Kansas City, Mo. — In Kansas City to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Coaches vs. Cancer, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self took time to address what he referred to as “a tough week for college basketball,” before the event began.
With an ongoing FBI investigation leading directly to firings and clouding the entire sport, Self explained that the biggest concern he had was not necessarily with what had happened or was happening but, instead, how it could be fixed.
“From what we’ve all seen and read, it’s sad,” Self told reporters. “And the biggest thing to me is how do you fix it? I guarantee you whatever ideas people have there’s a counter to that where that won’t work.”
Bill Self discusses "a tough week for college basketball"
For the next seven or eight minutes, Self offered up his thoughts and ideas and addressed all of the scrutiny surrounding coaches in his sport.
The one thing that was clear from all of his words was that the KU coach set to begin his 15th season in charge of the Jayhawks recognized the severity of the problem and was concerned that there might not be an easy fix.
“One thing that I do think would help a lot is I think kids should be able to go (to the NBA) out of high school,” he said. “And if kids go out of high school the most highly recruited guys won’t be in college where you’ll be dealing with certain things like this.”
To that end, Self said a lot of the “third parties” involved in the underground world of recruiting, and not necessarily the big shoe companies, were creating as many problems as they were solutions.
“Now there’s more situations where there are more third parties that aren’t connected to the family,” he explained. “And that’s not always all bad, but there are so many instances where it is bad.”
One area Self was not worried about was his own backyard, with his own assistant coaches, all of whom have spent considerable time on Self’s staff.
“I totally trust my assistants 100 percent,” he said. “We’ve been together. I think Norm (Roberts) and I have been together 18 years. Kurtis (Townsend) and I have been together 13 going on 14 years, and Jerrance (Howard) played for me (at Illinois) so, technically, we’ve been together eight years or whatever.”
Whether it’s pressure from the families, donors, outside sources or agents and executives, it seems as if somebody from just about every walk of life has played a role in bringing college basketball to this point. But Self said even a complete overhaul of all parties involved would not necessarily eliminate the problem.
“You can say that if everybody was squeaky clean then we wouldn’t have these problems,” he said. “No, no, no. That’s not true at all. There’d still be pressure to sign guys, there’d still be coaches losing jobs, there’d still be assistant coaches not able to move on to get better-paying positions. There’s a lot of things going on that is dictated by how well you recruit.”
Even with chaos swarming the sport, Self spent a good chunk of the week out on the road recruiting, be it close to home or in another state in pursuit of some of the top players in the country. And his attention was placed equally on the future of his program and the current condition of the game he loves.
“It’s been a dark week, there’s no question, but I’m not sure that it (won’t) trigger things that will make this better,” said Self when asked if he thought this week was the start of some kind of reform, regardless of what the solution turns out to be. “It’s not gonna be in the immediate future, but there’s been some things that have obviously transpired that will create talks that allow our sport to become better in the future. I just hope the future’s soon as opposed to down the line.
“It’s sad. It’s been a dark week. And I hope it doesn’t, but all indications are it could get darker before it gets brighter. But I hope that’s not the case.”
Early Thursday evening, the Associated Press reported that KU was "conducting an internal review of its storied program."
Associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said that characterization was inaccurate and confirmed to the Journal-World that the school was "discussing the issue internally."
Some web sites went as far as to claim that KU had launched an investigation, but Marchiony said KU had not taken any such steps and was merely monitoring the situation and discussing the news as it developed.