NBA expresses interest in Villanova's Jay Wright, might Bill Self be next?


Villanova head coach Jay Wright, left, and Kansas head coach Bill Self have a laugh in the hallway while waiting to do a joint CBS interview on Thursday, March 29, 2018 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Villanova head coach Jay Wright, left, and Kansas head coach Bill Self have a laugh in the hallway while waiting to do a joint CBS interview on Thursday, March 29, 2018 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Nick Krug

Shortly after the Boston Celtics hired as head coach Brad Stevens away from Butler in 2013, I had an informal discussion with someone who works in the NBA about what type of college coaches are best equipped to make the transition and whether Bill Self was among them.

He said a college coach had to be smart enough to know that not everything that works with college athletes works with professionals, so the coach had to be willing to adjust and couldn’t be too dictatorial, too stubborn to change.

He also said that his personal list of coaches able to fit just that one criterion was very short. Self was on his list. So was Billy Donovan, since hired by the Oklahoma City Thunder, Jay Wright of Villanova and Chris Mack, who recently left Xavier for Louisville.

Now that’s just one man’s list and it doesn’t mean his list of nearly five years ago has anything in common with that of current New York Knicks management, but it is interesting that the Knicks reportedly have reached out to Wright, winner of two of the past three NCAA championships.

Should Wright turn down the Knicks, could Self be contacted next? Anything’s possible. The Cleveland Cavaliers, shortly before re-signing LeBron James, expressed interest in stealing Self from Kansas, but the interest wasn’t mutual.

I've always viewed an NBA job as something that only would interest Self as a last stop toward retirement, but with the landscape of recruiting in college basketball under so much scrutiny and possibly headed for change, many college coaches might find the NBA more tempting than in the past.

After the Celtics hired Stevens, Matt Norlander of compiled records of coaches who left college jobs for the NBA in the previous 22 years. The damning data: a .559-900 (.383) record in the regular season, 3-12 in the playoffs. P.J. Carlesimo coached three playoff victories and went 136-109 in the regular season.

Rick Pitino, John Calipari, Tim Floyd, Mike Montgomery, Reggie Theus and Leonard Hamilton all posted losing records, although Pitino went 90-74 in an earlier stint with the Knicks.

Stevens (221-189 regular season, 11-17 playoffs) and Donovan (150-96/12-11) have bucked the trend. Fred Hoiberg (110-136/2-4) hasn’t fared as well.

It makes sense that Wright was the first college coach mentioned for the Knicks' job. Watching Villanova attack Kansas with five skilled players armed with 3-point range it was difficult not to think of the Golden State Warriors and other NBA franchises.


Phil Leister 11 months, 2 weeks ago

This is me being optimistic because I hate the idea of Bill ever leaving. He's got the best, or at least among the few best, college coaching job in the country. Job security for as long as he possibly wants it, and 5 mil a year. If he jumps to the NBA, a couple bad seasons in a row and he's canned. Then he either calls it quits or joins the carousel of recycled fired NBA coaches.

Pius Waldman 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Decisions made can affect what happens in the future. Yes Self maybe will leave our Jayhawk team. He has that right and if the opportunity show up guess what. We were successful before he arrived and more than likely after he leaves should he do so.It may be too early to be looking for his successor but how about maybe Danny Manning. Even Larry Brown would be interested. So don't fret fans.

Jonathan Allison 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Can we trust the current leadership to hire a successful replacement?

[''] 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Do you mean Zenger who has a 9-90 Big 12 HC hiring record (football & WBB) as a KU Athletic Director?

[''] 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Charlotte (NBA) just fired their HC. Milwaukee made the playoffs with an interim HC. If they fire him, it could get interesting.

Freedman Moor 11 months, 2 weeks ago

People jumped down my throat a few months ago when I said that Bill Self would decide that he was tired of college sports and finally move on. I find it interesting that folks are finally starting to come around. The NCAA is corrupt and self-serving. The NCAA doesn't foster fair competition. Worst of all, the NCAA plays favorites. unc should have received the death penalty, but here we are sweating out the fate of our Jayhawks. Rest assure, the NCAA will draw this thing out as long as they can and drop the bomb at the most inopportune time--after public opinion has done the most damage.

Andy Godwin 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Bill Self has all the attributes to be able to deal with the fans and media and coach the X's and O's, but leading NBA players who making more than the coach is another level of challenge. The NBA is a different world, where the inmates run the asylum. I still think he like to be in total control (although recruiting is not an exact science and has to be the worst part of a college coach's job - the story he share at the banquet about recruiting Newman the first time was a gem) and his level of control and stature for a NBA team will not be at the level he garners at KU. The amateur status of top AAU players, the NCAA's loss of leadership, and the FBI getting involved in college athletics is certainly reasons to explore other options, but coaching in the NBA or at one of the top 10 college programs both garner levels of notoriety and respect. It is not like Self is not one of the better known or highly respected people in his profession.

Craig Carson 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Self isnt going anywhere...coaches like Self and even Jay Wright are more suited for college. Never in his 15 years has any NBA REALLY pressed him to leave Kansas....

Matt Gauntt 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Is this essentially a re-tread of a story that you wrote 2 years ago? Seems like this same story pops up every 2 years.

Robert Brock 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Egad - can you imagine Sheahon Zenger choosing Bill Self’s replacement? He would bite into a story and hire Tubby Smith. Best case.

Gerry Butler 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Coach Self isn't going to the NBA. - The only possibility that he would look into possibly would be the San Antonio Head Coaching if Popovich retires

Dane Pratt 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I can't believe the NBA would be interested in either coaches. The track record of college coaches jumping to the NBA is not impressive. The jury is not out on Brad Stevens but there is a lengthy list of high profile college coaches which include Calipari and Pitino who failed in the NBA. Most NBA coaches work their way up the coaching ladder. As mediocre a coach as Quin Snyder was at the college level, he is currently the head coach at Utah.

Sean Swindler 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Bill Self has three things left to accomplish at Kansas - two are within in his control:

1) Matching or beating Ted Owens 19 years as coach. He won't beat Phog Allen, but #2 on the list of longest tenured KS coaches is pretty good.

2) Most wins at Kansas. Phog Allen has 590, Bill Self 447. That's 5 seasons at 30 wins per season, give or take for him to eclipse Allen. Interestingly, that extra 5 seasons would also take care of #1 on this list. It's hard to see Self, unless really bad stuff is coming from the NCAA, wanting to hang it up with what he has coming in the next 2 years and those records so close.

3) Win a 2nd Nat Championship This one is harder. But its pretty likely if he sticks it out 5 more years, he'll be #2 in tenure, #1 in wins and has a shot at this as well.

I think after year 19 or 20 is when I see him giving the NBA a try.

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