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