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The gospel according to : Jo Jo

Former KU great speaks his mind about Bill Self, Julian Wright - and all things Jayhawk

Former Kansas University basketball standout Jo Jo White, right, yuks it up with radioman Max Falkenstien during White's jersey-retirement ceremony in this file photo from 2003. Though he works for the Boston Celtics, White says he keeps close tabs on the Jayhawks.

Former Kansas University basketball standout Jo Jo White, right, yuks it up with radioman Max Falkenstien during White's jersey-retirement ceremony in this file photo from 2003. Though he works for the Boston Celtics, White says he keeps close tabs on the Jayhawks.

July 18, 2007

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One of the most ballyhooed ballers in Kansas University basketball lore, Jo Jo White still keeps up with the Jayhawks, even though he lives in Boston and works in the Celtics' front office.

"I follow them very closely," White, a KU guard from 1966 to 1969, said, adding that he thought the 2006-07 squad was talented enough to win it all.

"I was a little bit disappointed," the two-time All-American said of the Jayhawks' 68-55 Elite Eight loss to UCLA in March.

White, whose number 15 jersey hangs in the Allen Fieldhouse rafters, said the jury was still out on KU coach Bill Self, even though he has compiled a 105-29 record and led the team to two NCAA regional-final appearances in four seasons.

"Judgment's still out on Bill," White said Monday before playing in the Legends of KU Kansas City Golf Tournament. "I like him as a person. I don't know if he's tough enough on these guys. We've got some outstanding talent, but you've got to be honest, and you've got to be open, and you've got to get on them because you want to get the most out of them."

White, who scored 1,268 points in his three seasons as a Jayhawk, said he hoped Self, whom he called "a great recruiter," would be able to keep the players he brings to KU from heading to the NBA early.

"As soon as you get a team together, your talent is gone," White said of today's college basketball climate. "So if you can't recruit, you can't coach."

Since Self's arrival in Lawrence in 2003, only forward Julian Wright - drafted 13th overall by the New Orleans Hornets in June - has left school early for the NBA.

However, White opined that now was not the time for Wright to go pro.

"Definitely not. I thought he should've stayed in school, but he's a talented individual," White said.

Former Kansas University basketball standout Jo Jo White, right, yuks it up with radioman Max Falkenstien during White's jersey-retirement ceremony in this file photo from 2003. Though he works for the Boston Celtics, White says he keeps close tabs on the Jayhawks.

Former Kansas University basketball standout Jo Jo White, right, yuks it up with radioman Max Falkenstien during White's jersey-retirement ceremony in this file photo from 2003. Though he works for the Boston Celtics, White says he keeps close tabs on the Jayhawks.

White, Boston Celtics director of special projects and community-relations representative, said his time in an NBA front office has allowed him to see how difficult it can be for ultra-talented college prospects to assimilate at the pro level.

"Once they get (to the NBA), they find out there are some more talents out here," White said, adding that underclassmen that join the NBA have to take a professional approach to succeed.

"Once you get to the pros, everyone at that level is gifted. We have a lot of athletes in the pros, but we have very few professionals," the 1976 NBA Finals MVP for the Celtics said. "Professionalism has nothing to do with college. It has to do with work ethic, how you approach the game, how you carry yourself, how you deal with media. A lot of these young kids, they don't have a clue."

White said, ideally, every college player would stay in school four years and leave with a degree.

"If you throw your education away and you don't make it, what do you have? Absolutely nothing," he said. "You have to prepare yourself for: What if? And you have to do that through education."

A seven-time NBA All-Star, White said many young players are coerced into leaving school early by agents or people around them who can profit from the athlete's success.

"You get to read what the athlete makes, but you never get to read what's being made off the athlete," he explained. "They (people around the athlete) can make money and not win a game."

Bad advice, White said, can lead to a young athlete's demise.

"There's only so many LeBron James's," he said of the wildly successful 22-year-old Cleveland Cavaliers forward, who bypassed college completely. "(College players) have to get that advice coming from their superiors."

A champion with the Celtics twice over, White also was critical of the NBA's rule - which first affected high school seniors last year - that says players must be at least one year past the graduation of their high school class and at least 19 years old by the end of the calendar year in which they enter the draft.

"That one year in school - that's crap," he said, adding that it does players no good to "hide out" in the college ranks for a year.

That rule got Ohio State's Greg Oden and Texas forward Kevin Durant on campus last year before they went pro this spring and were selected first and second overall in the NBA Draft.

Much was made in pro-sports-crazed Boston of the Celtics not landing one of those players via the lottery, but White had a different take on that.

"I wasn't disappointed at all," he said of the Celtics ending up with the No. 5 pick, which they eventually traded along with Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West to Seattle for Ray Allen and the rights to Glen Davis. "Over the years, we've been successful not relying on luck. So now all of the sudden, everybody's saying we didn't have any luck in the draft."

Despite the franchise's NBA-leading 16 titles, Celtic pride may not be at an all-time high right now - the team was 24-58 in 2006-07. But White, whose No. 10 jersey was retired by the franchise, said things are looking up, thanks in part to another former Jayhawk, Paul Pierce.

A 1998 All-American at Kansas, Pierce is the franchise's centerpiece, and White said the nine-year Celtic veteran still has five good years left in his 230-pound frame. White has been one of Pierce's biggest supporters and highly recommended the KU product to Celtic brass when he entered the 1998 NBA Draft.

"I told our organization he was better than they could imagine because each year he was at KU he got better and better," White recalled, and said that Pierce could lead the storied franchise back to glory.

"He hasn't even scratched the surface of how good he can become," White said. "We have a lot of confidence in Paul, and I think his best games are in front of him."

Although the ups and downs of his Jayhawk and Celtic hoop squads occupy a great deal of his time, White said he also spends a lot of time during the summer months at golf outings, attending to Boston Celtic corporate sponsors and season-ticket holders. But he also gets to watch the team's talent develop and interact with the players.

"My plate is full, and I'm enjoying what I'm doing," he said.

Comments

torinmia 7 years, 5 months ago

I am so happy to hear a professional voicing these sentiments: "White said, ideally, every college player would stay in school four years and leave with a degree.

"If you throw your education away and you don't make it, what do you have? Absolutely nothing," he said. "You have to prepare yourself for: What if? And you have to do that through education."

I was beginning to think I was the only one who felt this way!

Eric Beightel 7 years, 5 months ago

Mr_Ramirez (Anonymous) says: "Judgment's still out on Bill," White said Monday before playing in the Legends of KU Kansas City Golf Tournament. "I like him as a person. I don't know if he's tough enough on these guys." Nice JoJo, way to support your team:::::.lame.

I'm not sure I understand. JoJo says that he's not yet formed an opinion on Coach Self and you call him out for not supporting his team? Bill did a crap job coaching that team last year. I know we were young, but we should have gotten a lot more out of that squad. What's wrong with being a little critical? If there are no voices of dissent, we get sustained mediocrity. That's unacceptable.

bugmenot 7 years, 5 months ago

I think it's refreshing to have someone say the vote's still out on Self's coaching job. The book didn't close on Roy's until he left and we could examine the whole package. I don't like it when our friends go all "Coach K" about Self. It's nice to have a sense of perspective, realize the man's not a god and can improve his coaching skills. No one is perfect, and Self can always get better.

riverdrifter 7 years, 5 months ago

Thank you for showing your niavete re Kansas basketball, Mr_Ramirez. Bill Self himself fully knows that final fours and swings at the national championship are requisite here, just as they are at all of the tradition-rich basketball powers. Coaches at these schools know that if they don't feed the dragon the dragon will consume them in due time. Fact of life. See. No, you don't see. As you like to call people, "idiot"! Now take your elite 8 clunker and park it in Manhattan. Or Columbia.

lawrencelifer 7 years, 5 months ago

Yikes. Bill is hated . . . and Roy is hated. It sounds like we've never had a good basketball coach on campus. I guess Roy's 4 Final Fours in 15 years (better than a 25% clip) with two championship games isn't quite as impressive as I thought it was. We need somebody who can bring us some championships it sounds like. Let me see, Red Auerbach won a bundle of championships in Boston . . . oh darn, he passed away, so he's not available. Hmmm. John Wooden isn't working. He won a slug of championships at UCLA. He's in his 90s now, but seems pretty chipper still. If Bill doesn't pick up the pace, perhaps Big Lew needs to make a phone call to the Wizard. Ooh, I can just hear it now . . . "The Wizard of Aaahs." If John Wooden turns us down, perhaps Phil Jackson is worth a call. He didn't win as many titles as Wooden or Auerbach, but if he can use Brandon Rush the way he did Michael Jordan or Kobi Bryant, and can use Darnell Jackson the same way he utilized Shaq, I think he can have some success and love here. Ok guys, l believe we have some options now, so stop sweating it. ;0)

Brandon Graham 7 years, 5 months ago

Every one of you that posts on these bulletins have your head stuck so far up your posterior, you'll never know what a sunny day looks like. Coach Williams is a great man, was a great KU coach, recruiter, and ambassador. Most of you are too ignorant and bitter about a man wanting to go home to acknowledge that. His winning percentage and tournament successes show his abilities as a coach. I could go on for days about how stuck up, stupid, and ignorant so many KU fans seem to be about his tenure, but it's wasted time with a bunch of fair weather, spoiled "fans".

Getting a coach like Bill Self to replace a living legend is the greatest blessing to the KU program since Bob Frederick took a chance on coach Williams after the team was put on probation. The man has been at KU for less than five years and hasn't won a championship...and you morons are complaining like he has no idea what he's doing. How many of you ever played competitive basketball, much less coached it? This IS big time college basketball, but what happened to some resemblance of loyalty? Let me remind you how a tournament works since most of you are probably as lazy and unathletic as you are ignorant. A team of 18-22 year olds takes the court against another team of young men the same age that in this day and age share remarkable parity. One team loses and one team wins. That's it. If any of you had to face that every day at work, you'd all be homeless.

How many years are we going to "put up with him"? I don't know, how about as long as he recruits great kids, who are good athletes, work at school and basketball, and runs a clean program? Have none of you ever been anywhere else in the country? Do you not know how bad 99.9% of all schools in the country would kill for what we have in a hoops team? Regardless of what JoJo White says, the jury is NOT still out on Bill Self or Roy Williams. They're winners, always have been, always will be, and nothing any group of morons thinks changes that. You'd all do well to appreciate more in life instead of bitching all the time.

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