Bill Self is the men’s basketball coach at Kansas, a program with historic tradition, deep pockets and a blue blood status in the college basketball hierarchy. By definition, there are few jobs in basketball that offer full package of KU.
But there are two jobs that Kansas fans have long feared would entice Self to leave. One of those jobs came open on Wednesday.
The Oklahoma City Thunder fired head coach Scott Brooks, sending ripples throughout the NBA — and the college game, too. Self, a native of Edmond, Okla., has long maintained a relationship with Thunder executives, including owner Clay Bennett and general manager Sam Presti.
Self’s parents still reside near Oklahoma City.
But in the immediate aftermath of Brooks’ firing, there was very little smoke surrounding Self’s name.
Florida coach Billy Donovan and UConn coach Kevin Ollie immediately emerged as hot names and potential candidates for the job. According to a report by Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, both Donovan, the longtime Florida coach, and Ollie, who won an NCAA title at UConn in 2014, have significant ties to the Thunder.
Donovan is a longtime friend of Presti, while Ollie is former Thunder player who has relationships with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the franchise’s two cornerstones. Yahoo! Sports reported that Ollie has interest in the job, despite recent public proclamations about his desire to stay at UConn. Multiple other reports cited Donovan as the Thunder’s top choice.
In recent years, Self has continually been asked about his interest in making a jump to the NBA. His stance has remained consistent. He has never ruled it out, but he is quick to point out his situation at Kansas.
“I think I’ve got a better situation than a lot of the franchises in the league,” Self said last year. “People may think that’s hard to believe, but they haven’t been here or know what’s gone on here. (I’m) very content where I am.”
While his Oklahoma roots have made the Thunder job an intriguing source of speculation for years, Self also has close ties with the San Antonio Spurs organization. Self is close friends with Spurs general manager R.C. Buford, who also served as a KU assistant for Larry Brown.
Presti, the Thunder general manager, also has ties to the Spurs and Kansas. Presti served as an assistant general manager under Buford, while his wife, Shannon, was a KU basketball manager for Self during his early years at KU.