An acknowledgment from the Allen Fieldhouse public address announcer, the roar of 16,300 fans and perhaps a quick presentation of the game ball await Bill Self if Kansas defeats UMKC on Tuesday night for the 600th victory in Self’s 24-year coaching career.
Any real partying, however, figures to take place behind closed doors a few minutes after the game, set for a 7 p.m. tip in the building where KU has won 44 consecutive games and 748 overall.
“I’ll get with the guys. Hopefully we’ll find a way or figure out a way to celebrate it,” KU senior guard Frank Mason said before practice on Monday. “If we play the way we’re supposed to and come out with a victory, we’ll come up with something in the locker room.”
Mason said the (7-1) No. 3-ranked Jayhawks will be “fired up” in trying to make sure Self attains win No. 600 in his first try. He’s 599-189 overall and 392-84 in 14 seasons at KU.
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“It’s just amazing to me, 600 games as a coach. That’s a lot of wins,” Mason said. “It means a lot to me just to be a part of it. I know it means a lot to my teammates and fans and everyone else. I’m just thankful to have such a great coach. Hopefully we’ll make coach happy with his 600th win. I’m looking forward to Tuesday.”
Self on Tuesday night 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 against (6-3) UMKC in game No. 789, he’ll be ahead of E.A. Diddle, who needed 790 games to reach that round number.
“I’m not going to get the least bit nostalgic on you or anything,” Self said Monday, “but it has been a fun run with a lot of great kids, certainly a ton of great players, great staff and everything. When you are at a place like this you should win, because obviously you have all the resources and everything that give you some advantages to win. I don’t think we should get too carried away about that, but it has been an awfully fun ride.”
Self said he never dreamed he’d be on the verge of 600.
“I would have thought 600 losses instead of wins,” Self said. He went 6-21 and 10-17 his first two years at Oral Roberts, then 18-9 and 21-7 to finish his stint at ORU at 55-54. He went 74-27 in three years at Tulsa and 78-24 in three years at Illinois.
“To leave Oral Roberts after four years with a winning record I think was the most remarkable thing we’ve done in coaching considering we started out so poorly,” Self said.
His favorite win at KU, of course, was his Jayhawks’ national title victory over Memphis in 2008. Others he cited Monday: KU’s improbable comeback victories over West Virginia (overtime, 2015) and Oklahoma (2007), last year’s 109-106 victory over OU, and one more.
“The win at Kansas that trumps everything was the Missouri win. When you are down 19 in the second half to a top five team in the country and have the wherewithal and the fan support to come back and win that one,” Self said of KU’s overtime win over the Tigers in 2012 in Allen.
Self, whose 500th coaching victory came at Iowa State in 2013 — was asked about possible “burnout” at the age of 53.
“I don’t think it’s been hard,” he said of the grind. “Roy (Williams, former KU coach) did it for 15 years then he left and went to a place just as competitive as it is here (North Carolina). He’s been doing it 28 years or whatever. But we have lived in the fast lane at Illinois and here. It’s been a very competitive, adventure-filled, restless run so to speak, but I don’t think the candle is anywhere close to burning out. It may not shine quite as bright as it did 15 years ago. Certainly it is still something that burns inside all of us, whether it be K.T. (Kurtis Townsend, assistant), myself or Norm (Roberts, assistant), people that have been here a long time. We still have that burning desire to get back and make another run at it.”
Self the thing that impresses him most about Tuesday’s foe UMKC is the Kangaroos’ “freedom” on offense.
“I think they attempted 34 threes last game (hitting 13 in Saturday’s 77-68 loss at South Dakota State). Us being able to defend the three, get to their little guards (will be key). Can we guard quickness? I am not going to say what they do is similar to Louisville (where coach Kareem Richardson was assistant prior to heading to UMKC four seasons ago). I know Kareem has a background with that. Whether or not they play matchup zone a lot, I don’t know. Being able to attack that ... for the most part can our quickness match their quickness? That will be a good challenge for us.”
Mason’s new look
KU’s Mason had a new-look on Monday — a braided hair style.
“I won’t wear this in the game. It’s embarrassing,” Mason said with a smile. “Coach probably will look at me crazy when I go to practice. I’ll tell him it’s just something for today, playing around with my hair.”
Asked why he went with his current look, Mason said: “Just an off day, a Sunday, not much to do, relaxing and playing around with my hair.”
Free-throw shooting off
KU has made 104 of 174 free throws for 59.8 percent entering Tuesday’s game.
“It’s unacceptable right now,” Mason said. “We are not shooting it well. We’re practicing a lot more. During practice we’re shooting free throws, keeping track of how many we make. We also shoot a lot of free throws in our off time. Hopefully it’ll get better as games go on.”