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Archive for Friday, March 9, 2007

Brown proud of KU’s Self

Jayhawk coach could earn 100th victory at Kansas today against Sooners

March 9, 2007

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— Still physically fit at age 66, Hall of Fame basketball coach Larry Brown postponed his morning workout a half hour to praise one of his favorite pupils, Bill Self.

"I'm in love with the guy," Brown said of fourth-year Kansas University coach Self, who today against Oklahoma tries for a significant milestone - his 100th victory against 28 losses since returning to Mount Oread.

"I'm really proud of him. Last night, I'm sitting with a guy who has won 19 straight games, and we're both bragging about Bill," Brown added of another member of his coaching tree - Memphis' John Calipari.

Brown is in Tennessee spending the weekend with Calipari as the ex-Jayhawk assistant coach's Tigers (27-3) compete in the Conference USA tournament.

"The years I spent at Kansas were as good as any I've had," noted Brown, executive vice president of the Philadelphia 76ers, who was head coach at KU from 1983 to '88. "I follow KU closely. I know Bill's the head coach, and what he stands for makes me pretty darn proud, knowing he worked with me."

Brown gave Self his first break. He hired him straight out of Oklahoma State as a graduate assistant for the 1985-86 season.

Though Self downplays his role on the staff - "I read USA Today every day and let coach know if there was anything worth reading in it," Self cracked - Brown says he was more important than that.

"He worked my camp and then worked for me. I don't look at it as him being low on the totem poll. He was bright, great with the players," Brown said.

"Working for Eddie (Sutton, OSU) was huge in his development. Watching him go to Oral Roberts and Tulsa and Illinois ... to think of where those programs were when he left them is really good.

"At KU ... he's proven to be a perfect fit. I hated to see Roy (Williams) leave, but I felt we got a tremendous coach and person to replace him. It's obvious the program is as good as any in the country and is moving forward."

A North Carolina graduate, Brown also is very close to ex-Jayhawk coach Williams, who was one of Brown's assistants on the 2004 U.S. Olympic team.

"I think it's a phenomenal job," Brown said of KU - a school that has had just eight coaches in its history. "The tradition is unmatched. The facility is the best. The interest is incredible. The school is great. There's no better atmosphere to coach a game.

"At one time, it was hard to recruit because we don't have the number of players to draw from in the area," he indicated. "Roy did an incredible job maintaining a high standard, going national and bringing in great players. Bill is showing the ability to continue and maybe even take it up a notch in terms of the recruiting."

Brown - he also mentored Wichita State coach Mark Turgeon, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, Seattle SuperSonics coach Bob Hill, Phoenix Suns assistant Alvin Gentry, Emporia State coach David Moe and Memphis assistant John Robic - keeps in touch will all his former students.

"The last time I talked to coach Brown was over Christmas," Self said. "I said, 'Coach, I don't know about our team. We should be better than what we are.' He said, 'I've watched you. You are not far off. You know what you believe in. Make sure you are getting that across to the kids. Don't let them play the way they want to play. Make sure they play the way you want them to,' which is great advice because we weren't playing as well as we should have been.

"His whole deal is, 'What you believe in works. Make sure you make them understand that.'"

Brown - he can't discuss specific players because of NBA protocol - says he has followed the 2006-07 Jayhawks' fortunes closely as he has every year since winning the 1988 national title here and leaving for the NBA's Spurs.

"It's a little different. They are so very young. I noticed that last year, too," Brown said, adding, "I think they defend well. They are very deep. They play really hard. When a lot of coaches go to the bench there's a dropoff. When he does, they continue to play great. It's a really good team. It seems to be finding its stride now, which is obviously most important time."

Brown offers no predictions about the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

"It's one and done, and anything can happen," Brown said.

As superstitious as he is, he does think it's safe to say the Jayhawks will earn Self his 100th victory soon. Overall, Self is 306-133 in 14 seasons. The coach attained win No. 300 on Feb. 10 at Missouri.

KU to open Big 12 Tournament against Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Sooners defeated the Iowa State Cyclones Friday afternoon to advance and face off against Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament. Enlarge video

"I never think about it much," Brown said of milestone wins in his own career. He was 1,239-907 in 27 seasons in the pros and 177-61 in seven college campaigns. "I think sometimes it's more important to know people care about you. The way I look at it when it happens to you it's an accomplishment of all the people who participated with you, players and coaches. I'm sure Bill's the same way."

Indeed, Self credits his staff and players.

"I've always said we have as good a staff as any in America," Self said. "Whey you have good players you should win. You should always do that. I would be nice to get 100 in four years. We need to get a lot more this year because when you have good players you are supposed to win games. We've definitely got good guys."

The 44-year-old Self, who hopes to be in the early stages of a long head coaching career, is apparently quite content at KU.

"Yes, he's always told that to me," Brown said.

"Very happy," Self confirmed. "We've got great support, great administration, great players, and my family loves it here."

As far as Brown, who was dismissed last summer after one season with the New York Knicks, could there be one more head coaching stop in his storied career on the college or pro level?

"I will be 67 (on Sept. 14). I don't know what college would take a chance on me," said Brown, whose name still pops up as a candidate for certain NBA jobs. "I miss being around the players terribly and practice. I love the teaching part of it.

"I don't know," he added. "My family has sacrificed an awful lot for me to allow me to do what I've done. It's a tough decision to be honest. I always feel I never worked a day in my life."

Same with Self.

"This beats working for a living," KU's coach said, flashing his trademark smile.

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