Knowing the author, John Rohde of the Oklahoman, I didn’t figure “Bill Self: At Home in the Phog,” would be another hide-all, vanilla yawner of a sports book. But I didn’t expect it to be such an entertaining 206-page ride.
Reading one story related by Self’s long-time assistant coach Norm Roberts, now the head coach at St. John’s, triggered a laugh-out-loud moment on an airplane that seemingly left another passenger wonder either about my sanity or sobriety to the extent he moved his seat.
When they were coaching at Tulsa, Roberts was listening to Self telling a recruit over the phone how much Bryant “Big Country” Reeves had improved under his guidance at Oklahoma State. Self intended to tell the recruit, Rebel Paulk, that he had great success with big men, but he was so exhausted it came out, “I’ve had a lot of great sex with big guys ... um, I mean success.”
Self and Roberts couldn’t stop laughing, and shock of shocks, Paulk signed elsewhere.
If you think that’s a racy tale for a sports book, consider that Self, on page 165, reveals his biggest turn-on in life. No lie, he actually does.
While watching a tape of the North Carolina game in his basement, after Darrell Arthur, Darnell Jackson, Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson all pursued a loose ball, Self said, “Best play of the game right there. All four in the air at the same time diving after a loose ball. That’s what turns me on.”
Hey, he’s a basketball coach. What did you expect him to be turned on by, moon-lit walks on the beach?
The what-turns-Self-on revelation came when the two men sat in Self’s Lawrence basement and watched tapes of the Davidson, North Carolina and Memphis games after the family headed to bed.
After seeing how wide-open Davidson’s Thomas Sander was when Stephen Curry instead passed it to Jason Richards on the final possession, Self responded with one word that brought back a sliver of the tension: “Whoa.”
Rohde years ago told Self he wanted to write his book one day and learned by phone after the Davidson game that now would be the time. They’ve known each other since Self was an assistant at Oklahoma State. He covered many of the games during Self’s 18-game losing streak at Oral Roberts University.
(Self won’t ever lose 18 in a row again, but without improved play a three-game skid is a possibility. The next two opponents are Temple, coming off of an upset of No. 8 Tennessee, and Arizona, coming off of a victory against No. 4 Gonzaga).
“Once you meet Bill, you’re hooked,” Rohde said. “Whatever people skill there is, he’s got it. Memory, common sense, empathy, anger. He knows what button to push.”
Rohde pulled some candor out of Self for the book, making for interesting comments from the coach on his Illinois successor, Bruce Weber, and his Kansas predecessor, Roy Williams.
“He wanted to be honest,” Rohde said. “Sometimes you can’t be honest and respectful, but he pulled it off pretty well.”
Self’s portion of the proceeds from the book, published by Overland Park-based Ascend Media, goes to his Assists Foundation.
l “Bill Self: At Home in the Phog,” can be purchased at LJWorldstore.com.