Tuesday, March 8, 2016


Tom Keegan: Self clearly Big 12’s best

Kansas head coach Bill Self walks off with forward Landen Lucas after locking up a share of their twelfth-straight Big 12 title with the trophy following their 67-58 win over the Red Raiders, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self walks off with forward Landen Lucas after locking up a share of their twelfth-straight Big 12 title with the trophy following their 67-58 win over the Red Raiders, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.


I considered Texas Tech’s Tubby Smith and West Virginia’s Bob Huggins, but when it came time to fill out my Associated Press All-Big 12 college basketball ballot, I voted Kansas University’s Bill Self as coach of the year.

Self won the honor a day after Tubby won the same award based on the votes of the conference’s 10 coaches.

Sportswriters wouldn’t make good coaches, but they consistently do a better job of voting than coaches.

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Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self looks ahead to Big 12 tourney and NCAAs

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self meets with media members to discuss this week's Big 12 Tournament, in Kansas City, Mo., and beyond.

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Better dressers? I’m too humble to answer that one.

As for my vote for Self, let’s look at where this team was six weeks ago, when Self gathered the four starters and discussed which center they felt complemented them best. Cheick Diallo, Landen Lucas and Hunter Mickelson had been sharing time, and Carlton Bragg Jr. was an option in some matchups as well.

The Jayhawks were 4-2 in conference then, coming off a blowout loss at Oklahoma State and heading into a home game against Texas.

By the time Self asked the players, he had determined that Diallo’s development wouldn’t be sufficient to handle the Big 12 this season. Mickelson lacked the strength to move bodies in the paint. Self knew the answer was Lucas, but he didn’t show his hand to the other four starters.

“I think coaches are really good at giving up control, and then if they don’t like the answers that they get, they take control back,” said Self, whose candor is much appreciated. “So I think that’s kind of how it works. ... I thought it was more important for them to take ownership.”

Self viewed his team’s ceiling higher with one center than using different players for different matchups.

“I wanted the guys to take ownership, and I thought if they took ownership over what they said, then they would have more of a responsibility to make sure it worked out,” Self said.

It certainly worked out because Kansas has won 11 in a row, and Lucas has been a big part of that.

Six Big 12 coaches have reached the Final Four (Huggins twice, Lon Kruger, Shaka Smart, Self twice, Smith and Bruce Weber). Self has the success that could earn him the award every year, but that’s not how it works. Typically, the coach whose team exceeds expectations wins the award. The coaches picked Texas Tech for last, and it finished seventh. The coaches predicted West Virginia for a sixth-place finish, and Huggins coached them into second place. Self’s team exceeded mid-season expectations, and that won the coach the award from the voters who do the best job of voting. You don’t have to be a great chef to know what tastes good.

The rest of my ballot:

First team: Frank Mason III (KU), Monté Morris (Iowa State), Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Perry Ellis (KU), Georges Niang (ISU).

Second team: Isaiah Taylor (Texas), Devonté Graham (KU), Jaysean Paige (WVU), Taurean Prince (Baylor), Devin Williams (WVU).

Player of the Year: Hield.

Newcomer of the Year: Deonte Burton (ISU).


Mike Riches 6 years, 7 months ago

That meeting with his four starters was a genius move on a lot of levels. Not only did he get those players' buy in to start Lucas (since it was "their idea") but it also gave him great positioning with the rest of the players, the media and fans. At that point in the season, Lucas didn't have too many people in his corner. But I remember the press conference following the decision to start him when Self basically said, What do you do when your four other starters say to you, we're not comfortable with anyone else back there? That move immediately lessened the criticism he and Lucas would face, and probably gave Lucas a huge boost of confidence, which in turn led to his improvement.

As if we needed more evidence that Bill Self is pretty good at what he does...

Joe Ross 6 years, 7 months ago

For precisely the reasons you mention above, Tom, consideration of Coach Self as coach of the year is warranted. As far as your headline, however, to make the case that the choice is "clear" when coaches of the league voted Tubby Smith as the best seems to me a little self-serving. Look at the caliber of coaches, too. These aren't guys who don't know anything about coaching. Lon Kruger, Bill Self, Trent Johnson, Bob Huggins, Shaka Smart, Tubby Smith, Scott Drew (from a whole family of coaches), Steve Prohm, Bruce Weber, and Travis Ford. Jay Bilas and others haveTubby Smith as a leading candidate for their National Coach of the Year. And yet I've seen a lot of Jayhawk fans throw the words "no-brainer" and "obvious" around when referring to Self as the Coach of the Year in conference. The problem I see there is similar to the problem I see with this article: that the case for Coach Self is fully developed while the case for Tubby Smith is not. I was looking for more of case-against-case presentation, but it's not to be found. Again, Im not saying Coach Self hasn't done a great job this year: he certainly has. But he started with a team who won gold at the summer games. Tubby Smith didn't. In fact, our team's level of play dropped off from their performance during the course of the season before it rebounded, and that drop-off came with veteran players who had just won gold. Have to give credit everywhere. Tubby didn't start with those advantages, and his record against the league when the league was is tough as I can ever remember it...with the PIECES he had...just screams coach of the year in my opinion. Now this is arguable, but among other things it may be, "clear" is not one of them.

Mike Riches 6 years, 7 months ago

I argued yesterday that COY in college should almost always go to the winningest coach. Certainly Tubby Smith did not start the season with as much talent as Self. But college is the only level where having the best "pieces" lies 100% on the coaching staff. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding the award, and it's really only supposed to be about x's and o's, but if it is about being the best coach, that would and should include recruiting, since that is a major part of a coach's job.

I don't think that giving an award based on 'who did better than everyone thought they would' is very fair to coaches who are able to recruit top talent and build programs that perform well year after year. Which is more important, winning or improving?

Joe Ross 6 years, 7 months ago

Respectfully, having the best guys does not rely 100% on the coaching staff. I'll make the point clear. If Austin Peay and Kansas are both going after a recruit, you could switch whoever Austin Peay's coach with Coach Self, and Kansas might still get consideration if they were interested simply because of the reputation of the program. Coach Self did not "build the program" at Kansas as you seem to suggest in your next-to-last sentence. Furthermore, reputation of a program makes it easier to draw great coaches, so the stature of a program has to be factored in. (It is also true that the work of a great coach does not get factored out, obviously, but you distill my point.)

Additionally, the final choice of whether or not you get recruits does not lie with coaches. On the contrary, they lie with the players. Ben Simmons to LSU? Michael Beasley to Kansas State? Kevin Durant to Texas...over Kansas, UNC, Duke or Kentucky? I mean let's face it, sometimes the reasons recruits choose their schools are head scratchers.

No. Getting guys to come to your school is heavily influenced by the coaching staff. I don't deny this. But it's not a schoolyard pick 'em where all schools have an equal chance. There are many factors that are in play--stature of program, perception by recruits, geography of schools, of all things, etc.--that argue against the assertion that recruiting is "100%" based on the coaching staff.

This is an award based on COACHING. Tom's argument and others I've seen certainly include this, but it seems to me that they use the wins and losses of the team as the best indicator for the effectiveness of a coach. Yet even if suffering a lot of losses the level of play of a team--especially of one who lacks better players--should be considered when making a determination about the effectiveness of a coach. Texas Tech's level of play has been remarkable, again especially considering who they have (which is not entirely based on the coach as above), the toughness of the conference this year, and where they were a year ago at this time. Tubby Smith is responsible for this improvement.

I regret that COTY has basically turned into a beauty contest. It's unfortunate that the effort of coaches doing actual coaching gets buried under the win-loss records of respective teams.

Mike Greer 6 years, 7 months ago

Joe, not that anything you wrote is incorrect and this is certainly a gray area as there is no "written formula" for COTY, so one can expect differences of opinion.

Because of where I live, I've had the opportunity to follow Coach Self for a very long time. I've seen his work as a head coach at ORU and TU up close, and followed his progress at Illinois and obviously his tenure at KU. He's been successful at recruiting and coaching at all of these schools. He's certainly not the only coach to have success at TU or beyond, Nolan Richardson and Tubby Smith also launched careers from TU as head coaches, even Tom Izzo was an assistant there. My point, I do have one, is that recruiting and coaching up the payers you get is not limited to blue blood schools. This year unlike the previous few years, there were no NBA lottery picks starting for KU, so coach Self and his staff have done an excellent job of coaching up the players he has. He has some good players, don't get me wrong, but coaching up players or seeing the potential of players like Lucas, Mason, and Graham for example, is worthy of recognition. Turning a good team around at mid season was also a noteworthy achievement. Tubby made a good team out of a bad team and Bill made a conference champion out of a good team, what deserves more credit?

Mike Riches 6 years, 7 months ago

You are correct that recruiting is influenced by other factors than just the coaching staff, and ultimately the decision lies with the athlete. However, at the college level, most would agree that simply put, part of being a great coach is being a great recruiter.

Should this award reflect that? (i.e. Should a college COY award be similar to a combination of the NBA's Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year?) Or should this award only reflect what happens on the court? As I mentioned earlier, I'm really not sure of the criteria, or if actual criteria even exists or if it's left to the voter to decide. But if a coach's ability to recruit (along with a slew of other factors that lie outside of x's and o's) should be considered when making a selection, then wins and losses may be the best, not the only, but the best indicator for the effectiveness of a coach.

In any event, I'll most likely never have a vote, so I realize my opinion doesn't matter, but it's an interesting debate for sure.

Joe Ross 6 years, 7 months ago

Though we do not agree, I think both of us make the case for how we view the award. You say, for example,

"...this is certainly a gray area as there is no "written formula" for COTY, so one can expect differences of opinion...".

I agree. But of interest is the fact that our agreement on this one point erodes the premise of Tom's article as suggested by his headline; namely, that the choice is "clear".

Joe Ross 6 years, 7 months ago

“I think there were several coaches that would deserve to be named (Coach of the Year)...and nobody would have a problem with it, because the league was so good and teams probably played to a higher level than what they were projected to early on.”

--Bill Self

Read more here:

Jack Hoff 6 years, 7 months ago

Out of curiousity Joe, who do you believe deserves to be named the National Coach of the Year?

Joe Ross 6 years, 7 months ago

I'll give you some candidates. Fran McCaferry (sp), Jim Larranaga, Bill Self, Tubby Smith, and Chris Mack.

Don't be surprised that I mention Bill Self after saying the above. I think he deserves to be in the conversation, especially considering that he doesn't have a Denzel Valentine, Buddy Hield, or Ben Simmons on his team. If the vote were mine alone Id probably give it to the coach at Miami or Iowa.

The major issue I have is with the perception at the level of the conference that the choice for COTY is obvious or clear-cut. People have good reasons for arguing otherwise.

Micky Baker 6 years, 7 months ago


Self clearly had the most pressure on him. This isn't taking anything away from Tubby Smith at Texas Tech, but there are specific reasons why anyone of them could be unanimous selections among the coaches or the AP, not clear if Self was the unanimous pick.

Kansas started off hot early, save for that late rally to Michigan State in a game that we should have won given how the first 30 minutes of it went. Then the game against OU in Lawrence took a lot of energy out of the team, and KU started off the conference season 4-3, and it was unexpected. This is where you and I will clash. KU had much more pressure on them, and most of that pressure fell on Self's back. KU trailed OU, WVU, and I believe Baylor in the league standings after starting 4-3. Then KU turned 180 degrees based on the decisions of Bill Self. Kansas went on the road to K-State where OU lost, won against Kentucky, won in Austin after UT took down OU, and won in Norman. It wasn't just the fact that we won those games, but where we won them and we won them after overcoming some adversity during the first half of the conference season. Then the Hawks ran the table including big wins on the road against teams that were matched up well with us. This puts Self on a tier all by himself within the league and not just because he coaches at KU. He coached the 12 time Big 12 regular season champs over teams that might have been the best they've been during this streak.

Joe Ross 6 years, 7 months ago

I disagree with respect to pressure. Both Kansas and Texas Tech faced the same slate of teams in the round robin format of the conference regular season, but two points here. First, TT playing Kansas is more difficult than Kansas playing TT. Advantage, Kansas. Secondly, Kansas has better players than TT. Advantage Kansas. Kind of difficult to make the case that an easier schedule with better players translates to more pressure.

Micky Baker 6 years, 7 months ago

How can you believe that there wasn't immense pressure on the players and on Self with the regular season championship streak on the line, the home court winning streak on the line, and the target on their back? Texas Tech had none of these things to play for and none of these things to lose.

The pressure of 1 vs 2 when OU/KU played in Allen Field House. The pressure of playing in Norman being one game back of the Sooners going in, and winning that game. The pressure of the uncertainty surrounding the motivation of the players going into Austin last week, and winning by 30. The pressure of the top two programs in College Basketball History playing one another in front of a national audience.

The decisions that Self made down the stretch that resulted not in just a share of the regular season title, but winning it by 2 games over WVU and only losing 3 in conference play. Most wins vs top 25 teams, not just in the conference, but in the country.

You see, when you're not expected to win, there is less pressure, not more just because you don't have as talented of players. It isn't like KU played a different conference schedule. It's the same one save for the head to heads. KU won both of those games, mind you. Texas Tech didn't beat us. OU didn't beat us. Texas didn't beat us. Baylor didn't beat us.

If the Red Raiders had finished with a 14-4 or 13-5 record in conference play, you would have a point. There was no team in the league that had as much pressure on it as Kansas did. Self was getting it from all angles from the fans, the media, and the fans of our opponents.

Kansas went 15-3, and nobody saw that coming in January. Some even predicted that KU would lose 10 plus games during that stretch where KU really struggled, albeit against teams that have us scouted very well. Then KU ran the table, not just at home but also on the road after the first 3 conference losses. The teams KU played on the road included Texas and OU who had every possible reason to beat us, and they didn't.

Jack Hoff 6 years, 7 months ago

Outstanding analysis Micky! I agree with every word you just said! Rock Chalk!

Micky Baker 6 years, 7 months ago

Why am I not surprised Joe doesn't respond again? First, he says, "provide support", then when you call him out when he's wrong he says he's going to ignore you, then when you do provide support, he ignores you. You see, when you sit on the fence, you never can stand on anything.

Doug Cramer 6 years, 7 months ago

Lucas improved so much.

I was critical of this move. But in the end...Self was right.

Still think Mickelson would have been a stud had he came here right out of high school. He's got more of an offensive feel for the game...and can block shots in the paint.

Lucas just made a better decision to come here out of high shirt...and continue to improve.

We need more 4 year guys like Lucas and Mickelson.

Harlan Hobbs 6 years, 7 months ago

Am perfectly happy to have Coach Self and let TT have Tubby Smith, regardless of whether the sportswriters or the coaches have the final word in the official vote.

As you say, Mike, Coach Self is a genius on all levels. He's a true leader on and off the court.

Joe Ross 6 years, 7 months ago

I wouldnt trade Coach Self for anybody.

Harlan Hobbs 6 years, 7 months ago

The Topeka Capital Journal is reporting that Bill Self has been named National Coach of the Year by USA Today.

Mike Greer 6 years, 7 months ago

That appears to be the case. Congrats to Coach Self! He's done a great job with these players. Looking forward to a successful post season.

Freddie Garza 6 years, 7 months ago

At first I was OK with Tubby being named Big XII COY by the coaches, but the more I thought about it...

...let's be honest, Travis Ford, Bruce Weber and Scott Drew aren't exactly brainiacs, but did they HONESTLY think that a guy who coached his team to a 7th place finish in a 10 team league is really worthy of the COY award?

Personally, if I had to vote for another coach besides Bill Self, I probably would've voted for Huggins.

Micky Baker 6 years, 7 months ago

Huggins was more deserving that Tubby Smith was, this season. If Tubby would have got the Red Raiders into one of the top 4 slots, then Huggins would slide behind him.

Here is how I would list my top 4, and in the order I would list them. Self Huggins Smith Kruger

With a couple of more big wins for TTU, Smith would move into second, but if Smith had finished one game back of KU and is looking at a number 2 or 3 seed in the NCAA tourney as a result of their conference play, then Smith would move into a tie with Self or maybe edge Self.

Jack Hoff 6 years, 7 months ago

It's unfortunate that Bill Self got snubbed because he is consistently better than the other coaches in the league. I don't necessarily agree that the winner of the league deserves to be COTY but this year in particular it certainly applied to this league. Considering the adversity Kansas overcame at the start of the conference race, Bill Self deserved to be COTY.

Tony Bandle 6 years, 7 months ago

Jealousy is the color green. What color is envy?

Let's see, Bill beat six of the coaches twice [including Tubby] and split with the other three. [It is weird how Bill's alma mater always gives us a peck of trouble.] No shame losing at ISU and WV, though.

Anyone hear any rumors where the Hawks will be playing in Rounds 2 and 3? If you say Des Moines and not St.Louis, I will be pissed.

Tony Bandle 6 years, 7 months ago

PS Oklahoma City will also not be appreciated

Mike Riches 6 years, 7 months ago

St. Louis would be nice the first weekend but it's in the East Region, meaning the second weekend would be played in Philly. Des Moines is in the Midwest and Chicago hosts the second weekend in that region. I would think we'd have a much larger fan base in Chicago.

Charles Copeland 6 years, 7 months ago

Lets see national coach of the year .... and he does not win coach of the year in his own conference????s And 12 titles?? sounds like sour grapes to me..

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