Kansas basketball coach Bill Self on his team's defense: 'We've got to get back to guarding'
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self has always demanded that his teams play great defense.
But after watching Oklahoma State carve up KU’s D and hit KU for 37 points in transition during Tuesday night’s loss in Stillwater, Okla., Self believes it’s time for his current team to grab a better understanding of what playing great defense actually means.
“They ran by us like we were standing still,” Self said during Thursday night’s episode of “Hawk Talk” with Brian Hanni while reaffirming what he said after the loss, that the Jayhawks don’t make other teams play poorly, they hope other teams play poorly.
Self pointed out that most years he and his coaching staff would not even have to point out a breakdown like that. For the past two decades, most of Self’s teams have featured several players who made defense a priority and measured the team’s success under that microscope.
“It has been for years, that (when guys) look at a stat sheet from the game, the players don’t turn to see who scored, they turn to see how many the guy they guarded got,” Self said on “Hawk Talk.” “I mean that’s kind of been the mindset.”
Self admitted that things are different today than they have been in the past, primarily with defenses designed to switch so often and run different schemes based on that. But he said he still would like to see his players take some more pride in getting stops.
“They had 25 points with 12 minutes left in the first half,” he said of Oklahoma State on Tuesday night. “And I said, ‘Guys, they're on pace for 125.’ And there wasn't that pride of saying, ‘All right, OK, enough's enough.’ We’ve got to get better at that.”
One of the big reasons Self is starting to emphasize his team having more pride on the defensive end is because he believes they have enough weapons on offense to get what they need to get even on off nights.
But he noted that this Kansas team does not have the margin for error not to be good on the defensive end.
“We didn't guard Texas (on Jan. 2), but they played at an athletic level that was superior to us that day, that even if we would have guarded them a little bit better, it may not have been enough. That wasn’t the case the other night.
“You can’t play nine minutes hoping the other team doesn’t score,” Self added.
Asked by Hanni to ID some of the players who took their studying of the postgame stat sheet the most to heart, Self listed Brandon Rush, Travis Releford, Tyshawn Taylor, Udoka Azubuike and Frank Mason III, while saying there were several others, as well.
“Every team that we’ve had that’s been good had a guy that was a stopper,” he said. “But it’s also a team thing. The guys have to buy in if you want to be a great team. The great teams all buy into being able to identify who they are and the roles and the strengths and the weaknesses of the individual players and the team.”
Like always, Self wants this team’s identity to be tied to its play on the defensive end. And he appears to be poised to emphasize that to his players more than he has thus far in the coming days and weeks.
“You keep yourself in games and you win close games because you guard,” Self said. “That wasn’t the case the other night. We didn’t guard.”
Self said on “Hawk Talk” that that point was hammered home to him during a Thursday phone conversation with a longtime female coach at a major Division I program.
“She said, ‘Bill, I watched you guys play early in the season and you weren't very good offensively but you guarded. Now, you're not guarding,’” Self relayed. “Coming from another coach, that's actually kind of tough to hear. But that’s the fact. We’ve got to get back to guarding.”