Archive for Monday, October 29, 2007

KU’s Self helps out buddy Thompson

Coach speaks at San Antonio clinic, supports former Oklahoma State player who went 7-22 in first year

October 29, 2007

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— On a warm and sunny morning in South Texas, Bill Self arrived at the UTSA Convocation Center, intent on helping a friend.

Self, Kansas University's fifth-year basketball coach, had just flown into town on a private plane.

Though he had a Jayhawks practice scheduled later in the afternoon in Kansas, Self showed up at University of Texas at San Antonio's clinic a few minutes before 9 a.m. on Saturday, smiling and shaking hands.

He was on the clinic's speaking roster to discuss the finer points of halfcourt offense with a group of about 75 high school coaches. But in reality, Self was there to support Brooks Thompson, second-year coach at UTSA. He has known Thompson the past 20 years.

When Thompson was a college basketball player, Self worked as a young assistant for coach Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State.

In 1991, after Thompson elected to flee a troubled program at Texas A&M;, Self helped recruit the high-scoring guard to OSU. He worked for Sutton through the end of Thompson's junior year in 1993 before taking his first head-coaching job at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa.

Thompson, meanwhile, went on to become one of Sutton's best players, earning All-Big Eight honors twice and emerging as a first-round draft pick of the Orlando Magic in 1994.

As the years passed, Self's coaching career evolved into storybook tale. He became one of the best in college basketball.

Thompson, meanwhile, played five years in the NBA before turning his attention to the college game. In April 2006, he landed his first head-coaching job in Division I at UTSA.

Though Self and Thompson have followed different roads in their basketball careers, each has seen the same signpost on that road.

Both, curiously, enjoyed an equal amount of luck in their first season as a head coach in Division I. That is, none.

In 1993-94, Self finished 6-21 at ORU, losing 18 games in a row at one point. Thompson was only slightly more fortunate. His worst stretch was 2-16 last winter en route to a 7-22 record. So, as coaches from around the state listened intently at the UTSA clinic last weekend, Self seized the opportunity to joke about his first-year record, compared to Thompson's.

"7-22?" Self asked, glancing over at his blushing buddy. "Well, there, you're already a better coach than me."

Time will tell about that.

Self has won 70 percent of his games in 14 seasons and has compiled 312 victories, including a 16-9 record in the NCAA Tournament.

Thompson, for his part, can only dream about winning another 305 games. But in Self, he has an ally telling him that he can win.

In a telephone interview on Monday morning, Self said he had advised Thompson to stay committed to his principles.

"You have to have a good staff and stay positive," Self said, "and understand that the first year is not all about the record. It's about the future."

It's also about frustration. After kicking three players off the team last August for rules violations, Thompson lost a fourth starter for the season with a foot injury. The Roadrunners, as a result, were bad, averaging 57.1 points per game. They finished last in the Southland Conference West Division.

"The first year is always the toughest year," Self said. "It's not just about the end result (the record). It's about establishing your foundation."

Self's poor start at ORU was prolonged. He followed the 6-21 season with a 10-17 mark. Reflecting on the tough times, Self said he never doubted whether he could coach.

But he admitted questioning "whether I would beat myself up too much. With all the wear and tear and the stress, I didn't handle it well at all."

He said it took about 21â2 years of a four-year term at ORU for him to feel good about things.

By the third season, Self was winning. By the fourth, he took the program to the NIT, and then he was gone, leaving for Tulsa.

"He's had a great career," said Thompson, noting that Self has a good chance to return to San Antonio in April for the Final Four. "He's won everywhere he's been."

Self encouraged support for the Roadrunners.

"I think UTSA is going to play at a high level real soon," Self said.

Jerry Briggs' stories can be read at <a href="http://www.mysanantonio.com">www.mysanantonio.com</a>

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