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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Tom Keegan: Kansas has back-to-back-to-back Hall of Fame basketball coaches

Kansas sophomore Jordan Stiers, Independence, Mo., cries some joyful tears as Bill Self hands over a $10 thousand personal check to her after Brennan Bechard, director of basketball operations, hit a half-court shot for her for the second year in a row during Late Night in the Phog on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas sophomore Jordan Stiers, Independence, Mo., cries some joyful tears as Bill Self hands over a $10 thousand personal check to her after Brennan Bechard, director of basketball operations, hit a half-court shot for her for the second year in a row during Late Night in the Phog on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Now that it’s official and Bill Self is a Hall of Famer, joining the previous two Kansas basketball coaches, it’s time to glimpse deep into the future to imagine two of the most pressure-packed jobs in all of sports: Kansas athletic director and next Kansas basketball coach.

The heat on the person with the first job approaches blow-your-mind levels, based on the potential for failure of the coach who succeeds Self. If that coach doesn’t perform at a Hall of Fame level, he’s a failure based on the standard set by Larry Brown and perpetuated by Roy Williams and Self.

Self’s successor is not likely to be named for another several years because why would Self leave a job at which he is able to win 13 consecutive conference titles and reach the Elite Eight in 50 percent of his seasons, the Final Four twice and win one national title so far?

No school ever has had back-to-back-to-back Hall of Fame coaching hires, so the odds of extending that streak to four aren’t great, which likely will make the person in charge of the next hire unwilling to take a chance, eager to go the safe route.

That’s generally not the way to land somebody exceptional.

Larry Brown wasn’t a safe choice when Monte Johnson selected him to succeed Ted Owens. Davidson hired Brown from the North Carolina staff as head coach in 1969 and he didn’t last the summer before his first season, leaving to become an assistant in the ABA. That set in motion a series of dominoes that left Brown with a reputation as a coaching gypsy.

Sure, Brown proved his skill as a college coach by leading a young UCLA squad to a title game, but he was gone after two years, leaving NCAA violations in his wake. Safe choice, no. Brilliant one, yes. Brown won a national title in his fifth season, again ran afoul of NCAA rules and returned to the pros. Nothing less than a great hire by Monte Johnson.

Then Johnson’s successor, Bob Frederick, made another bold hire based on the recommendation of Dean Smith, handing the job to a North Carolina assistant coach who was all of 37. Williams took Kansas to four Final Four appearances in 15 seasons. Remarkable hire.

Interim athletic director Drue Jennings was smart enough not to overthink it when Roy Williams returned to North Carolina, his alma mater. Self had pursued the job at the Final Four in New Orleans and was a no-brainer of a choice, but plenty of athletic directors bypass no-brainers in favor of less obvious choices who flop miserably, so give Jennings credit.

Self seems as if he’ll stay a long while and push off trying the NBA until he’s a handful of years from retiring. By that time, his success will make the Kansas job even more appealing than it is now.

But that doesn’t mean his successor necessarily will keep the train moving at such a high speed.

Kentucky has all the same advantages as Kansas, yet Eddie Sutton, hugely successful at every other stop of his career, had a rough four years marred by scandal in Lexington. Self protege Billy Gillispie was a can’t-miss choice who made a mess of things and was gone after just two seasons.

North Carolina, UCLA and Indiana haven’t batted a thousand either, although Louisville has.

Since 1971, the Cardinals have been led by a coach who has a plaque in the Hall of Fame since 1971. Denny Crum led the program for 30 seasons and Rick Pitino just completed his 16th season in Louisville.

Pitino was a safe choice who worked out extremely well, but he’s the exception.

Envisioning life after Self is scary enough that it might be time to look into extending his contract, which has five years remaining on it.

Comments

Brett McCabe 2 years, 10 months ago

An extension and raise would both be good ideas for a Hall of Fame coach.

Suzi Marshall 2 years, 10 months ago

It would have been really nice to be coming off a National Championship as well. You and Keegan are right. Now is the time for an extension and raise.

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 10 months ago

Agree but surprised that a liberal (honestly not trying to imply anything negative here Brett) would be fine with raising the salary of the already highest paid state employee who happens to be a basketball coach.

For the record, I agree.

Ashwin Rao 2 years, 10 months ago

Please don't take personal stabs at people in a sports discussion.

Joe Ross 2 years, 10 months ago

Always best to let sleeping dogs lie. You say you dont want anything negative, then you proceed by saying something negative. Then you attempt to whitewash your actions with the word "honestly". Youve been doing the same thing to me, Marius. Unprovoked attacks. In fact, you have been seeking out my comments to leave unsavory messages. I dont understand it, because when you first began posting here you were the model of citizenship. I think this turn in decorum is both surprising and disappointing.

Please take the high road Brett. People come around sometimes when you give them a chance.

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 10 months ago

"You say you dont want anythng negative. Then you attempt to whitewash your actions with the word "honestly". Youve been doing the same thing to me, Marius. Unprovoked attacks. In fact, you have been seeking out my comments to leave unsavory messages."

What a freaking hypocrite.

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 10 months ago

Seriously? You guys think I was making a personal attack?

If that's how you take it Brett then let me apologize in advance.

Mike Barnhart 2 years, 10 months ago

The Larry Brown, Manning family package was a risky move by Bob Fredrick that thankfully netted a cherished national championship... and a probation! Fourth choice Roy was a tremendous stroke of luck and Self was a great choice (would Al Boal have made the same hire?)

I'd hate to ever see us on the Indiana basketball or Nebraska football carousal of mediocre coaches. It can happen to anyone!!!

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 10 months ago

Not really risky but maybe a bit unsavory. Watching the recruiting of Michael Porter Jr shows exactly how far the NCAA is willing to turn a blind eye to this practice. Jim Harbaugh seems to be taking this practice to new levels. I guess it's one way of getting around not having to pay players, pay family members instead.

Coach Self has also hired family members of some of his recruits. Hiring Ronnie Chalmers as KU’s director of basketball operations worked out pretty well.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 10 months ago

Ronnie was hired 9 months after Mario signed, and I believe after the Chalmers had moved to KS (from AK) and the existing DBO moved on to another job. He's also given spots on the team to every family member and friends interested (walk-ons, managers, GA's, ...). The complete flip of the Porter situation.

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 10 months ago

I don't think that's correct.

Under NCAA guidelines, a program can hire a recruit's high school or AAU coach or even a family member – provided he is placed in a coaching role.

Andy Godwin 2 years, 10 months ago

All the credit for hiring Self goes to Drue Jennings at a time when the KU athletic department was in turmoil. Drue is a wonderful individual and is absolutely the biggest champion of the University. What a wise choice.

David Williams 2 years, 10 months ago

Yes, +1 - no question that Drue essentially saved KU from its dysfunctional athletic dept, at least in regard to MBB....

Chris Anderson 2 years, 10 months ago

Referring to Larry Brown as "nothing less than a great hire" immediately after noting than at both UCLA and KU he committed ethical violations just doesn't cut it, Keegan. Writing this implies that winning -- at UCLA and at Kansas -- is all that matters in the end. The truth is that at KU Larry Brown violated ethical standards of his profession and in his personal life displayed immoral behavior that shocked this community. I don't expect a sports journalist to revisit those shameful aspects of Brown's past every time he's mentioned as a former KU coach, but at the same time I am critical of hagiography that appears oblivious to them.

Suzi Marshall 2 years, 10 months ago

Really Chris? LB did what he thought was right...and I agree with what he did. The NCAA subsequently changed their rules to allow what LB did.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 10 months ago

"I don't expect a sports journalist to revisit those shameful aspects of Brown's past every time he's mentioned as a former KU coach, but" I will drudge up the mud to sling.

The greatness of Coach Brown's hire is so much more than the FF & NC. I took a program that was spiraling down, and restored the history of the program by way of many decisions around the performance on the court. It is probably hard for many to imagine those darker days before every game was a sell-out and championships were a given, but they are very much a part of our past. Coach Brown was responsible for righting the course of the program and setting the foundation for what it is today.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 10 months ago

The picture of Coach Self is the perfect companion to the article, because he is so much more than just the W's and trophies. If I recall correctly, he also passed up a chunk of a raise after the NC in order to direct funds into the student housing. Granted, there is a bit of shrewdness in that move, because recruits are a big factor in the success of the program, but it shows even more how much Coach Self is about the relationships with the players, the fans, and everyone associated with the program/ADept. {hat tip}

Harlan Hobbs 2 years, 10 months ago

You are on the mark, Marius, Andy, and Dirk. One correction, Mike. The Brown-Manning package deal came under Monte Johnson, not Bob Frederick.

When it comes to the "Gutsiest Move Award", it was Dr. Bob who hired Roy Williams on a leap of faith and infinite trust in the recommendation of Dean Smith. Also, for those who fondly remember the story, there is a third person to thank for that hire. It was Roy's mother who raised him and taught him so much about life and how success should be measured.

Those traits were instilled in Coach Williams and Coach Self, and I for one am forever grateful that they have led the KU program for nearly 30 years combined. Then, when you add in the 40+ years of Dr. Phog Allen, they are the greatest threesome in the history of college basketball at any one school.

David Robinett 2 years, 10 months ago

I don't think we were considered a "" blue blood prior to Larry Brown or even immediately afterward. It is Roy and Bill who have cemented that in the public consciousness.

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 10 months ago

Seriously? Look at our history. Our first coach invented the game. The coaching tree of Phog Allen still spreads throughout the NCAA.

I think the term "blue blood" refers more to the historical importance perhaps more than any other single aspect. The wins and championships reinforces the historical importance which was cemented long before Larry Brown.

Mike Greer 2 years, 10 months ago

Not sure how you define "Blue Blood", I 've always considered it relating to a long history or lineage and in the case of sports or institutions, a history of quality and success. In the case of Kansas we had the man who invented the game at the helm of the team and then Phog Allen, I think that's your credentials. Coaches Brown, Williams, and Self have significantly added to that with outstanding seasons over an extended period of time.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 10 months ago

David - I think you are referring, as I was above, about the program spiraling down prior to Larry arriving. It was not elite basketball, and a far cry all-around from where it is today. That doesn't change the fact that we still were one of the winningest programs in history with the deepest of all roots. That's pretty blue-blood even if a bit tarnished and in need of the polishing performed by our recent trio.

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