Hall of Fame basketball coaches who have not yet retired must complete their share of mundane tasks, just like the rookies in the business.
“I just passed my NCAA certification test. It took me a little longer than I thought,” Bill Self, Kansas’ 15th-year head coach said with a grin, explaining why he was about a half hour late for a noon news conference Tuesday in the Allen Fieldhouse media room.
“Proud moment, proud moment,” he added jokingly of acing the exam that allows him to hit the road recruiting high school athletes during the 2017-18 season.
He spent the next half hour speaking to the local media about what is truly a proud moment for the 54-year old Self: Friday’s enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
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“Being in the presence with so many other people who have done honestly so much more for our sport than what I have … it’s very humbling and certainly something I’m very proud of,” Self said. “Even though it doesn’t trump team performance I do think it’s probably as good an individual honor I’ll ever receive in my lifetime.”
Self spent most of the time Tuesday crediting others for making his Hall of Fame induction possible. He revealed that 55 of his former players and 15 of his former assistant coaches are expected to attend Friday’s induction ceremony in Springfield, Mass.
“I probably had the best three mentors anyone has ever had coaching this game,” Self said of former KU coach Larry Brown, who will present Self for induction, as well as former Oklahoma State coaches Eddie Sutton and Leonard Hamilton. Self was a graduate assistant on Brown’s 1985-86 Final Four KU staff and a full-time assistant at Oklahoma State for both Hamilton and Sutton.
“Coach Brown … Hall of Fame, won both an NBA and college (championship). Leonard Hamilton is known as one of the greatest college basketball recruiters ever. He’s been an NBA coach and is a program builder, and coach Sutton who in my opinion should be in the Hall as well. How I lucked out into being around those three people has just made my career. It’s pretty ridiculously amazing that just because of contacts and being at the right place at the right time that doors have opened.”
Self said he texted Sutton in April upon learning he would be a member of the Hall’s class of 2017. Sutton has yet to be inducted despite his own highly successful career.
“I said, ‘Coach this is uncomfortable because you deserve this far more than I do,’” Self said. “The thing with awards like this … this is sad to say, but the reason I have a chance to go in the Hall is because I coach at Kansas. Let’s be real. You are at this place where there’s so much attention and history. Everybody that has coached here has had unparalleled success just about. Coach (Ted) Owens goes to two Final Fours. Dick Harp plays for the national championship. It’s unbelievable of the eight coaches (at KU) the success all have had and what they’ve meant to our sport.
“If you are at a place maybe that isn’t quite had the history or interest level of a Kansas, you can do just as good a job or better job and not get attention for it. People don’t get put into the Hall or win coaching awards in the postseason if they go 18-15. It doesn’t mean they don’t do just as good a job. It just means for whatever reason people identify with records. They identify with exposure. They identify with history, things like that. That’s made it easier. That’s made it possible. With coach Sutton, even though he spent the lion’s share of his time at Arkansas and Oklahoma State, nobody did a better job coaching those two programs that what he did. I learned so much from him. It’s a little embarrassing, to be candid, I’d be doing this on Friday night when he hasn’t done it yet.”
Self, who has been head coach at KU, Oral Roberts, Tulsa and Illinois, said he’s thinking more about people than specific victories heading into Friday’s ceremony, which will include a speech from Self limited by the Hall to eight minutes.
“If you are just talking about games, the top memory would be San Antonio in ’08, not ’11” Self said of KU’s 2008 Final Four semifinal win over North Carolina and the national title victory over Memphis. KU lost to VCU in the Elite Eight in 2011, also in San Antonio. “We’ve had a lot of great memories and a lot of great games.
“I’m not looking at this as these are my favorite moments as a coach competitively. I look at it more I get a chance to see Blake Moses (Oral Roberts player). I get a chance to see Earl McClellan (Tulsa player). I get a chance to see Sergio McClain (Illinois). I look at it more the people and what they’ve done in my life to assist me more so than actually a big game or a big moment. I do think 2008, Mario’s shot, still is up there pretty high, though,” he added with a smile.
Mario Chalmers, whose late three-pointer sent the Memphis title game into overtime, will be at the Hall ceremony along with many of Self’s other players, including KU’s Sherron Collins, Darrell Arthur, Brandon Rush, Cole Aldrich … the list goes on.
Self is grateful that current coaches are allowed entry into the Hall so he can enjoy sharing this with his friends. Players are not eligible for induction until after they are retired.
“I felt like when they told me I was going in that meant I was probably on my last leg. Certainly I don’t feel that way,” Self said. “As a coach I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it mean more if I was retired?’ But the reality of it is, (if you) coach ’til 70 … I think it’s a little premature. Certainly I understand why they did it. I’m not going to give it back. I’m proud of it.”