Thursday, April 6, 2017

Hall of Fame Material: Early showdowns with coaching icons got the attention of Bill Self Sr.

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, right, and his father, Bill Self Sr., enjoy some time together in the summer of 2016 at the family's condo in Florida.

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, right, and his father, Bill Self Sr., enjoy some time together in the summer of 2016 at the family's condo in Florida.


Bill Self Sr. remembers the first time he realized his son was destined to do big things in the game of basketball.

After years of watching current Kansas basketball coach Bill Self both play and aspire to coach the game he loved, the elder Self was there, front and center for every game, when Self got his first shot at competing with the big boys.

That, of course, came at Oral Roberts, where, on two separate occasions, Self’s father had an epiphany that his son might be able to last and succeed in the cut-throat world of college basketball.

“Before he left ORU, I saw where he had some coaching ability,” recalled Bill Self Sr., during a recent chat with the Journal-World. “And when I saw him coach against Nolan Richardson at Arkansas when he was at ORU and against Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State, I could see then that he could coach with those guys.”

When their careers were finished, Richardson (509) and Sutton (806) combined for more than 1,300 victories. Whether Self winds up passing both of them before his career is finished — he currently has 623 and is winning an average of 30 games a year at KU — remains to be seen. But the 54-year-old Oklahoma native already has proven plenty to his father and thousands of others, with perhaps most overshadowed achievement being him reaching his goal of becoming a Div. I head coach by the age of 30.


Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, seated second from right, in an old family photo that includes, from left to right, his sister, Shelly, his mother Margaret, his father, Bill Sr., and his wife, Cindy.

“That was just unbelievable to me,” said Bill Self Sr., of the goal Self first shared with him during his junior year of high school.

Self did exactly that, taking over the ORU program in 1993 at the age of 30, and, from there, embarked upon a wild journey that took him from ORU and Tulsa in his home state to Illinois for three years and, ultimately, to Kansas, where he has won at an unprecedented rate and recently earned a spot in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Although his name and fame both have grown throughout the years, Bill Self Sr., said watching his son coach at Kansas today was not unlike his experiences in the early years

“The pressure’s a little bit more, being on a bigger stage and all,” Self Sr., said. “But it’s really not very much different from the time our kids started participating in athletics in grade school or junior high. We still had the same nerves now that we had then. Besides, I’m about like any other fan out there. I’m watching the action.”

That was always the case, whether Self was in junior high, high school or playing at Oklahoma State. His father believed that the coaching decisions were best left to the men paid to make them and, as a rule of thumb, he stayed out of it.

A high school coach for four years before moving into administration, Bill Self Sr., never coached his son but sure has enjoyed watching his son coach others.

“Every coach knows the game of basketball, but, besides the fundamentals, I’d say his ability to keep his players cool and not let ’em get too excited in tight situations is what impresses me most,” Self Sr., said. “I think he handles that real well. And I have to say that’s a little bit of a surprise to me because I wasn’t that cool when I was coaching.”


Basketball Hall of Fame members from left, Bill Self, Muffet McGraw, Tracy McGrady, Rebecca Lobo, Tom Jernstedt, Mannie Jackson and Robert Hughes stand with Jerry Colanego and John Doleva, president and CEO of the Hall of Fame, right, during halftime of the semifinal between Gonzaga and South Carolina in the Final Four at the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, April 1, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.

Coaching, in all sports, is filled with tales of famous fathers trying to dissuade their sons from following them into the coaching profession for fear of the long hours, nights away from home and relatively low pay leading to burn out. But that conversation never took place in the Self household.

“I never did discourage him from trying to be a coach,” said Self’s father, who, himself, led the Morris High girls team to a state title in 1966. “I knew the satisfaction that you got out of making kids better. It’s an enjoyable life.”

Asked if he had received much feedback from current or former athletes who played for his son, Bill Self Sr., shared a long list of proud memories.

“Oh yeah, constantly,” he began. “I couldn’t possibly name all the great things they've had to say about him, but if I had to pick one that stood out it would be how people appreciate the relationship with his players.”

With Self still considered a young man in college basketball coaching circles and the Jayhawks continuing to set the standard for consistency — Self Sr., said he thought tying UCLA’s record of 13 consecutive conference titles played a role in his son getting the Hall of Fame nod this year — those closest to him believe that plenty of good things are still ahead both for Self and the Kansas program.

“Well, his health is good so I would assume he’d do it a few more years,” said Self Sr., when asked how long he could envision his son on the sidelines. “I don’t expect him to do it until he’s 75 like some coaches do, but I think he’s got a few years left. Trying to predict how long, I wouldn’t attempt to do that, but his golf game is so bad, he can’t spend all his time on the golf course. He’s the worst putter in the world. So he might as well devote all his time to coaching.”

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

• Hall of Fame Material Part VIII: Bill Self has ‘perfect DNA for the job,’ per Roger Morningstar

• Hall of Fame Material Part IX: Opportunity to work with Bill Self icing on the cake of Sheahon Zenger’s dream job


Jim Stauffer 3 years, 6 months ago

Pop piles on his putting. I understand he hits it a long way though.

Pius Waldman 3 years, 6 months ago

Nice to meet and hear from the father of Billy Eugene Self Jr.

Bryce Landon 3 years, 6 months ago

Hey LJW, I don't know why you have to go on ad nauseum about Self getting into the Hall of Fame. You're starting to sound like the Democrats constantly harping about the Russians and Trump. We get it, Bill Self won a spot in the Hall of Fame. Whoopty-freaking-doo. Now somebody tell the man to go win something that actually matters, like an Elite Eight game! >:(

Matt Tait 3 years, 6 months ago

Glad you enjoyed the series. Thanks for reading.

I know it's extremely common for a person at KU to be welcomed into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame so next year, you know, when it happens again, we'll try to pull back a little.

Have a great day!

Suzi Marshall 3 years, 6 months ago

I loved the personal interest stories run by the LJW! Self's election into the HOF while still the Kansas coach is a remarkable thing for the University.

The Russian thing got old fast but KU Basketball and Bill Self never gets old.

Keep it coming....Don't pull back.

Suzi Marshall 3 years, 6 months ago

What in the world are you talking about? You have the skill to mixing insightful, odd and truly nutty comments, which are characteristics of both schizophrenia and bipolar disorders.

Brett McCabe 3 years, 6 months ago

Hey Bryce, big time liberal here, would a national championship qualify? Were you around in 2008?

RJ King 3 years, 6 months ago

Bryce - I think it's time for another talk with your boss about your negativity and anger issues.

Robert Robinson 3 years, 6 months ago

Keep em coming Tait! You're articles are so good people have to read them apparently.

Matt Tait 3 years, 6 months ago

Ha. I don't know about that. But thanks. I'm glad you enjoy them. Our whole goal is to cover KU the best we can, in good times and in bad and in multiple sports, not just basketball.

In doing that, we like to get creative and come up with fun things that we think the readers will enjoy. That's what led to the series on Self and the Hall of Fame and if I had it to do all over again I'd have made it a 20-part series instead of 10.

It was awesome to hear so many people who have played such an important role in his life talk about him being honored by the Hall of Fame. I know there are dozens of others out there who have stories just as great as the 10 we told.

So maybe in September, when he's about to be inducted, we can get to some of those!

Suzi Marshall 3 years, 6 months ago

If you really want to be creative and cover KU sports in the best way, you need to come up with a business plan to provide content in a more cost and resource effective manor. Form a company, call it KU Sports, Inc or something like that. Pull Bedore / Newell back on the team and market content to the regional and national news. We are getting to many redundant stories run by the Star and the LJW.

Roger Ortega 3 years, 6 months ago

Matt, regardless of what the minority might say I'm sure a lot of us, myself included, enjoyed the articles. It's great to see the people behind the man and the people that he has influenced on his way to the HOF. When you're a fan you really can't get enough of your interests. I unfortunately didn't go to KU but grew up there with several members of my family attending and graduating. I chose a different route, music. I got a record deal and left the midwest almost 20 yrs ago. That said, watching the games on tv and reading the articles makes me feel closer to home. Thanks man and keep up the great work! (P.S. Randomly, my pizza delivery guy who is a random kid from NJ saw my KU doormat and sparked a conversation leading to the fact that he's a HUGE KU fan. He went back to Kirk H. and the boys. He was legit. He wasn't sure why he fell in love with the Jayhawks but he did. Anyway...Rock Chalk)

Matt Tait 3 years, 6 months ago

Thanks for the kind words, Roger. Glad our coverage is something you enjoy!

Harlan Hobbs 3 years, 6 months ago

Excellent series, Matt. You got a wide range of insight from all directions; family, players, mentors, alumni, and colleagues. It has given us as complete a picture of Bill Self, Jr. as we have ever had and has solidified the notion that Coach Self is a highly competent and effective leader, mentor, teacher, and all-around class act, both on and off the court.

While he doesn't seem to be the type of individual who wants, or feels a need, to coach beyond his prime, I hope that he coaches many more years at KU and only leaves when he chooses to retire.

Matt Tait 3 years, 6 months ago

Thanks, Harlan. The versatile collection of people we were able to get for the series was by far my favorite part. I wanted it to be different, not just a collection of former players and colleagues gushing about him. Glad you liked it and glad it worked out!

Calvin Baker 3 years, 6 months ago

Hey Bryce - How about stop acting like such a jerk! Just because you don't like reading a particular story because in the past you've publicly called for Bill Self's firing, doesn't mean that other people do not want to read the stories. And I just love when you hypocrites inject your political thoughts into your comments and then cry when Obama visits the KU campus. The traitors who support Russia and Putin should be condemned on a bipartisan basis, but now they are praised by hypocrites!

David Black 3 years, 6 months ago

I don't know you, but as a 1963 graduate from KU I enjoy all of your articles. The lead up stories to the Hall of Fame induction were great. Thanks..proud to be a Jayhawk.

Harlan Hobbs 3 years, 6 months ago

David, we appear to be contemporaries from the same era. I share your views and have a hard time believing all of the wonderful memories that I have of KU basketball.

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