Advertisement

How much longer will Bill Self coach?

Advertisement

Kansas head coach Bill Self slaps hands with fans after the Jayhawks' 89-71 win over Davidson, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016 at Sprint Center.

Kansas head coach Bill Self slaps hands with fans after the Jayhawks' 89-71 win over Davidson, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

In a Wednesday interview with ESPN.com’s Myron Medcalf, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self shed a sliver of light on just how much longer he might like to coach.

Brace yourselves, Kansas fans. Self’s answer was not, “forever.”

Self, who will turn 55 in late December, often has shared the feeling that he is unlikely to follow in the footsteps of coaches like Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim (72), Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (70) and North Carolina’s Roy Williams (67), all of whom are still going strong at or near the age of 70.

“I’ve said all along that if I could go to my late 50s, that’d be good for me,” Self told Medcalf on Wednesday. “Now that I'm getting close to my late 50s, I’m like, ‘Well ... ,’ but my contract runs until I’m 59, so I’ve got five more years left. I definitely want to do that. Then whatever happens after that I’d be happy with whatever.”

Self’s current contract, which was extended by four years back in 2012, runs through the 2021-22 season. And, at this point, 60 fast-approaching or not, it’s hard to imagine Self hanging it up then.

Self carries himself today with as much charm and charisma as he did the day he arrived at Kansas and operates, acts and looks a lot more like a coach in his 40s than one talking about turning 60. That’s with players, fans, colleagues and, perhaps most importantly, recruits.

Medcalf’s story also quoted Self as saying that the never-ending world of modern recruiting, “just wears you down,” and it’s certainly understandable that a life that does not involve tracking every move of young ballplayers from the time they’re 14 or 15 years old through the day they announce their college of choice would be appealing to Self and dozens of other coaches in similar positions.

Still, as things stand today, it sure seems like there’s a lot for Self still to accomplish before he hangs up his whistle.

Don’t mistake that for more to prove. There really isn’t much for Self still to prove.

He already has a national title; — though one or six more of those surely would please both him and the rabid Kansas fan base — the Big 12 Conference title streak already is the longest in the history of the game and Self is the only coach to have racked up that many consecutive conference titles all on his watch; he recently was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame; and his trophy case is full of a variety of coach of the year hardware.

While those credentials, and many more, were what earned Self his rightful spot in the Hall of Fame this year and a permanent place in the hearts of Kansas fans forever, it really does seem as if Self is simply getting better with age. Say what you will about his record in Elite Eight games — 2-7 all-time, 2-5 at Kansas and 0-2 in the past two seasons — you just don’t see the kind of elite-level consistency that Self’s Kansas teams have produced pretty much anywhere else.

That’s what makes that five-year time frame he talked about so hard to imagine.

Self’s coaching career began in 1993, at the age of 30, when he took over the Oral Roberts program after several years as an assistant coach at Oklahoma State. When he was a junior in high school back in Oklahoma, he told his father, Bill Self, Sr., that he would become a college head coach by age 30 and, after achieving that goal — “That was just unbelievable to me,” Bill Self Sr., recently told the Journal-World — Self moved forward with a career that has been turning heads and accomplishing goals — big time, lofty, next-level goals — ever since.

He picked up his 100th victory while at Tulsa in 1999, grabbed win No. 200 just four years after that, during his final season at Illinois and snagged his 300th win during his fourth season at KU.

Since then, Self has been on pace to eclipse a major milestone victory about every three years, with No. 400 coming in 2010, No. 500 coming in 2013 and No. 600 coming last December. Self ended the 2016-17 season with 623 career victories, giving him an impressive average of 26 wins per season during his 24 seasons as a head coach, a number that, somehow, rises to an eye-popping 30 wins a year during his 14 seasons at Kansas.

Who knows how many more wins or seasons Self will actually coach? While records and milestones are as appealing to him as the next guy, you just don’t get the sense that those things really matter that much unless you’re talking about the milestones that come with a net and a trophy on the final Monday of each college basketball season.

Given the fact that Boeheim and Coach K (both already over 1,000 career victories) are still coaching and winning, it’s hard to imagine Self one day climbing to the top of that list. But winning 800 games seems within reach, and, provided Rick Pitino (770), Bob Huggins (747) and John Calipari (694) all get there before him, Self would become just the 12th coach in NCAA Division I history to reach 800 wins.

Would a milestone like that be a good enough note on which to call it a career? Perhaps. Keep in mind that Self mentor and close friend, Eddie Sutton, guided his teams to 806 victories during his remarkable career. Wouldn’t there be something special about Self tying that mark or, in true Self fashion, perhaps finishing right behind Sutton at 805?

Regardless of whether Self goes to the end of his current contract and hangs ’em up or gets to that point and decides he wants to coach another 5 or even 10 years, one thing is certain: He’s definitely the kind of guy who would (a) want to walk away with a lot of good years of living still ahead of him, and (b) would have the discipline to say he’s done and then actually call it a career.

LISTEN: Our latest KU Sports Hour podcast explores a number of "What If" scenarios surrounding recent Kansas basketball history...

Comments

Shannon Gustafson 2 months, 3 weeks ago

With his comments about not coaching in his 60's, everyone will certainly start sweating if he doesn't sign another contract well before his current one expires. I don't even want to think about the possibility of getting to 2021-22 without another extension.

Age milestones always seem older until you get there so hopefully the same thing happens to him and he gets to 59 and realizes he's got a lot of good years of coaching left in him and he signs a 10 year extension! ;)

Bryce Landon 2 months, 3 weeks ago

"There really isn’t much for Self still to prove."

Uh, yes there is. He needs to prove that 2008 and 2012 were not flukes.

With the exceptions of Jim Boeheim at Syracuse, who has only been to the Final Four five times in 41 seasons and only one national title, and John Chaney at Temple, who never got past the Elite Eight, no coach in this country has done less with more in the postseason than Bill Self. His KU teams have been seeded #1 or #2 ten times in the fourteen seasons he has been here, and yet he only has two Final Fours and one national title to show for it, when he ought to have six Final Fours and two if not three national titles. He is a postseason underachiever.

It's one thing to fall short of a Final Four with programs like Tulsa or Illinois; it's something else entirely to repeatedly fall short of the Final Four at Kansas, or to repeatedly lose to FCS opponents in the tournament (Bucknell, Bradley, Northern Iowa, Virginia Commonwealth, Wichita State).

So yes, Matt, he DOES have something to prove. He has to prove that the Elite Eight is not too big of a stage for him, and he needs to shed his reputation as a postseason underachiever.

And don't come at me with how hard it is to win it all. It hasn't been hard for North Carolina, the Tar Heels have done it three times in the last eleven seasons, including twice since our most recent title. It hasn't been hard for Duke, who has won it twice since our last title. It hasn't been hard for Connecticut, who has also won it twice since our last title. Elite programs find ways to bring home the hardware they're supposed to bring home, and Kansas, which fancies itself an elite program, needs to start acting like it. Going decades between national titles as Kansas has done is not the mark of an elite program.

Lawrence McGlinn 2 months, 3 weeks ago

You make some good points. My guess is that he still feels some pressure to win another NC. The Big 12 streak is nice, but I think the conference is consistently overrated. So few reps in the Final Four does not look great. He is still a helluva coach, and I do think geography plays a role. In North Caroline, UNC and Duke get a few more truly elite players who can just go get a basket when things get chaotic in the tournament. Self has to scramble at times to put together a formidable roster. I think he coaches another 10 years. If he wins an NC soon, maybe he goes to San Antonio to replace Pop.

Martin Rosenblum 2 months, 3 weeks ago

The truth does have a sort of sour taste Bryce. Of course Bill knows these facts all too well. His standing in the hierarchy of respected coaches is not diminished by anything that you have outlined. However, it would be nice to have the gold standards of achievement as a college basketball coach, multiple National Championships, more final four appearances, etc. But, having a coach who has been able to keep his team and his university in the highest regard, without controversy is quite an accomplishment these days. Players come and go. Troublesome players usually go more quickly at KU. The college landscape has total changed relative to recruiting and the rules that surround transfers. I believe this has impeded KU's, as well as many other teams abilities to develop the core of their team as it was in the past. Bill has adapted probably better than most and it has to affect his overall ability to truly "put together" a solid team of top notch contenders. It must also, age a coach more quickly and his decisions to leave earlier than he otherwise would have may be easier under these conditions. In the long run, I personally don't think of a program as an underachiever without back-to-back NCs or perennial title game history in the modern age. After all, it's the one-and-dones who choose which school they will play at for that one year and recruiting is almost irrelevant now. Take Bagely. He could have gone to any school and made them better instantly. HE wanted to go to Duke. Had he felt that Kentucky was where he wanted to spend a year, he would have gone there. Roy and/or Cal or even Bill were not going to be the single factor in his decisions. And therein lies the difficulty. Coaching games is x's and o's. But the players hold the keys now. So underachieving is a truthful thing on paper. But, Bill must not be seen as an underachiever personally.

Bryce Landon 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I only said Bill is a postseason underachiever, I wasn't addressing his body of work in the regular season. Self is to college basketball as a coach what Peyton Manning was to the NFL as a player - mostly great in the regular season, but found wanting when it mattered most in the postseason.

Bryce Landon 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Moreover I wasn't saying we have to win back-to-back national titles or be in the title game every single year. I was saying that we ought to have more hardware to show for our greatness than we do, and at least as often as the other great powers of the sport. We had stretches of 36 years and 20 years between NCAA titles, and right now we are sitting on a 9-year drought as we enter 2017-2018. Given the talent we have had on those teams, that's inexcusable that we don't have more to show for it than we do.

Matt Tait 2 months, 3 weeks ago

The thing about your claim that he "needs to prove that 2008 and 2012 were not flukes" is that the same could easily be said the other way and 2011 (VCU) and 2016 (Oregon) could be considered "flukes," among a few others... Had that been the case, Self would likely have more Final Fours and possibly even another national championship.

But he doesn't. Because he lost those games. Just like he won the others. I don't think it needs to be more than that. At face value, each outcome is what it is and, in my opinion, he doesn't have to prove those wins weren't flukes, just as he can't prove that the losses were.

Beyond that, the man is 2-0 in the Final Four and 3-1 when he reaches the Final Four. That, to me, is all the proof needed to show that the Elite Eight stage is not too big for him.

To each his own, though. I understand both sides of the debate.

Aaron Paisley 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Here's my issue with saying 2008 and 2012 are not the flukes. In 5 of KU's 7 Elite 8 games, KU has had their lowest scoring game of the season, including one of Self's two E8 wins in 2008.

Matt, you can fact check this, but in 2007, 2008, 2011, 2016, and 2017, KU has had their lowest scoring game of the year in the E8. Heck, his 1999 Tulsa that lost to UNC in the E8 was the higher seeded team as well that year and also had their lowest scoring game of their season in that E8 game.

Another thing that makes me believe 2008 and 2012 are the flukes is that Self is only 1-6 all time in the E8 when he's the higher ranked team.

I could count on hand the number of coaches I'd even consider trading Self for, but it also doesn't change that Self has frequently come up short in E8 in the same manner. That's a big indicator that this is a Self issue because of similar nature of KU crapping the bed even with completely different rosters.

David Robinett 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Disappointing? Yes. Inexcusable? No.

It's very easy to criticize.

David Clark 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Saying Kansas Basketball is not an elite program is silly. How do you define "elite".

"It hasn't been hard for North Carolina, the Tar Heels have done it three times in the last eleven seasons, including twice since our most recent title. It hasn't been hard for Duke, who has won it twice since our last title. It hasn't been hard for Connecticut, who has also won it twice since our last title. Elite programs find ways to bring home the hardware they're supposed to bring home, and Kansas, which fancies itself an elite program, needs to start acting like it. Going decades between national titles as Kansas has done is not the mark of an elite program."

Are these the only elite programs?

Bryce Landon 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Of course not. Those three are the ones that come to mind immediately because they've won it all multiples times in my lifetime, including twice each since our most recent title.

David Friend 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Self has nothing to prove to anyone but himself. We have one of "the programs" in college basketball" and KU basketball is a brand. If you want more than that well I suggest you transfer your allegiance to Kentucky where John Calipari has...... One national championship.

Bryce Landon 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Oh, how original, the old "Go root for another team if ours isn't good enough for you" crack.

How about expecting more of the team you root for and not settling for postseason mediocrity?

And yes, Self does have to prove something to other people besides himself. Last I saw, he's getting paid $5 million a year. That's a lot to pay a coach who has only two Final Fours on his resume and hasn't gotten there since 2012. He has to prove that he is worth that much money, which, since he is an employee of the state of Kansas, is coming from the taxpayers.

Dillon Davis 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Bryce's comments are tough to swallow but they're absolutely true and I have said the same thing in the past on sports radio and to friends and gotten criticized for it. But it's true, that he has underperformed in March while he's been here. Regardless of the fact that we have the most wins in the last 10 years in the tournament. It's about getting to the Final 4 and getting championships.

Bradley Bucknell Northern Iowa Michigan VCU Oregon in KC Stanford

I mean these all should have been won. We should have been to at least 2 more Final Fours. I think that's fact given our talent vs the other team's and sometimes location. We often get to play in Omaha or St. Louis or OKC which means we have the crowd advantage and we still don't win. I don't know if there is such a thing as "coaching tight" just like players play tight but our teams have changed, coach hasn't in 14 years.

Not saying that I want another coach because I don't. Self is great and I think he is clearly determined to get us another championship and I think he will within the next 3 years given our roster and the favorable NCAA sites for this year and next. I think we are just a little spoiled being Kansas fans and our expectations are high just like the other blue bloods and we expect Final Fours most years. And Self knows that and he has basically said he has "unfinished business" here and that's why he hasn't retired or left for an NBA job. He wants/feels like he owes the Jayhawk nation another title.

Joe Joseph 2 months, 3 weeks ago

"favorable sites"

lol - because that's helped in the past.

Bryce Landon 2 months, 3 weeks ago

"Coaching tight" - I completely agree. The way Self was talking about the Elite Eight this past season showed he was tight, and that tightened up his players. He lost the game for his team before they even took the floor against Oregon.

I did call for Self's firing after the WSU game in 2015 and after the UO game in 2017. But considering who would be in charge of finding his replacement - Dr. Zenger, the guy who set our football program back 20 years with his coaching hires - I now feel that "the devil you know is better than the devil you don't."

Dillon Davis 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Yeah I wouldn't necessarily consider that one a huge upset. They were really underseeded and were the better team. Knew we were losing that when I saw it on the schedule. Which is why I'm worried we may face them in the Elite 8 or Sweet 16 this year if they get put in the Wichita-Omaha region which they should since they will be a top 25 team all year.

2 months, 3 weeks ago

that anyone affiliated with the University of Kansas would have ONE negative thing to say about HCBS is absolutely absurd. post season injuries have not helped - see JoJo & Udoka. 'Get rid of Bill Self' - is that the answer? who are you going to replace him with, UNC's ROY WILLIAMS?! Get off your Kansas High Horse and appreciate what we have got going. You sound like an entitled brat. We've had some heartbreak, more than most, probably. What do you think Indiana and UCLA ("elite programs" ?) fans are complaining about right now? not Not winning championships- how about consistently making it to the tournament. In the famous words of Aaron Rodgers..."RELAX!" jfc

Joe Joseph 2 months, 3 weeks ago

For real. There are maybe three current coaches in the game that have better resumes than Self: K, Williams, Pitino.

I wouldn't trade Self for any of 'em.

Jonathan Allison 2 months, 3 weeks ago

The resume is only one part of the job search. There's also the background check and frankly... Roy and Rick both fail the background check.

Tim Orel 2 months, 3 weeks ago

When did his team win the NC? Wasn't this last year his first FF? His conference streak (in a lower-level conference) is over. It's an impressive resume, but not equal to Bill's.

Bryce Landon 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Bill Self's record in the Elite Eight at KU is 2-5. He deserves all the criticism in the world for that.

2 months, 3 weeks ago

Should we get Sean Miller on the 'horn then? Sign him up right now? oh, wait... "crititcism" - you are OUT. OF. YOUR. MIND.

RCMFJH

Bryce Landon 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Go ahead and keep brown-nosing Self all you want. The rest of us who have a brain of our own know that Bill Self is not infallible.

Doug Cramer 2 months, 3 weeks ago

As long as the conference championship winning streak remains in tack, Self isn't going anywhere.

We need to put that record to bed forever and make it unreachable.

Jonathan Allison 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I agree. Bill Self is a HOF coach and his greatest legacy is the conference championships. He really needs another 2 NCAA titles in order to make the conference championship streak nothing more than a ridiculous footnote in his legacy.

David Clark 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I was in school during the Ted Owens era. Believe me I would take 2-5 in any 14 year period as long as we won the conference each year. By my definition, that is Elite.

Layne Pierce 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Bryce I must tell you that I see your point, the only problem is what is he was 2-2, instead of 2-5. That's 3 times he never even had the opportunity. And yes he has had a lot of no.1 seeds, but then those represent winning. Your probably too young to know that everything can go bad. It did under Ted Owens, Ted lost it somehow, and we went south, very far south, and then thank God, Larry Brown, set it right. Fact is we have an interesting problem at KU. We want to win the conference, the conference tournament, get to the final 4 and win the championship every year. We routinely win 3 out of 4. Now I ask you, would you trade 3 for 1. What if coach self, said tomorrow, heck with the conference, the only thing that matters is getting ready for the big dance, if we win the conf, cool, but even if we get 3rd, and win the championship, that is really something. Be honest Bryce which one would you choose.

Len Shaffer 2 months, 3 weeks ago

That's a strange question, Layne.

As much as I love the conference-championship streak, I would guess that somewhere around 99% of us would take several more national championships over the 13 consecutive conference titles.

Disagree? If so, then tell me when the last time is that you heard someone complain about what place we finished in the Big 8 in 1988.

Aaron Paisley 2 months, 3 weeks ago

That's a no brainer. Any fan should want Self to do whatever is necessary to best prepare KU for March and April. If that means sacrificing some conference titles, then so be it.

Bryce Landon 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Hell, I'd rather do what we did in 1988 - finish third in the conference and win it all - than do what we've been doing - finish first in the conference and crap our pants in the Big Dance

Mike Greer 2 months, 3 weeks ago

We had one of those "elite" coaches from '89 to '03, how many national championships did he win at KU?

Bryce Landon 2 months, 3 weeks ago

But that same coach has now done three times in fourteen years what our coach has only done once in the same time-span. Moreover, he has five Final Fours at UNC, and nine total, to our coach's two.

Martin Rosenblum 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Bill Self will not coach any other college or NBA team when he decides it's time to leave KU. I've heard all of the talk about his relationship with R. C, Buford and the Spurs. But, his strength is on a different level than coaching at the higher level. He's not going to Oklahoma State either, as some have rumored. The original subject of this thread has gotten disrupted. We shouldn't be debating the value, success and efficiency of his coaching history at KU. His accomplishments speak for themselves and we should be honored that he has been our coach this long and hopefully for many years to come.

David Robinett 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Bryce, are you President? Self-made millionaire? If not, that's inexcusable.

Self has exceeded the performance of ALL those elite coaches and programs - never missed the tourney and never missed winning the conference crown after Year 1. This is partially why our teams have had more chances to play, and yes lose against good teams. Can you prove that we weren't over-achieving in some years to win the conference, andTHAT might be one reason we get upset somewhat more often than the other elites? If KY or NC or Louisville don't even make the tourney, they obviously cannot lose.

Mike Greer 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Bryce, maybe Coach Self just needs to change teams like Ole Roy, and maybe he could then have the same success. He's still won more championships at KU than coach Williams. And I think it's the record at KU we're concerned about.

Is coach Self a miracle worker, no probably not, but he's still one of the top 3 to 5 active college coaches in the country and has a top 10 team year after year. Coach Williams had 0 national championships as KU's coach, coach Brown had 1 and if you recall, that one was a miracl. KU is a great basketball program, but it doesn't have a history of national championships. What it has is a history of consistently being in contention, and that at least, means they have a chance, which you don't have if you're not in the tournament.

Martin Rosenblum 2 months, 3 weeks ago

As much as it is the record, it's the reputation. For whatever reason, it seems like programs that are less than "squeaky clean" get more attention or possibly have an odd sort of respect that KU doesn't share nationally. Yes, we're ranked in the polls based on records, talent, RPI, etc. But, it feels like KU is considered as a "red headed stepchild" when it comes to conversations about powerhouse programs. It's always Duke, Kentucky and others who have had far more incidents of program/player misdeeds that have been investigated than KU has ever been plagued with. Still, those programs are held in higher esteem than KU when it comes to perceptions of greatness. This past season, the unfortunate focus on incidents that centered around one individual who brought attention to KU players received such national media attention that it appeared that the program was somehow corrupt. I believe this supports my belief that KU's nearly unblemished reputation puts a target on it's back. Coach Self handles these issues very well and is underappreciated for his success at keeping the program virtually spotless from this sense.

Robert Brock 2 months, 3 weeks ago

KU needs a smart AD to make the hire when Bill Self moves on. That AD should not be Sheahon Zenger.

Dyrk Dugan 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Self has zero to prove; yes, his elite eight record is not good, but as a basketball coach, a builder of programs, a consistent winner and a championship coach; zero to prove. I would like to see him coach long enough to break Phog Allen's win total at KU. I thing he's less then 200 wins away now; probably seven more years would do it. Then he can do whatever he wants. He's the best coach KU's ever had since Doc; it would be a fitting milestone.

David Friend 2 months, 3 weeks ago

So Bryce. Who would you rather have. Your arguments are only ESPN and First take worthy. Its emotional. Nothing more. We all want the same thing. But the season is always a disappointment unless they win a NC. But a week after the season, I get over it and start looking forward to another season competing as a top five team. Losing a game here or there winning big 12 championships getting 1 or two seeds having an occasional all american, and a player of the year. And being one of the talks of college basketball. Take your anger and put it towards the football program where it is better served. But the criticism of Self's record in the tournament is off base. Using elite 8 losses to say he is overrated. That is the Dan Marino argument. Coaching especially in college is so much more than NC's. Coaching up guys like Frank Mason, Jeff Withey and I can spend all day naming names is just as impressive on his resume. There is a reason why allen field house has turned into bucket list trip for many sport fans. It wasn't always like that.

Sports are to enjoy so try to enjoy one of the better programs in college sports.

Bryce Landon 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Did you read my comments above? I'd rather stick with Self than trust Dr. Zenger to hire a suitable replacement.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.