Quotes, by their very nature, are the cornerstones of our jobs as reporters.
Sure, we can analyze statistics and talk about trends or observe behaviors and write about rookies, but the very reason many of you read what we put out is to hear from the athletes and coaches for whom you cheer.
You want to know what the star player thought about his big shot. You want to know why the coach made a move or called a play, and you demand to know what went wrong when that coach winds up on the losing side of the scoreboard.
We can give you our best guesses on most of those things, but it never sounds better than when it comes from the horse’s mouth.
For our final installment in this year’s summer series that looked back the best players and most memorable moments of the first decade of the Bill Self era in Kansas basketball, we dug through scores of stories and racked our brains to come up with a few of our favorite quotes from the past 10 years.
Obviously, condensing 10 years of incredible basketball into five quotes is a tough task and barely scratches the surface of some of the best moments. But whether the quotes were the most heartfelt, told the best stories or simply made us laugh, here’s a look at a few that stuck out in our minds.
“My mom said I woke up from a dead sleep one time and said, ‘I need some hot dogs from Steak and Shake.’ I didn’t even remember saying that. I was pretty messed up.”
— Jeff Graves commenting to me about his recovery from a car wreck at KU. (He actually uttered that quote when Roy Williams was his coach, but he did play for Bill Self, too, so I’m gonna break the rules and list that quote as No. 1.)
“When I first heard I did it, I was upset, and I didn’t talk to nobody all day, went in my little corner and balled up and that was about it.”
— Brandon Rush after he tore his ACL necessitating a return to KU instead of a spot in the NBA Draft
“I prayed on it hard last night. It came to me in a dream. It was me playing in a game with a lot of the current players, Mario (Chalmers), Julian (Wright), everyone.”
— Darrell Arthur, upon choosing KU over Baylor and others in recruiting.
“I lay down, smelled her sheets, moved the pillows back, and the only thing I saw was a couple words she left on a sheet of paper: ‘Please watch over my kids.’’’
— Darnell Jackson on the tragic death of his mom.
“I could probably change my mind (about playing MU in future) but trust me, we would have no trouble finding another non-league game to play. I love the rivalry. Playing home and home in the league is great and all those things ... (but) I can’t imagine, why would we continue playing? If they choose to be somewhere other than with us and with the other schools that they’ve been a part of and could jeopardize the future of the other schools ... I’m not going to make a commitment now that we’d ever play again. I’m not saying we won’t. I’m certainly not going to pretend that we would.”
— Bill Self right before Missouri decided to leave the Big 12.
“I don’t remember anything he said, but it was a very memorable speech.”
— Julian Wright, when I asked him what Michael Jordan’s message was when he spoke to Wright and the other players at the high school all-star game that bears Jordan’s name.
“We talked about it and I told him I would just concentrate on boxing out and let him get the rebounds.”
— Marcus Morris explaining why he had just two rebounds, compared to 15 for his brother, Markieff, in a blowout victory against Longwood in Nov., 2010.
“I just thought about how good we would be once I started playing. It’s one of the primary entertainment places in the country. We start winning, we could turn Vegas upside down.”
— Quintrell Thomas, explaining why he chose to transfer to UNLV.
“I was too worried about being tired to dunk the ball. A dunk, then running back on defense, can take a lot of energy out of you.”
— Sophomore Markieff Morris explaining why he avoided dunking as a freshman.
“I’m not going anywhere. I’m a Jayhawk for life.”
— Anrio Adams on Twitter a couple of days after he said he was transferring and several days before he actually did transfer.
“He can make plays you can’t coach, then he can make plays you wonder if he’s ever been coached. But that’s him. I’m glad we got him.”
— Bill Self in January 2012 explaining the Jekyll and Hyde nature of four-year point guard Tyshawn Taylor
“They just keep asking, ‘What is it about him?’ And it’s hard to answer that because there’s not hundreds but thousands of variables. Whether it be fire and brimstone or high fives and hugs, it’s all part of what he does. But I think it comes down to this; he’s one of the greatest communicators I’ve ever been around. If he had been in the military, he would’ve been a general. If he had been at IBM, he would’ve been a CEO. If he had been in the movies, he would’ve been a lead actor. That’s just what his calling is.”
— Former KU director of basketball operations Barry Hinson explaining what makes Bill Self successful during the Jayhawks’ run to the national title game in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
“I mean, I love playing Missouri. I loved playing them when I was at Illinois. I’ve loved playing them here. But that’s not anything I’m going to lay around, sit around, think about, ‘Oh, I wish.’ I just don’t think that strongly about it.”
— Bill Self, who took the loudest stance on KU not caving in to outside pressure, when Missouri left the Big 12 to bring an end to the KU-MU Border War rivalry, which had been the longest uninterrupted rivalry in college sports west of the Mississippi River.
“When I first met him, he asked me, ‘If you play a bad game, what would be the most important thing coming out of that game,’ and I said, ‘Getting a W,’ and he said, ‘That’d be right.’”
— Current KU point guard Naadir Tharpe shedding some light on the most important element of Bill Self basketball.
“Whenever you consider going to another league ... why can’t we fix the way we have it in this league? I think that’s what people are working on. At the end of the day, I believe this could turn out to be the best thing for the Big 12 because it forced our hand to do some things to catch us up.”
— Bill Self, KU’s unofficial lead spokesman during the conference realignment craze that dominated the summers of 2010 and 2011, speaking prophetic words about the future of the Big 12. Self’s confidence and staunch belief that KU would be fine when all of the dust settled helped keep calm KU fans and many within the athletic department during uncertain times.
“Most every day — if not every day — for the rest of your life, you will be reminded or think of this night. And I want to thank you in advance right now for the great memories it’s going to be.”
— Bill Self, before the 2008 national championship game. One of Self’s finest moments was caught by the CBS television crew, which showed his pregame speech to his players before the 2008 national championship game against Memphis. Without a script, Self delivered one of the best pregame talks I’ve seen, and it ended with the memorable quote above.
“Because the club was crackin’!”
— Brandon Rush. I’ve heard this story told a few times, and it’s documented well by Mario Chalmers in the book, “Beyond the Phog.” After KU coach Bill Self asked the team at practice who had broken curfew the night before (almost everyone had), Rush raised his hand and told on himself. “Why did you break curfew?” Self asked. “Because the club was crackin’!” Rush said. Everyone laughed ... and that included Self.
“I think it was a horrible call. I didn’t foul him. If anything, he fouled me. It’s very unfortunate that the referee 80 feet from the play called the foul rather than the ref that was right there on top of things. Big games down the stretch ... I always thought you let the players decide. If that referee is reffing one of our games again next year ... I don’t know, I’ll be sure to let him know how I feel.”
— Keith Langford said of an offensive foul called by referee Jim Burr that fouled Langford out of KU’s 79-71 Elite Eight overtime loss to Georgia Tech in 2004. Langford always was outspoken, and this outburst earned him an NCAA reprimand a few months later. In his defense ... this was the second straight year that a phantom call fouled him out of an NCAA Tournament game, and the year before, that might have cost KU a national championship against Syracuse.
“I just touched that chair and it already feels very hot.”
— Bill Self, after being presented the coach’s chair from chancellor Robert Hemenway on April 21, 2003. The perfect quip at the perfect moment, Self drew lots of laughter with this one-liner after he was officially introduced as KU’s coach. It also showed the former Illinois coach fully understood the magnitude of the job he was accepting.
“It’s the worst team Kansas has ever put on the floor since Dr. Naismith was here. I think he had some bad teams when he lost to Topeka YMCA in his first couple years.”
— Bill Self after his team’s 62-55 loss to TCU on Feb. 6, 2013. Self was obviously frustrated and exaggerating a bit, but getting “James Naismith” and “Topeka YMCA” into soundbite pretty much guarantees it’s going to make it to ESPN’s SportsCenter.