It seems appropriate that Bill Self was driving along a street named for the game’s inventor when he learned of his election to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Self was headed to his office parking garage when he took the call from Hall of Fame President and CEO John Doleva.
“So instead of pulling in, I turned right and I just thought of this,” Self said. “I was on Naismith Drive.”
Self said he was overcome by the news of his inclusion as one of 11 members in the Class of 2017.
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The enshrinement ceremony is September 8 in Springfield, Mass.
Self was announced as a finalist in February. When he saw the phone number on his cell, he prepared for a thumbs up or thumbs down.
“And would have been fine either way,” Self said. “I was honored to be a finalist.”
Self got in on the strength of a 623-193 career record at four schools. He has spent 14 of his 24 years as a head coach at Kansas, where he’s won 82.7 percent of his games, 416-87.
Self’s 2008 team won the NCAA championship and the 2012 Jayhawks played in the title game. Eight of his KU teams have won at least 30 games, including this seasons’ edition, which finished 31-5 and reached the Elite Eight for the second straight year.
There are additional staggering accomplishments. Self’s teams have won 13 straight conference championships, a feat matched only by UCLA teams of the 1960s and 1970s. The Bruins’ streak started with John Wooden and continued with two other coaches. Self has overseen the entire KU streak.
In 14 seasons, Self’s KU teams have lost 10 games in Allen Fieldhouse.
Self, 54, will join in the Hall of Fame a long list of basketball greats who have played, coached or worked at Kansas, starting with two members of the original 1959 class: basketball inventor James Naismith, who spent the final 40 years of his life working at KU, and Phog Allen, considered the father of basketball coaching.
Self becomes the fifth Kansas coach to enter the hall, joining Roy Williams, Larry Brown, Allen and Naismith and he will be one of seven active coaches to enshrined: Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, North Carolina’s Williams, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Kentucky’s John Calipari and Louisville’s Rick Pitino are the others.
Coaching icons Adolph Rupp of Kentucky and Dean Smith of North Carolina were Kansas graduates. Great KU players such as Wilt Chamberlain, Clyde Lovellette, JoJo White and Lynette Woodard are enshrined in Springfield, and so is John McLendon, a 1936 Kansas graduate who has been elected to the Hall twice, as a contributor and last year as a coach.
“I really believe the most special thing about coaching at Kansas is to be part of maybe as tradition-rich program as there is in college basketball,” Self said.
Self spoke of the famous photo that hangs in his office, the 1923 team photo that includes Naismith, Allen and Rupp, a reserve guard.
“When I came to Kansas I realized I’m not going to be the best coach who coached there because Phog Allen did,” Self said. “And anybody we recruit won’t be the best player because Wilt played there.
“Your role there is to be a caretaker for something that is much bigger than yourself. It’s something I’ve always taken unbelievable pride in.”
Self, a former Oklahoma State guard, joined the KU staff as a graduate assistant in 1985-86, a Final Four season for the Jayhawks. Self moved on to Oklahoma State as an assistant before landing his first head coaching job at Oral Roberts in 1993.
That team finished 6-21 and ended the season on a 15-game losing streak. The skid went to 18 after losing the first three of the following season.
Fortunes quickly changed. In his fourth season, Self’s team finished 21-7 and he parlayed that success into a job a few miles away at Tulsa. Two of his three teams there reached the NCAA Tournament, with his third team advancing to the Elite Eight. He won or shared the Western Athletic Conference championship twice.
Next stop was Illinois, where in three seasons Self’s teams shared two Big Ten championships.
The habit of finishing first established, Self was the top choice to succeed Williams after the 2003 season, when Williams took the North Carolina job.
Also elected to the hall was Tom Jernstedt, a longtime NCAA administrator, who oversaw the NCAA Tournament when college sports national headquarters were in Kansas City.
The class also includes NBA star Tracy McGrady, UConn star Rebecca Lobo, Notre Dame women’s coach Muffet McGraw, Texas high school coach Robert Hughes, ABA star George McGinnis, Globetrotters star and pioneer Mannie Jackson, former Chicago Bulls executive Jerry Krause, Greek standout player Nick Galis and early era great and Globetrotter Zack Clayton.