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Bill Self wouldn’t rule out coaching in the NBA

Aug 6, 2013, 11:30 AM EDT

Bill Self

When Ben McLemore and Jeff Withey log their first NBA minutes this fall that will give Bill Self 16 players that he recruited while at Kansas that have played in the NBA. After years of producing NBA lottery talent, eight to be exact, while in Lawrence, could Self be another Jayhawk ready to make the jump to the NBA?

Maybe not now, but on Monday after being inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, Self didn’t rule out the possibility of coaching in the association.

“It hasn’t really tempted me because I haven’t had that many people talk to me about it,” Self told Michael Baldwin of The Oklahoman on Monday night. “But at some point and time, sure, I think it would (tempt me). It would be great to be able to match wits with the best athletes in the world, but I’m certainly happy where I’m at.

“I’m not saying I never would (coach in the NBA) but I’m locked in.”

By locked in Self, 50, literally means locked in. He signed a contract extension to stay in Kansas through the 2021-2022 season. The new deal bumps his annual pay up to $3.856 million a year, and he has added bonuses if he stays with the Jayhawks through particular seasons. Match that with the success he’s had in the Big 12 and on the recruiting trail it will be tough for an NBA franchise to uproot him from KU.

“Yeah (the money is good), but the biggest thing is you will never be happy as a coach unless you know you can attract good players,” Self told Baldwin. “I’m fortunate to coach at a place where the product is so good we’re always going to get, at least I hope so, some pretty good players.

“I love it at Kansas, and they love basketball there. I’ve been very fortunate to coach at such a tradition-rich place.”

It’s no secret that many college coaches have struggled in the pro game. Self holds one of the premier coaching positions in college sports. A place where he is averaging 30 wins a season through his first 10 years, and has made two trips to the Final Four, winning a national title in 2008.

Sure he says he’ll never rule out an NBA head coaching job, but it seems like a long shot.

  1. coryfor3 - Aug 6, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    I don’t see it as a long shot. It’s a likely occurrence.

  2. billhicks666 - Aug 7, 2013 at 9:48 AM

    Bill Self: great college basketball coach and he has the best toupee in all of sports. God bless you, Bill!

  3. smarterthantherestofyou - Aug 7, 2013 at 6:11 PM

    Man, Coach! Think it, but put it out privately, not in the media before you’ve played even the first game of your second national championship! Kansas will make you as happy as a college coach can be made, both financially and with tradition, fans, and ambience that together are second to none. I can appreciate and respect that the prestige of position and the historic associations with the game that belong to the Kansas coach could lose their luster after awhile. Even the adulation you’ve earned through the coaching talent that’s made you one of the most successful coaches in KU history can probably become a burden. Your place in KU history is secure if you move on, just a Coach Williams before you has his place secured, despite leaving for another college program. (The historic connections between Kansas and North Carolina basketball are deep and fascinating. It didn’t surprise me one bit that Coach Roy — who came to Kansas on the recommendation of Kansas alum Dean Smith — with his North Carolina roots went back home.) That you turned down your Alma Mater OSU and all that Pickens money to stay at Kansas endeared you to KU fans as much as the championship you won a few days before that offer came. I wouldn’t have felt wronged if you’d taken that job.

    If the OKC job were ever offered, and that’s the only NBA job you’d ever consider, because it’s your hometown, I could understand the sentiment for the hometown, but question that as the right reason to leave Kansas for the NBA. NBA jobs are notoriously transient, even for the most successful coaches. And the warmth of feeling you have for coming home to coach the Thunder will be returned with a couple of nice feature pieces in the local media and that’s about it. It won’t mean much to OKC fans. They won’t be forgiving of losses just because your a hometown boy.

    I can admire a move to the NBA if it’s because you’re ready for the different challenge, and challenging yourself is most important to you. Even the greatest jobs can be dead ends if you don’t feel challenged any more. (Or if there are insurmountable conflicts with the administration that employs you that I hope are not there in your case.) If you think you’d be miserable with regret in the end if you had had the chance to see what you could do at the pro level and passed it up.

    The history of college coaches transitioning to the NBA isn’t good. That fact would make success at the NBA level even more rewarding. No doubt it’s part of the temptation for every coach. You’ve also got a relationship with coach Larry Brown that goes way back, and he’s certainly had that success at both Kansas and in the NBA. I’m sure the subject has come up between you, and his opinion would be very influential in any decision you might one day have to make. Your coaching skills are great, obviously, and I personally think you would be able to make the adaptations necessary to coach in The League. You’ve got the necessary qualities of temperament and personality that should make you a better fit for the pro game than most college coaches. Lord knows you can coach!

    But man, at KU you’ve got immortality assured. In some ways longevity and success as a college coach has more meaning, because in college you are really a coach, in the sense of coach as educator. But the recruiting is endless, as is the pressure to win at KU. The NCAA only makes everything worse. in a lot of ways there is probably less pressure on an NBA coach. Hopefully the NBAPA will do the right thing for all parties and make it two years in college before a kid is eligible for the NBA draft. KU’s success this year could put you and the program in a position that allows it to go the Calipari Way and recruit only top twenty ranked talent, selling the program on a virtual guarantee of getting picked in the NBA draft and not really even looking at guys who see personal value in the college experience itself. It would be tempting. it would be bad for the college game and it would take something from the Kansas tradition even more valuable than wins. What sets you apart now from your friend John Calipari is your proven ability to go all the way with teams that are not composed solely of top twenty high school players. You have the eye to find the guys lower down or off the recruit rating charts with the potential to be the equal of the high ranked guy, and the coaching ability to get them there after a year or two in your program. You also put together an impeccable staff year after year. And most recently the program is distinguishing itself as a THE program for the big guys, because you run a good offense for them to be adaptable to the NBA game, and you’ve got a system that can take a guy like Jeff Withey and refine him into an first round NBA talent. If Withey had stayed at Arizona he’d have graduated a year ago and probably be distinguishing himself as one of the nation’s tallest insurance salesmen. He wouldn’t even have had the chance to develop into solid talent for international play, because Tarczewski would have sucked up any playing time he might have expected. Tarczewski himself should have kept his original verbal commitment to Kansas.

    There are very few programs that will get the best out of big man talent that isn’t NBA-ready out of high school. Kansas under coach Self, with credit due to Danny Manning and his time assisting at KU, is the best at it. Kansas would lose that if it ever takes the Calipari route. The facts are that it will almost always take the 6’10″+ guy three to five years to develop their full potential, and the bulk of their playing time really should not come too fast. It’s best for most to even red shirt. Watch Hunter Mickelson after he red shirts this year. He’ll be pro potential, a camp invitee if he isn’t drafted, if he plays out his eligibility for KU. He was on course at Arkansas to be a flame out, or at least a flicker out. But also watch Joel Embiid become a Monster and a first round pick potential as a freshman who’s only played basketball two and a half years.

    Coach Self, if you stay at Kansas, you’ll likely become the equal of Phog Allen in KU tradition and even more renowned as one of the greatest coaches of all time for being as successful in the modern era. It gets dicier for reading the tea leaves of your ultimate legacy if you leave for the NBA, though no one can ever take away all the tremendous success you’ve earned. Larry Brown’s won a lot of games. He’s won NCAA and NBA championships. He’s regarded as a coaching genius. If you stay at Kansas and win the number of games Coach Brown has won, in a hundred years they’ll be playing KU games in some old arena named after you built when Allen Fieldhouse could stand no longer (but hopefully a perfect, modernized replica of it!) and you’re name will still be revered. Coach Brown won’t be forgotten at Kansas, of course. But you will still be very much alive, as all opposing teams will know to “Beware The Self” at your Arena. … Which will also have a certain hilarity to it that you name provides. “Be Self Aware” might work in a hundred years!

    Finally, as a Kansas fan, I know there is no shortage of great coaches who would jump at the KU job. Including some familiars: Mark Turgeon, are you listening? Jacques Vaughn? Rex Walters? Danny Manning? Jeff Boschee? Sorry Gregg Popovich and Larry Brown, you guys are too old!

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