Originally published November 30, 2009 at 12:00a.m., updated November 30, 2009 at 11:56a.m.
Quade Towers, a 9-year-old Kansas University basketball fan and standout youth-league player from Austin, Texas, recently received a spirit-lifting phone call from the coach of his favorite team.
“I think he’s very nice — a good person and a good coach,” Quade said of Bill Self, who, “told me to feel better and come see the game when we play Texas.”
Quade, who has battled medical problems off and on for several years, has been feeling great of late and, health permitting, will be in Erwin Center for the KU-UT clash on Feb. 8.
That night he’ll be sure to visit with Self, a person he bonded with at last summer’s Bill Self basketball camp and was reacquainted with via a phone call set up by Towers’ dad, Chad, and KU staff member Barry Hinson.
Chad recently contacted the Journal-World just before the Thanksgiving holiday — not so much to tell his son’s story, he said, but to explain how much the coach’s kindness has meant to his son and the entire family.
“Bill Self is a welcoming, genuine and see-it-through type of individual who is outstanding at being himself,” Chad Towers said. “It just so happens he is also a superb basketball coach. I think he really helped our family ... Bill Self the man, not the coach. I can see why he signs the No. 1 recruiting class year after year. He’s a real person.”
Chad became emotional when discussing a 10-minute conversation between Self and Quade at last June’s camp in Lawrence.
In providing some background, it should be noted Quade before the age of 2 was stricken with a rare chronic lung and airways disease. He’s had stomach surgery and multiple procedures/surgeries in an attempt to halt the deterioration of his lungs.
“It was the first day of camp. When coach Self walked into the gym, I was just happening to be standing by the door, and he extended his hand and introduced himself. Wow, what a super, down-to-earth man,” Chad Towers said. “Just a few minutes earlier, my son was told to be ‘skins’ in his very first scrimmage. He was upset because of his multiple scars on his stomach and across his lung region.
“I casually shared with coach Self — because he actually asked which one was mine — that Quade was a little upset about being ‘skins’ and told him of his surgeries.”
What Self did next simply floored dad Chad.
“Before he went to go sit with my son, coach Self pulled up his shirt and showed me a remarkable 16-inch scar on his stomach as he proudfully winked to me he would share a story with my son,” Chad Towers said. “From there, he went across the court and pulled my son aside and took a genuine interest in him and spent a sound five to 10 minutes with him. As I saw later through the week, five minutes is a lot when people all want a piece of the coach.”
Self, who had abdominal surgery in the spring of 2004, indeed showed Quade his scar.
“Coach raised his shirt. Thank goodness it didn’t scare the kid,” Hinson, KU’s director of external relations, joked. “Coach was saying, ‘Don’t feel bad about it. Hey, even big guys have scars, too.’’’
“I think mine was a bit bigger than his,” Self said, adding, “I remember he’s a nice kid and comes from a great family. And I hear he’s doing well. It’s not because of anything we did. We’re pleased to hear he’s doing well.”
Quade performed quite well at the camp and has taken some of the things he learned back to his youth league in Texas. Unfortunately, in late September, Quade, who had been feeling well, came down with the swine flu and pneumonia.
A hematologist ordered a blood transfusion for Quade, who recovered quickly.
However, his dad said his son’s “spirits were poor because he was sick of the hospital and tired of having an IV in each arm and stuck in the same bed.”
That’s when Chad contacted Hinson. After three or four missed connections, Hinson was able to put Self on the line with Quade.
“There were a lot of things going on at that time,” Chad said of the time of the fights between the KU basketball and football teams, “but coach Self still made time to talk to Quade. A lot of coaches would have said, ‘Oh well, I tried twice,’ and forgotten about it. Coach Hinson and Self didn’t give up until they got through to him. It says a lot about the man.”
Hinson said Self, “didn’t like it, he loved talking to Quade again.”
“I’d say it’s one of the best things of being a basketball coach or person in a leadership capacity. Because you are working at a school like Kansas, with its tradition and history, you have the opportunity to brighten someone’s day. For me to tell you that coach does that on a rare basis would be far from the truth. It happens literally on a daily basis,” Hinson noted.
“It could be through phone calls, e-mails, personal letters, personal visits to the hospital, visits to a school … this is something that literally floods his calendar. I can tell you he’s been doing it his whole life. It’s part of his daily walk. People ask me all the time, what makes this guy so special? I answer in two words: ‘He cares.’ Same with our players. They do a lot of things for people as well.”
As far as the recipient of this one kind deed, he sees big things for Self, Hinson and the Jayhawks this season.
“I think,” Quade said excitedly, “they might win the national championship.”