Hall of Famer Larry Brown, who introduced Oklahoma State grad Bill Self to college coaching during the 1985-86 season at Kansas, one day may present his pupil for induction in the Springfield, Mass., shrine.
Self’s one national title, one national runner-up finish, 12 straight Big 12 titles and 599 victories — all with him still in his prime at the age of 53 — certainly have him knocking on the Hall’s door.
“I admire the hell out of him,” former KU coach Brown said of 14th-year Jayhawk coach Self, who will be shooting for coaching victory No. 600 Tuesday when the Jayhawks, 7-1, meet UMKC, 6-3, in a 7 p.m. tipoff at Allen Fieldhouse.
“I’m so proud of what he’s done. He is a great coach and an unbelievable human being.”
Self, who is 599-189 overall in 24 seasons, could become the ninth fastest to reach 600 victories. Coaches who accomplished the 600-win feat in fewer games than Self are all Hall of Famers: Adolph Rupp (704 games), Jerry Tarkanian (720), Roy Williams (739), John Wooden (755), Dean Smith (773), John Calipari (776), Henry Iba (777) and Phog Allen (780).
If Self hits 600 victories Tuesday in game No. 789, he’ll be ahead of E.A. Diddle, who needed 790 games to reach that round number.
“Seeing his body of work and the way he does it, how humble he is and how he includes everybody and respects everybody, it is one of the great feats,” Brown said of Self’s success.
Self likes to deflect the credit.
“We’ve been really fortunate, had really good players. We’ve had a good run of guys, that’s for sure,” Self said of his days at KU, Illinois, Tulsa and Oral Roberts. “It has gone quick.
“It’s certainly been enjoyable,” he added of his years at KU, where he’s 392-84.
Yes, he’s just eight wins from another milestone — 400 wins at one school.
Just a few games ago, in the home opener against Siena, Self was recognized for becoming the coach with the most wins in Allen Fieldhouse history. He has 210 home wins against nine losses. Ted Owens won 206 home games in his 19 seasons.
“That stat doesn’t really mean much. It means I coached here a long time,” Self said. “We played a lot of home games during that run. The building is unbelievable. It’s over 60 years old and it has a soul and we have not played for less than a sellout since 2001. Generationally in our community it means something to people. A lot of that comes from Dr. Naismith (James, inventor of basketball) being our first coach. I think there’s so much pride and respect for the game here.
“There have been so many times, it’s ‘there’s no way we can win this game.’ Somehow or another we’re able to pull it out in large part due to the building or the fans. The reality is when you have a home-court advantage like this and good players, you should win. Certainly that’s the case with us.”
Self acknowledges he’s enjoyed all the wins, but perhaps not as much as he should.
“Whenever we win, I feel relieved. Whenever we don’t win I feel like maybe Armageddon is fast approaching,” he joked. “I feel good every time we win, but mainly relief.”
After one victory, the 2008 national title win over Memphis, he felt, “total euphoria, happiness I’ve only felt a couple of other times in my life. To me it was almost as cool, not quite as cool as giving your daughter away at her wedding. To me that was the coolest thing I’ve done. This was a lot of fun. What I found out, after you do something like that and there’s no next game, when you win a big game you always have to prepare for the next one. After a national championship, there is no next game. I think you become totally overwhelmed with the situation. To think how special it was to win one, I can’t imagine how great it would be to win two. That’s the motivation all the time, not only for me but our staff or players, is to try to bring home another national championship.”
The question whenever a coach such as Self nears a milestone is: How long will he continue?
There’s a lot of pressure on college coaches to keep reloading their rosters when rosters are in flux more than ever because of players leaving for the NBA after one or two seasons.
Some folks have speculated Self might want to head to the NBA in the near future since his son, Tyler, is in his fifth and final year with the program.
“I haven’t heard anybody say that,” Self said in a preseason interview with The Star. “I don’t think that’s the case at all. Nothing has changed with me on how I feel about my job or the college game right now. There’s frustrations out there in all professions. To me, I feel I have the best of the best here.”
He listed some reasons KU is special.
“One thing we can boast is the inventor of our game was our first coach,” Self said. “It is a unique place. I have had a chance to coach at some really good places. This is one where the stakes are the highest. But I don’t think we eat our young. If guys respect the game and respect each other, act right and do what they are capable of doing in a way which are great ambassadors for the university, I think everybody appreciates that.
“It amazes me. Every day we practice once games start, we literally will walk through students camping out to get to the practice floor. Every day. Other people have it great. Nobody has it better than what we have here.”