He played in the Final Four for Kansas, worked 20 years for Converse, coached AAU basketball and has a son who played at Kansas.
Roger Morningstar has known generations of college basketball coaches and he doesn’t stop at saying Bill Self is the best basketball coach he’s ever seen, although he does say that.
Morningstar took the conversation to a completely different field.
“If I owned an NFL team, I would consider hiring Bill Self as my head coach,” he said from a booth at Morningstar’s New York Pizza. “The head football coach is not responsible for every play. He’s responsible for feel. Bill’s the greatest manager of it I’ve ever seen. You put all the football guys around him and he can make the other stuff happen.”
Other stuff includes coaching players hard without losing them.
Morningstar, whose son Brady was in the program for five seasons (2006-11), shared a story that Brady told him. Roger asked how practice was one evening late in Brady’s career.
“Brady said, ‘Not good. Not good at all. Coach threw us out of practice: ‘I don’t want to see any of you. Blankety, blank, blank, blank.’ And then the players get together, the twins, Tyshawn, T-Rob, and told the coach they would get it together and needed to finish practice," Roger said. "And Bill said, ‘Absolutely not! Get off the floor! I don’t want to see any of your faces!’ So the players go off to the locker room and they're chipping at each other.”
Roger, continuing the story, said that 10 minutes later, “Bill comes bounding through the door of the locker room and all the players are in various states of showering, drying off, getting dressed. And he calls them all over and proceeds to tell old-time stories about coaches that he played for and worked for, Eddie Sutton stories, Larry Brown stories, just mesmerized them for two, two-and-a-half hours, jaws hanging. There are just not many guys who can do that, just flip that switch.”
Morningstar paused and thought about how to put it into words. Then knocked it out of the park.
“He’s got a human thermostat that goes right up to where it’s going to boil over and then it sends more coolant in and chills everything out,” he said. “That’s it. Bill Self is like the human thermostat.”
Sounds like a quality that could come in handy for an NFL coach.
The most powerful NFL coaches earn final say on personnel matters, from the hiring of assistant coaches to the drafting of players. College coaches must do it all.
“He can coach,” Morningstar said. “He can recruit. He can relate to kids better than anybody I’ve seen. And he doesn’t motivate through all the phony grabbing of sayings from Civil War and from Patton and all that stuff. He has a way of putting everything in the context of the present and letting it motivate the kids."
Self's ability to get players to trust his way of doing things starts with his secure trust in his own ability.
“Bill has the perfect DNA for the job,” Morningstar said. “You can go through all the great coaches and at some point enough is enough. They blow up. They have to take a leave. Bill Self is the same guy today for all intents and purposes as he was 14 years ago. He’ll walk in this restaurant, see two or three people in a booth, stop and talk to them for bit. That's the same thing he would have done 14 years ago.
“Other coaches, it’s just human nature. It builds up. You’ve got people looking at you. You can’t win the big one. You can’t do this. You can’t do that. Pretty soon you get these layers of protection around you, and he’s not that way, man. He can make it all work. It rolls off his back. He hears what he needs to hear. He does what he needs to do and he does it really damn well.”
Well enough that he'll be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in a September ceremony.
Our Series on Bill Self's Journey to the Hall of Fame
• Hall of Fame Material Part I: Larry Brown ‘in awe’ of Bill Self’s stellar run at Kansas
• Hall of Fame Material Part II: Daughter Lauren most impressed by Bill Self’s ability to mentor
• Hall of Fame Material Part III: Frank Mason III knew right away that Bill Self was the coach for him
• Hall of Fame Material Part IV: Doc Sadler says Bill Self same (sarcastic) guy as the day he met him
• Hall of Fame Material Part V: Bill Self’s style, passion make Danny Manning a proud alum
• Hall of Fame Material Part VI: Bob Davis cites Bill Self’s personal touch as key to success
• Hall of Fame Material Part VII: Tyshawn Taylor and Bill Self close through good times and bad