground level. C.J. got off cheaply as Self tried to reconstruct Giddens' status, then left J.R. more dignity than he deserved before transferring to New Mexico.
Along came some questionable Giles deportment involving scholastics, and we learned about his disgusting deadbeat dad status for a child he had via a local girl. At last reports, he was more than $4,200 and a ton of responsibility bereft. Yet Samaritan Self gave him still another chance, banned him from games until later but let him practice as a member of the team.
Next was that fiasco involving a grab-and-drag with a female in his Jayhawker Towers digs and an alleged less-than-friendly clunk by a fist to the side of her head. That's it, even for a dedicated savior of youth: "We have standards that we hold all student-athletes to. C.J. did not meet those standards. ... I don't want to talk about C.J. Giles after tonight. He's no longer a part of us." Dee-lightful!
Sometimes even a Harp or Self has to make it clear: Be good or be gone! Truth is, the squad again has been blessed with addition by subtraction. Now Self can focus his altruism on kids with class to want to do the right thing and are willing to pay the price to be decent, responsible student athletes."
For those, present or future, who doubt what is expected, C.J. Giles is a classic example that even somebody with Self's eagerness to "educate" reaches the point of no return.