Archive for Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Names no problem for Self

October 15, 2008


Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self's new book, "At Home in the Phog," chronicles Self's journey to Lawrence and the Jayhawks' road to - and the immediate aftermath of - the 2008 national championship.

In this, the third of three excerpts from the book, Final Four weekend when the Jayhawks defeated North Carolina and Memphis to win the NCAA championship is remembered, and Self's ability to recall names is documented.

The book is available at the Journal-World (609 New Hampshire), online at, and at area stores like the KU Bookstore, Dillons, Borders and at

Nearly three hours have passed since Kansas beat Memphis inside the Alamodome and claimed the 2008 national title.

Another 12 hours or so will fly by before 1,700 fans would greet the new champs at Forbes Field in Topeka, followed by another 25,000 greeting them an hour later at KU's Memorial Stadium in Lawrence.

At the moment, it's just shy of 1:30 a.m. in room 2124 at the Kansas team hotel, the Hilton Palacio del Rio in San Antonio.

The room belongs to coach Bill Self, the new king of college basketball. Though only 45 years old, it still took 486 games for Self to get to this moment.

When Self inconspicuously walked into the celebration suite, there was no hero worship, no parting of the sea. A few people waved and shouted, "Hey, coach" or "Billy" and that was about it. In this room, there was no Elvis treatment, which is precisely the way this particular Elvis prefers it.

This much was certain, Self knew everybody's name in the room.

Self has an uncanny ability to remember names, faces, places, and phone numbers. He'll remember the name of a junior high school assistant coach, his wife's name, their kids' names, the school's name, the mascot, and possibly the office phone and fax numbers.

"I've seen him recall people, places, and things that happened years ago, and it just amazes me," said Self's sister, Shelly.

Cindy Self has gone to parties given by her friends, only to discover her husband knew more people by name than she did.

Meet Self once, even in passing, and you're never a stranger again. Your vital information has been locked and loaded into his massive memory vault.

Self downplays the gift.

"I'm not that good with names," Self said. "I'm better with faces."

Bill Self Sr. shakes his head and claims, "I don't know where he gets it."

To some degree, Self's mother, Margaret, might have passed on the Memorex gene.

"I never forget anyone's face," Margaret said. "I may not remember their name, but I never forget anyone's face. We'd be on vacation and I'd say, 'I think I just saw Merle Haggard.' Nobody would believe it, but I did. That came from teaching school, having 150-200 new kids at the school each year."

Before the masses back in Kansas could descend upon their conquering hero, Self would spend precious time on championship night with family and friends.

Since arriving in San Antonio, Self had buried himself in work leading up to Saturday night's national semifinal against North Carolina.

Feeling guilty about neglecting those closest to him, Self requested a suite across the hall from his hotel room so he could conveniently visit after the game - win or lose. The same went for Monday night after the championship game - win or lose.

Cindy was in charge of the guest list and arranged hotel admittance passes for those not staying at the hotel.

Room 2110 was used following the Jayhawks' 84-66 victory over the Tar Heels on Saturday, and Room 2124 was used following the Jayhawks' 75-68 victory over Memphis on Monday.

Following the victory over North Carolina, several former Self assistants came to the suite, including Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie, St. John's coach Norm Roberts, Illinois State coach Tim Jankovich, and former Missouri State coach Barry Hinson.


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