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Monday, October 29, 2007

KU’s Self helps out buddy Thompson

Coach speaks at San Antonio clinic, supports former Oklahoma State player who went 7-22 in first year

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— On a warm and sunny morning in South Texas, Bill Self arrived at the UTSA Convocation Center, intent on helping a friend.

Self, Kansas University's fifth-year basketball coach, had just flown into town on a private plane.

Though he had a Jayhawks practice scheduled later in the afternoon in Kansas, Self showed up at University of Texas at San Antonio's clinic a few minutes before 9 a.m. on Saturday, smiling and shaking hands.

He was on the clinic's speaking roster to discuss the finer points of halfcourt offense with a group of about 75 high school coaches. But in reality, Self was there to support Brooks Thompson, second-year coach at UTSA. He has known Thompson the past 20 years.

When Thompson was a college basketball player, Self worked as a young assistant for coach Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State.

In 1991, after Thompson elected to flee a troubled program at Texas A&M;, Self helped recruit the high-scoring guard to OSU. He worked for Sutton through the end of Thompson's junior year in 1993 before taking his first head-coaching job at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa.

Thompson, meanwhile, went on to become one of Sutton's best players, earning All-Big Eight honors twice and emerging as a first-round draft pick of the Orlando Magic in 1994.

As the years passed, Self's coaching career evolved into storybook tale. He became one of the best in college basketball.

Thompson, meanwhile, played five years in the NBA before turning his attention to the college game. In April 2006, he landed his first head-coaching job in Division I at UTSA.

Though Self and Thompson have followed different roads in their basketball careers, each has seen the same signpost on that road.

Both, curiously, enjoyed an equal amount of luck in their first season as a head coach in Division I. That is, none.

In 1993-94, Self finished 6-21 at ORU, losing 18 games in a row at one point. Thompson was only slightly more fortunate. His worst stretch was 2-16 last winter en route to a 7-22 record. So, as coaches from around the state listened intently at the UTSA clinic last weekend, Self seized the opportunity to joke about his first-year record, compared to Thompson's.

"7-22?" Self asked, glancing over at his blushing buddy. "Well, there, you're already a better coach than me."

Time will tell about that.

Self has won 70 percent of his games in 14 seasons and has compiled 312 victories, including a 16-9 record in the NCAA Tournament.

Thompson, for his part, can only dream about winning another 305 games. But in Self, he has an ally telling him that he can win.

In a telephone interview on Monday morning, Self said he had advised Thompson to stay committed to his principles.

"You have to have a good staff and stay positive," Self said, "and understand that the first year is not all about the record. It's about the future."

It's also about frustration. After kicking three players off the team last August for rules violations, Thompson lost a fourth starter for the season with a foot injury. The Roadrunners, as a result, were bad, averaging 57.1 points per game. They finished last in the Southland Conference West Division.

"The first year is always the toughest year," Self said. "It's not just about the end result (the record). It's about establishing your foundation."

Self's poor start at ORU was prolonged. He followed the 6-21 season with a 10-17 mark. Reflecting on the tough times, Self said he never doubted whether he could coach.

But he admitted questioning "whether I would beat myself up too much. With all the wear and tear and the stress, I didn't handle it well at all."

He said it took about 21â2 years of a four-year term at ORU for him to feel good about things.

By the third season, Self was winning. By the fourth, he took the program to the NIT, and then he was gone, leaving for Tulsa.

"He's had a great career," said Thompson, noting that Self has a good chance to return to San Antonio in April for the Final Four. "He's won everywhere he's been."

Self encouraged support for the Roadrunners.

"I think UTSA is going to play at a high level real soon," Self said.

Jerry Briggs' stories can be read at <a href="http://www.mysanantonio.com">www.mysanantonio.com</a>

Comments

jaybate 14 years, 3 months ago

Some will call this story fluff, but this is showing and not tellling something interesting about Self. He is loyal and remembers his roots in a way these kinds of stories seldom reveal. Brooks Thompson is a footnote now in Self's career, but Thompson's decision so long ago to come to OSU after Self recruited him is no doubt one of the reason's Self got the ORU job. Thompson's decision proved Self could help recruit good players and OSU's success with Thompson proved Self could help successfully coach good players. These two points proved himself both to himself and to Coach Sutton. Without such early proof, he would never have been given a head coaching job at a young age. The story also shows Self doesn't forget. He bailed out on Brooks Thompson to take the ORU job. No doubt that was as tough on Brooks Thompson as it was on Luther Head, when Self left the Illini, or on Miles/Simien/Langford/Lee when Roy left. It will be interesting to see if Roy ever comes to give Mike Lee's career a boost when he gets his first head coaching job. Notice it was Self and not Roy who gave Mike Lee his first shot. There are no angels in any business and no good business man does anything in his profession entirely for nothing. But some guys are better than others and show it by helping those who helped them, even when they don't need to do so. True, Bill Self was ingratiating himself with a lot of Texas high school coaches, which will pay dividends down the road, whenever he is recruiting in Texas, but he's doing it with a guy he didn't have to do it with. Good for Bill.

Post Script: Score another for Eddie and Hank. Add UTSA to the increasingly long list of schools playing take-what-they-give-us, Oklahoma hard scrabble style with stingy defense and 65-70 point offense. The style is quietly spreading everywhere.

Hank: Well, we got another one, Forest. Phog: If you can call UTSA another one. Hank: Don't forget Central Missouri State, Forest. You did some time in the sticks. Phog: You're right, Henry. But don't rub it in about your style of play. Remember, these things run in cycles. Hank: Oh, let me enjoy it, awhile, will you, Forest? Its been along time coming, you know. Phog: You're boy, Bill, is doing a good job. Hank: As I said he would, Forest, as I said he would. Phog: Would you stop crowing long enough to tell me if he's going to win MY tournament yet this year? Hank: Three ifs, Forest: if Rush rehabs the knee and has another good year from the three; if that kid Stewart can defend a true 2; and if that Russian boy can get 12/7 the hard way. Yes, if yes. No, if no. Phog: Fair enough.

DCJayhawk0208 14 years, 3 months ago

Jaybate, could you go work for the Journal-World? You ought to get paid for this.

Ok, some of it. Don't want your ego to be TOO big on a Monday.

RckChalkJeff 14 years, 3 months ago

Yeahhhh...fell asleep again before i got to the bottom of Jaybates article....

WisconsinJayhawk 14 years, 3 months ago

Read this areticle when posted on the message board a few days ago. As always, the LJW will rag on "irresponsible" posters, then use their information. The message board poeple say, "You're welcome". Rembember it when you get ready to slam someone on the boards for having "rumor" posted, or for expressing opinions you dont like (e.g., unfavorable opinion of a player, etc.). The boards are your best source.

CasperCorps 14 years, 3 months ago

Rumor has it that KU basketball is really good and will remain so as long as Self is here..

JayCeph 14 years, 3 months ago

Southland Conference... sounds like something out of a sit-com or a cinematic biopic that doesn't want to give any real (free) press to the name of the actual conference.

Southland. Hmmm...

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