Kansas coach Bill Self took a long look at the college basketball coach of the year trophy he received Friday from The Associated Press and wondered how he would ever get through airport security on the way home.
“Don’t worry, we’ll ship it to you,” AP national college basketball writer Jim O’Connell told Self.
Self picked up quite a bit of hardware Friday morning as he toured the awards circuit at the Final Four. His day began at the Detroit Athletic Club, where he was presented the Henry Iba Coach of the Year award at the annual U.S. Basketball Writers Association breakfast. Then he traveled to the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center, where the AP held its awards ceremony.
Just a few days shy of the anniversary of KU’s national championship victory over Memphis in San Antonio, Self was honored for directing the Jayhawks to a 27-8 record, winning the Big 12 regular-season title for the fifth straight season, and advancing the round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament. Kansas did all that after losing the five starters from the championship team. Guard Sherron Collins and center Cole Aldrich were the only returning veterans and Self blended their talents with those of eight newcomers.
“This has been a very rewarding year for me personally and for our staff,” Self said as he accepted the AP award. “Expectations probably weren’t high. I don’t think this was a hall-pass year, but certainly expectations weren’t as high and our guys did perform at a pretty high level. But I would trade this award, as great as it is, for having a chance to cut down the nets again on Monday night.”
Self, 169-40 in six seasons at Kansas, won the AP award by an impressive margin. He received 28 votes from the same 71-member national media panel that selects the weekly AP Top 25. Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon was second with 10 votes and John Calipari, who left Memphis earlier this week to coach at Kentucky, received nine votes.
“Early in the season, I thought beating Washington and doing everything but beat Syracuse, was important,” Self said. “Jim (Boeheim) even told me he owes me dinner. But I thought we played at a really high level. We got off to a good start in the league but after we beat Baylor, I thought we can (mess) around and win the league. For that team to go 14-2, to me, is unbelievable.”
Self receives a $50,000 bonus for the AP award, based on incentives in his 10-year contract signed last year. He was also named Big 12 coach of the year and received national honors from the Sporting News, Yahoo! Sports, AthlonSports.com and NBCSports.com.
Self will begin the process of gathering information from NBA sources next Tuesday and then sit down with both Collins and Aldrich to discuss their plans.
“I talked to both of them them Tuesday and Wednesday and I told them I could not gather information until I got back from the Final Four,” said Self, who will not attend Monday night’s championship game. “I’m going to gather information from Tuesday through Friday and hopefully we can visit soon after that.
“Then they can have information that is somewhat more factual than what they have now. Right now, it’s just a lot of people saying a lot of stuff. I told them before they think or lean one way, you should know. They both are having the time of their lives. But if it’s best for them to go now, then they need to go. If it’s time to exercise a little patience, then they need to do that. But we won’t know that for a few days.”
Information from the NBA teams regarding draft position and evaluations are more than trustworthy, Self said.
“Every year, it has been right on,” he said.
Movement on the coaching carousel, especially John Calipari’s move from Memphis to Kentucky, has created quite a bit of uncertainty in the recruiting world. KU is still awaiting decisions from Lance Stephenson, who had planned on announcing his selection on Tuesday, and Xavier Henry, who signed a letter of intent with Memphis in November but is reconsidering. Point guard John Wall is still weighing his options as well.
Under NCAA rules, Self cannot comment on recruits until Kansas receives a signed letter of intent. But he admitted the situation adds to the uncertainty surrounding KU’s roster.
“I wouldn’t say it’s out of whack,” Self said. “It happens every year. Coaching changes create recruiting rumors too. There are some things that can happen, but who knows if they will.”
“We’ve added two good players (Thomas Robinson and Elijah Johnson) to a team that, if we don’t lose anybody, could be pretty good. There’s a lot of unknown with us with Cole, Sherron and recruiting.”
Self likes MSU, UNC
Self is picking Michigan State, the team that defeated KU in the tournament, and North Carolina to win today’s semifinal games at Ford Field. “Last year, I thought the stars were aligned for us to win it all,” Self said. “I think this year, if the stars are aligned for anybody, it will be Michigan State. And I think Carolina will win. They’re the most talented team here, but I think Villanova’s style could give them problems.”
Atta Boy, Roy
Self also said Kansas fans should be rooting for former KU coach Roy Williams and North Carolina this weekend.
“He did an awful lot for the university and brought a lot of joy to all of our fans. If they are holding hard feelings still, that means they’re probably still wishing he was here instead of me. Hopefully that’s not the case. What needed to happen, happened last year. Kansas and Carolina squared off in an important game. Regardless of who the winner was, I think that kind of helped it come to an end.”
Kansas jumped to a 40-12 lead on North Carolina on the way to an 84-66 national semifinal victory in San Antonio last year. Williams and the Tar Heels were asked about that performance on several occasions Friday.
“I’ve got some crazy sayings and one of them is that you can’t go out there and tiptoe through the tulips,” Williams said. “You have to be ready to plant your feet and make a stand. Last year we didn’t do that. I’m hopeful they understand. Hopefully they’ll be ready to go [Saturday] before the referee throws the ball up. . . .When we went out against Kansas, we looked around and said, ‘My goodness we’re in the Final Four.’ They hit us right in the mouth. It took us 15 minutes before we realized we were playing a game.”
Self confirmed he will be playing golf in Scotland on May 29 with a group of Kansas boosters. . . . After the AP ceremony, Self also received an offer to conduct a clinic in Greece this summer. .... Senior associate athletic director Larry Keating and associate athletics director for external affairs Jim Marchiony were in Detroit with Self. . . . Self joked that the biggest reason he received coach of the year honors was for holding AP Player of the Year Blake Griffin scoreless in KU’s game at Oklahoma. “Of course, he did have a concussion and didn’t play,” Self said.