Bill Self spent the Monday lunch hour in his Allen Fieldhouse basketball office, speaking with his secretary, shuffling some papers in and around his desk, sneaking a peek at the Phillies-Yankees game on ESPN-TV, chatting with a Jayhawk player or two and conducting an interview with a Journal-World reporter.
Business as usual for the multi-tasker, who was back at work two days after Kansas University’s second-round NCAA Tournament loss to Northern Iowa in Oklahoma City.
“No,” KU coach Self said, asked if he’d yet watched tape of the Jayhawks’ 69-67 setback. It is customary for Self — and many other coaches — to be in no hurry to rehash the final loss of a campaign, even one as successful as the Jayhawks’ 33-3 season.
“I don’t care about anything to do with the first game because we won that game and ended up playing very well in the second half of that game,” Self said of KU’s 90-74 first-round victory over Lehigh in Ford Center. He was responding to a question about KU’s overall play Thursday/Saturday in Okie City.
“The only thing I care about is how it ended, and it ended with one game. Basketball is such a great game. It is so exciting, that you play so well the vast majority of the season and raise the level of expectations so high that when it does end the way it did, it probably is a bigger disappointment than it would have been if we were just another good team.
“To go 33-3 is a dream season,” Self added. “But from my perspective, in order for it to be a great year, you have to play well in the tournament. We obviously didn’t do that. It was a very, very good year in which our guys played at a high level the vast majority of it. I would have never dreamed our record would have been this good or we’d dominate the league in the fashion we did (15-1 in regular season and 3-0 in postseason tourney), but it’s very disappointing it came to a stop, which happens this time of year.”
Self was asked if he was disappointed in the take of some pundits who questioned the character of the team, some saying the Jayhawks “got what they deserved” because of the preseason fight with the football team and some other issues.
He said he had not yet read any of the critiques.
“Whenever things end in a negative way, which they did, it doesn’t make any difference what it is, you will always have people say certain things or even believe certain things that this is the reason this happened. If you really follow athletics, did Indianapolis (Colts) get what they deserved by New Orleans winning that (Super Bowl) game? I don’t look at it that way. I think in a one-shot deal, upsets do occur. Though this was an upset, it was not a major, major upset. Northern Iowa is very good, very sound, very well coached, but you always look back and everybody will have an opinion on what went wrong. Look at that one game, what went wrong more than anything else is they played better than us.”
Of the season, Self noted: “The kids played hard. I never dreamed we’d play this well together with this many players that all had their own ideas of what they need to do and how they’ve improved to the point that changed their own expectations and for the most part remained unselfish. We had great leadership. We won a lot, still yet it was a big-time disappointment over the weekend.”
Here’s a quick Q and A session with Self. ...
Q — When will you learn whether Xavier Henry and Cole Aldrich will enter the NBA Draft or return to school (both are expected to leave)?
A — “I will meet with everybody at some point, whether this week or next. We do that every year when the season is over. I know we have prepared like those guys ... there’s a great chance those guys won’t be back. If they do make that decision, it certainly will not come as a surprise to us. They deserve the right to get to their families and think about it before any public announcement is made. They may be close in that area. At this time we have not spoken about it. I hope the people, the media respect the fact you’ll know something as soon as I do, but until they have a chance to get comfortable with it. It may be sooner rather than later. To me we’re definitely going on their time frame.”
Q — Who will replace Brett Ballard as director of basketball operations?
A — “We’ll wait and evaluate until all the dust settles with all the potential movement going on with jobs (around country). I won’t make any decision on any job until I have a clear understanding on exactly what our situation is here because potentially there’s more than one opening. You certainly try to get the greatest expertise in as many areas as possible.”
Q — Could any of your assistants land head coaching jobs?
A — “I hope so. I’d love to see Joe (Dooley), Kurtis (Townsend), Danny (Manning), even though I don’t think Danny will consider looking, considering it’s Evan’s senior year,” he said. Manning’s son, Evan, is a junior in high school. “I’d like to see Barry (Hinson) get a job. I’d like to see Kyle (Keller) get a job. We have guys who would be worthy candidates for some of the positions that would be open (around country). It’s not like they are the only ones going for those jobs, where competition is so tough. In this business, timing is so much of it.”
Q — What is ahead for the team? And do any players need surgery to repair injuries sustained this season?
A — “We are going to give everybody off this week. I don’t want anybody to have anything to do with basketball this week. If they want to get in the weight room, get in the weight room but not anything more than that. I don’t think we have injuries that need to be repaired surgically. But we are nicked up. We were really fortunate to go through the majority of the season without any major injuries, but I do believe our bodies are tired. We’ll use the time the next few weeks to let bodies mend a bit.”
Q — How many players will you sign in recruiting in April?
A — “We are looking for at least one more (player).”