AMES, Iowa — Bill Self walked past a back hallway inside Hilton Coliseum, moving toward an open area just outside the Kansas locker room. It was late Monday night, and an on-duty police officer trailed just off his right shoulder, following him stride for stride.
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
This was Self in the moments after his 500th victory, an exhausting classic that included 39 points from senior guard Elijah Johnson and an 108-96 victory over Iowa State in overtime. Moments earlier, he had said the milestone didnt mean much. His kids had endured a hostile environment. He had survived an unusual encounter with a frustrated Iowa State fan after the buzzer. And the Jayhawks, 24-4 and 12-3 in the Big 12, were still tied for first in the conference race.
As Self walked, he turned back toward a pack of onlookers.
What a game, he said.
When he finally arrived outside the locker room, he turned and began to piece together the details from a chaotic night. The comebacks. The crowd. The wild momentum swings. No, Self said again, his 500th victory didnt mean all that much. But this moment, well, hed carry this one for a while.
I wont remember 400 or 300 or 200 or 100, Self said. But I guarantee you Ill always remember this one, cause it was a good one.
It was certainly memorable. When the horn sounded, an unidentified Iowa State fan took umbrage with senior guard Elijah Johnsons victory-lap dunk in the final seconds, and took a few steps toward Self on the court.
A day later, on Tuesday afternoon, Self said the incident had been overblown.
Ive had the court stormed on me where I was knocked into the scorers table, Self said. It was just frustration by fans.
There was one guy that kind of got after me, but it wasnt close to being a confrontation or anything like that.
According to Self, the rest of the night was rather routine. The celebration was about the same as usual. The locker room felt like normal. The Jayhawks control their own destiny in the Big 12 race, but so does Kansas State. And the Jayhawks move on with slim margin for error.
We jumped around and acted stupid for about 15 or 20 seconds, Self said of the postgame celebration, but that was about it.
Then the Jayhawks boarded a bus and braved the snowy conditions, arriving back in Lawrence at close to 4:40 a.m. Tuesday. A few hours later, it was back to work.
Self, in his 10th season at Kansas, joined a few exclusive clubs on Monday. He became just the third coach in Kansas history to enter the 500-win club, moving alongside Phog Allen and Roy Williams. Self has made it clear that he doesnt want to coach until hes old and gray, but a milestone victory like No. 500 opens the mind to certain possibilities.
Self, for instance, has averaged 29.9 victories in his first nine seasons at Kansas, and that pace could move over 30 wins per campaign with a strong finish to this season. For now, Self, who has 293 wins at Kansas, would probably need to stay at KU for another decade to approach Allens KU record of 590 victories. But Allens career total 746 victories might be in play. And could Self, 50, also have a chance at someday hitting 800 or 900 wins?
Its a matter of consistency and longevity, and Self has shown himself plenty capable of the former. In his first nine-plus seasons at Kansas, he has won 83.7 percent of his games, but hes still not quite comfortable talking about himself in terms of KU history.
I dont see what weve done as a huge part of the legacy of the school, Self said. When I think of KU basketball and this is the way it should be over time I think of Dr. (James) Naismith and I think of Phog Allen. There have been six coaches after Dr. Allen, and thats the legacy of our school.
Self has often talked about the feeling of coaching at Kansas, of being a caretaker instead of a builder. There can be enjoyment in both roles, Self says, but in his current position, its hard to do much building.
The job, as much as anything, is about maintaining. And after another victory on Monday night, Self didnt have much need for the bigpicture.
Ill probably look back when the seasons over and reflect and think about how many good players weve had and how many people have sacrificed for us to have an opportunity to win a few games, Self said. But it really doesnt mean much. All I really care about is this team having the best year possible and sending the seniors out in style.
To reach Rustin Dodd, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter.com/rustindodd.