Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The gospel according to : Jo Jo

Former KU great speaks his mind about Bill Self, Julian Wright - and all things Jayhawk

Former Kansas University basketball standout Jo Jo White, right, yuks it up with radioman Max Falkenstien during White's jersey-retirement ceremony in this file photo from 2003. Though he works for the Boston Celtics, White says he keeps close tabs on the Jayhawks.

Former Kansas University basketball standout Jo Jo White, right, yuks it up with radioman Max Falkenstien during White's jersey-retirement ceremony in this file photo from 2003. Though he works for the Boston Celtics, White says he keeps close tabs on the Jayhawks.


One of the most ballyhooed ballers in Kansas University basketball lore, Jo Jo White still keeps up with the Jayhawks, even though he lives in Boston and works in the Celtics' front office.

"I follow them very closely," White, a KU guard from 1966 to 1969, said, adding that he thought the 2006-07 squad was talented enough to win it all.

"I was a little bit disappointed," the two-time All-American said of the Jayhawks' 68-55 Elite Eight loss to UCLA in March.

White, whose number 15 jersey hangs in the Allen Fieldhouse rafters, said the jury was still out on KU coach Bill Self, even though he has compiled a 105-29 record and led the team to two NCAA regional-final appearances in four seasons.

"Judgment's still out on Bill," White said Monday before playing in the Legends of KU Kansas City Golf Tournament. "I like him as a person. I don't know if he's tough enough on these guys. We've got some outstanding talent, but you've got to be honest, and you've got to be open, and you've got to get on them because you want to get the most out of them."

White, who scored 1,268 points in his three seasons as a Jayhawk, said he hoped Self, whom he called "a great recruiter," would be able to keep the players he brings to KU from heading to the NBA early.

"As soon as you get a team together, your talent is gone," White said of today's college basketball climate. "So if you can't recruit, you can't coach."

Since Self's arrival in Lawrence in 2003, only forward Julian Wright - drafted 13th overall by the New Orleans Hornets in June - has left school early for the NBA.

However, White opined that now was not the time for Wright to go pro.

"Definitely not. I thought he should've stayed in school, but he's a talented individual," White said.


Former Kansas University basketball standout Jo Jo White, right, yuks it up with radioman Max Falkenstien during White's jersey-retirement ceremony in this file photo from 2003. Though he works for the Boston Celtics, White says he keeps close tabs on the Jayhawks.

White, Boston Celtics director of special projects and community-relations representative, said his time in an NBA front office has allowed him to see how difficult it can be for ultra-talented college prospects to assimilate at the pro level.

"Once they get (to the NBA), they find out there are some more talents out here," White said, adding that underclassmen that join the NBA have to take a professional approach to succeed.

"Once you get to the pros, everyone at that level is gifted. We have a lot of athletes in the pros, but we have very few professionals," the 1976 NBA Finals MVP for the Celtics said. "Professionalism has nothing to do with college. It has to do with work ethic, how you approach the game, how you carry yourself, how you deal with media. A lot of these young kids, they don't have a clue."

White said, ideally, every college player would stay in school four years and leave with a degree.

"If you throw your education away and you don't make it, what do you have? Absolutely nothing," he said. "You have to prepare yourself for: What if? And you have to do that through education."

A seven-time NBA All-Star, White said many young players are coerced into leaving school early by agents or people around them who can profit from the athlete's success.

"You get to read what the athlete makes, but you never get to read what's being made off the athlete," he explained. "They (people around the athlete) can make money and not win a game."

Bad advice, White said, can lead to a young athlete's demise.

"There's only so many LeBron James's," he said of the wildly successful 22-year-old Cleveland Cavaliers forward, who bypassed college completely. "(College players) have to get that advice coming from their superiors."

A champion with the Celtics twice over, White also was critical of the NBA's rule - which first affected high school seniors last year - that says players must be at least one year past the graduation of their high school class and at least 19 years old by the end of the calendar year in which they enter the draft.

"That one year in school - that's crap," he said, adding that it does players no good to "hide out" in the college ranks for a year.

That rule got Ohio State's Greg Oden and Texas forward Kevin Durant on campus last year before they went pro this spring and were selected first and second overall in the NBA Draft.

Much was made in pro-sports-crazed Boston of the Celtics not landing one of those players via the lottery, but White had a different take on that.

"I wasn't disappointed at all," he said of the Celtics ending up with the No. 5 pick, which they eventually traded along with Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West to Seattle for Ray Allen and the rights to Glen Davis. "Over the years, we've been successful not relying on luck. So now all of the sudden, everybody's saying we didn't have any luck in the draft."

Despite the franchise's NBA-leading 16 titles, Celtic pride may not be at an all-time high right now - the team was 24-58 in 2006-07. But White, whose No. 10 jersey was retired by the franchise, said things are looking up, thanks in part to another former Jayhawk, Paul Pierce.

A 1998 All-American at Kansas, Pierce is the franchise's centerpiece, and White said the nine-year Celtic veteran still has five good years left in his 230-pound frame. White has been one of Pierce's biggest supporters and highly recommended the KU product to Celtic brass when he entered the 1998 NBA Draft.

"I told our organization he was better than they could imagine because each year he was at KU he got better and better," White recalled, and said that Pierce could lead the storied franchise back to glory.

"He hasn't even scratched the surface of how good he can become," White said. "We have a lot of confidence in Paul, and I think his best games are in front of him."

Although the ups and downs of his Jayhawk and Celtic hoop squads occupy a great deal of his time, White said he also spends a lot of time during the summer months at golf outings, attending to Boston Celtic corporate sponsors and season-ticket holders. But he also gets to watch the team's talent develop and interact with the players.

"My plate is full, and I'm enjoying what I'm doing," he said.


Kirk 11 years, 5 months ago

I agree it's crap to have players use college as a one year pit stop. On the other hand, you can't quite say that JW will have ended up "with nothing" even if he does fall flat in the NBA. He got himself enough money not to worry, and he can always continue his education.

tis4tim 11 years, 5 months ago

...and on the topic of Self, Jo-Jo goes and touches the electric fence. sigh Here come the Bill haters yet again.

Kirk 11 years, 5 months ago

tis4tim -- Yes, but Self is overwhelmingly supported by fans, and there's always going to critics. Especially at programs like KU. Remember, Self is the first Kansas coach is a long time NOT to lead the Jayhawks to the final four within his first three or four seasons. And two first round losses don't help.

JoJo was fair. He just said the jury's still out.

tis4tim 11 years, 5 months ago


Point taken. Let me say too that I wasn't knocking on Jo Jo at all. He's one of the all-timers. It's more an indictment of those who prefer the destination substantially over the ride.

John Stowell 11 years, 5 months ago

Fans are plenty happy with Self. He's proven to be a great recruiter, and he's not afraid to bench players who aren't performing. I only wish he was bolder in scheduling non conference opponents. Even the players admit to being bored by some of the no name schools they play. How is that helping us come tournament time?

Seth Peattie 11 years, 5 months ago

Amen, tis4tim. Shazam - no name schools they play? Our non-con schedule is fine. Blame the WEAK Big XII, not Coach. If the conference would get its act together, we'd be in much better shape come March.

voygr1 11 years, 5 months ago

Schedule is fine Take a look at Duke, North Carolina etc and you'll find schools like Liberty or Army or other no names on the east coast. You balance it out with the bigger schools as you can. BC, USC, Georgia Tech are strong basketball schools this year. Be fair in judging the schedule!!!

beebe1 11 years, 5 months ago

With 17 guys on our squad, I hope he shoots for having more than 8 members who get to play for real!!

Kirk 11 years, 5 months ago

Shazam -- I agree; this is a sub-par schedule for a school on KU's level. There's a long LONG discussion on the question of schedule strength (or weakness) attached to Mayer's recent "Loaded" article.

voygr1 -- I don't mind playing a few little teams -- usually we're doing them a great favor. But my count, we're only playing one team from last year's Sweet 16 this year, and only about 4 tournament teams overall. While I agree with LAJayhawk 5 that the Big XII is largely to blame, our scheduling should show WAY more imagination, ambition, and verve.

We should be playing Duke, UK, UCLA, and other traditional powerhouses. Hell, THEY do it.

And please don't anybody say we don't recruit against those schools.

KURUSH1530 11 years, 5 months ago

Wow, JoJo questions Bill Self and nothing gets said. Yet, one poster can get on here to question his style and they get ripped and told to run away to root for another team. That's all I'm saying. I sure hope the big 12 gains some strength this year, that would really help out, especially after ranking 7th last year for overall conference RPI. But a little over 75% of our non-conference schedule at home? That's not helping the cause. Atleast we're going to the West Coast early on in the season. Because we all know how much the NCAAA committee loves to make us travel out there for the tourney.

frompekka2sasha 11 years, 5 months ago

Well Duke and UCLA are not really interested in playing KU. Self has already said that Coach K is not willing to let KU come to their recruiting territory and possibly gain an advantage in the future. We are kind of weak in the upper east so it does make sense.

Joe Ross 11 years, 5 months ago


Let me hasten to point out that JoJo is a veteran of the college and pro games and is now in the front office of a storied NBA franchise. I think is opinion is worth those of 2 or 3 hundred others here considering his knowledge of the minutia and innerworkings of the game, so you simply CAN NOT put what posters say here on par with his assessments. It's like apples and watermelons. The evidence is that every single thing he said was rational and clearly apprehended by his logic.

For example, even while I have congratulated Julian on his great fortune in the draft and his life is now where he wants it to be, I agreed with JoJo's objective assessment: Julian would have been better served to stay in school another year.

I do agree with you in one sense though! We shouldn't all be muffled with duct tape over our mouths regarding criticism of Bill Self when and if it's deserved. I'm a Bill Self supporter, but to posters here who think you can't say anything critical, well that's just bogus.

The preceeding conclusion may at first seem a little contradictory (coming from me) because I may become known here as the "Great Defender" of all Jayhawks past and present. Simply put though, there is a difference between criticism and hating on someone. Roy haters belong in the same lot as Bill haters and vice versa. People become clouded by their own prejudices and think they are giving an objective opinion when it is so clearly biased one way or the other, but I digress.

Clearly, Coach Self is not above criticism but that doesn't make one a Self hater who calls him out, so I agree with you on that particular point.

doctorWho 11 years, 5 months ago

I used to have my doubts about Self. But I think he's doing a good job with the talent he has in a very crazy end of year tournament. I agree with JoJo. We were good enough to win it all. But our talent level really was not high enough to assure victory. (Okay, the '97 team showed even a strong tourney-lock can be picked.) It may be that the best coaches of the future will be those that can both recruit and maximize the talent they get out of freshman and sophomores. Self has proven he can master one of these goals, let's hope he can go on to master both.

tis4tim 11 years, 5 months ago


I'll presume your statement was a tad directed at my first post on this thread. If not, well that's okay too.

In the spirit of accuracy and coherence that you like to put forth regularly here, I'll admit that I am not a fan of Self and KU. In fact, I have several times over the years tried to put forth the idea that the term fan indicates a blind loyalty, devoid of criticism. In the past, I have suggested that the majority of us are 'devotees' and not fans. That is, while we love most things KU, we are not above being critical at appropriate times.

You know, jross, as most of us do the blind rage and disgust that certain of us here throw into most threads about Self when given the chance. I was CERTAIN that a person of Jo Jo's stature even hinting that Self still had not yet proved himself would elicit a dam burst of criticism, which was the reason for my initial comment.

I, myself, agree completely that just because you like a certain team, doesn't mean you cannot question its actions. So, I thought I'd put a little more clarity on my point. I realize most on this board like to read short novas of text and not a treatise, but I'm on my lunch and I've eaten my entire sandwich, so I had a moment... :)

Kirk 11 years, 5 months ago

frompekkatosasha -- We can play our choice of most of the biggies. I fully expect to restart a series with Kentucky. That's our tradition.

Settling for this year's schedule on a regular basis would be unacceptable. More competition (and more road games) are what we need in preparation for the tournament.

Maybe we should do what boxers do. Call out the competition for ducking you. Point being, when there's a will, there's a way -- and the status quo is pretty lame.

hometownhawk 11 years, 5 months ago

We are T-44 days away from the football season opener and it has been a week since there was a KU football article in the LJW. I love KU bball too, but there was nowhere else to post this because there are no fb articles. I'm going nuts here!

Joe Ross 11 years, 5 months ago


I appreciate your response. I'd like to respond to it but would you first clarify something? Do I take you correctly to mean youre NOT a KU fan by this statement:

"...I'll admit that I am not a fan of Self and KU."

Incidentally, my comments to KURUSH were not made as a shot over your bow; however, some of them were motivated from a position you appeared to articulate (and that others unquestionably do). As difference of opinion is what the very essence of these boards is, the prior remark should not be construed to suggest that I have anything personal against you, per se, unless of course you confirm here subsequently in black and white that you are truly NOT a KU fan.

Lawrence is holy ground. I hope you feel the same.

frompekka2sasha 11 years, 5 months ago

Kirk- I guess you can argue with Bill Self over the reasoning Coach K told HIM that it won't happen. Not sure about UCLA but I don't think scheduling Kentucky is out of the realm of possibility either. There was an ESPN article about a week ago that had a quote from Self saying that playing against Gillespie wouldn't be too difficult for either of them. However, he said recruiting against each other is going to be extremely difficult.

Joe Ross 11 years, 5 months ago

pekkatosasha and kirk...

interesting debate you have going on! certainly more interesting than my own with tis4tim (with all respect). know seeding in the tournaments is very sensitive to performance in the regular season. A single game can move you up or down two spots (and more in some cases). Scheduling of games is therefore critical, and somehow conventional wisdom is now that powerhouses are reluctant to face each other in the non-conference schedule outside of an early season tournament. No arguing it. It is now the prevailing school of thought.

But why? Well...its a risk reduction strategy I think. I can almost hear them saying,

"Yes, the potential is great if we schedule and win, but the consequences of having an "L" in the column might be too much. Better to schedule Chaminade than Carolina."

Pekka I agree with you on that point.

However, I my sentiments are with Kirk on this one. Give the fans what they wanna see anyway! Dont we wanna see Kansas and UNC play? Come on! I wish we got Kentucky every single year. Every single one...without exception. College basketball would be more interesting certainly. The problem is, if all the powerhouses hang "L's" on each other, that lets room for others (mid-majors and D1s having breakout seasons) sneak up on you in the polls and perhaps in the minds of the Selection Committee itself.

I personally dont care about that. I wanna see some real games.

Detroit Mercy?


tis4tim 11 years, 5 months ago


I love the crimson and blue.

I was merely trying to say that by the true definition of 'fan' one cannot be critical. 'Devotee' would be the most accurate term for someone who loves something but at the same time isn't afraid to be vocal about perceived shortcomings.

Many posters have said in the past "If you don't like yada yada yada, then you're not a fan" when discussions take place on this board. To them I'd say that technically that's true. We're not fans, we're devotees.

But, in yeoman's terms, I'm most decidedly a KU fan (and almost certainly a big dork by virtue of this post), criticism be damned.

Sorry to scare any of you... :)

Kirk 11 years, 5 months ago

jross -- Yep. For example, I think it helped the '88 team to play Duke in the middle of the bloody conference season (losing in double OT in Allen, no less). And I KNOW people LOVED watching it. I did! A big standing ovation for our boys as they left the floor.

And the payback, as they say, was a bitch.

Chicago_JHawk 11 years, 5 months ago

I'm not sure where I was for all of these seasons where Kansas played a schedule that was much more difficult than this one. Most seasons we have a couple games against decent teams (like USC, BC, GTech, etc), and maybe one marquee matchup against another traditional power. Often times, that game takes place in a preseason tourney or invitational. This season, it's Arizona. We can't control how strong they'll be in a given season.

I'd like to see more marquee games, but they can be hard to come by. This season's schedule is no easier than any in recent memory.

Kirk 11 years, 5 months ago

Chicago -- This season's conference schedule is, um, the easiest ever. (Through no fault of ours!)

Non-conference isn't very exciting, sorry.

Altogether this is the single easiest schedule KU has played in at least a quarter century.

frompekka2sasha 11 years, 5 months ago

Kirk & jross1972- I never claimed that it wasn't a good idea to play powerhouses. I just stated the reason Bill Self gave for why we don't in Duke's case.

I think you have to either go crazy with your schedule or play a very calculated one. We played UCLA at home in the NCAA tournament because of a bad loss or two. I don't think that losing to a powerhouse would punish you nearly as harshly.

Larry Smith 11 years, 5 months ago

I must have gone into some kind of sleep over the last quarter century. because I missed all of these incredibly tough schedules that you people speak of. There have been some good schedules against what you could call traditional powerhouse, but no real OMG! can you believe how tough our schedule is type of thing.

01-02 for instance. Aside from arizona and ucla, the non-con schedule consisted of ball state, houston, seton hall, pitt state, wake, umkc, princeton, s. carolina st, north dakota, tulsa and valpo. not exactly tearing it up.

It's really a typical schedule. two or three big names (unless we are in a preseason tourney) and the rest middle of the road schools. Its a good balance I think.

sevenyearhawk 11 years, 5 months ago

and finally here's the biggest "Self loather" of all ... me!

I knew there was a reason that I liked ol' Jo Jo, even he has his doubts about our Coach.

I don't care who you are, or what you've done, those back-to-back first round losses were just deplorable!

OK, that said ...

Good ol' Jo Jo, I'm glad the Texas Western game wasn't brought up, have you all seen his interview on the Century of KU basketball, or any time he talks about that game.

He's still p!ssed and passionate about it, all these years later!

justanotherfan 11 years, 5 months ago

As I said on the previous thread regarding schedules, its all about the money. It's more financially rewarding for KU, Duke, UNC, Kentucky, UCLA, etc. to play No Name State Tech at home (and reap the huge gate along with the at least local, possibly national, television spot, rather than getting a KU-UCLA game and losing out on the home game (since you have to return the trip). That is ultimately what drives the schedule. Yeah, we have to return trips for Ga. Tech and USC, but if you take out a Dartmouth to put in a UCLA, that takes away a home game and that's the only real way to upgrade the non-conf. schedule. Can't blame KU for that especially because that's the money sport for the athletic department.

As for Self being a good coach, I have a lot of respect for him as a coach. No, I am not a hall of famer or anything like that, but Self is really just now starting to put his mark on the program with his first full recruiting class going through. His "honeymoon" period is over now because these are all of HIS players. Oddly enough, I feel better about this season than I have about any of the past three (even last year). And Self is definitely one of the best recruiters in the country. We can be assured of top shelf talent being infused every year. It's telling that only Pierce and Gooden left early under Roy and only Vaughn, Walters and Lafrentz were regarded highly enough as individual talents to be considered before their eligibility was up. Already Self has put JuJu in the league, with probably Rush, Kaun, and many others to follow. The talent ceiling is higher now. The level of athleticism is higher, which bodes well for the tournament when you have to be able to lock down defensively and score more creatively as the tourney grinds on. Sorry for writing an essay. Those are my thoughts.

Kirk 11 years, 5 months ago

No question we're looking like a great NBA training camp.

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