Bill Self says he was happy to share the stage with zany former Kansas center Scot Pollard at the sixth-annual KVC Hero Luncheon on Thursday at the Sheraton Overland Park Hotel at the Convention Center.
“Scot is … he is a character, a great personality and certainly I enjoy getting a chance to hang out with him whenever I can,” Self, KU’s 15th-year basketball coach, told The Star while walking to his car after the duo took part in a question-and-answer session with host Nate Bukaty during the guest-speaker portion of the fundraiser for KVC Health Systems.
Self and the 6-foot-11, 280-pound Pollard playfully sparred — the louder, sometimes controversial 42-year-old former NBA player taking the offensive against a more reserved, yet equally quick-witted Self.
“My ’97 (KU) team would dominate any of your teams,” Pollard said directly to Self. “Thanks for laughing … that’s a true statement,” Pollard added, speaking before about 500 guests.
“The only guy on our team you could work with would be Raef (LaFrentz) because he was a little soft, but I took up for that. The rest of the guys were dogs. Even our bench players were dogs,” Pollard added, comparing the reserves to ferocious animals.
Self’s 2007-08 Jayhawks (37-3) won the national championship, while the 1996-97 KU team, led by the likes of Paul Pierce, LaFrentz, Pollard, Jacque Vaughn, Jerod Haase and others, went 34-2 overall, falling to eventual national champion Arizona in the Sweet 16.
“I would never put down another KU athlete or team because you guys were special and really, really good,” Self told Pollard, adding, “so was (Mario) Chalmers.”
Self did tell the audience: “Scot is right. The ’97 team is the best team Kansas has probably ever had. I would say the ’85-86 team (that went 35-4 and lost to Duke in the Final Four semifinals) may be the second best team Kansas has ever had.”
Pollard — he won an NBA title with the Boston Celtics in 2008 — did concede KU’s ’08 team “got the ring. That’s the ultimate test.”
The luncheon-goers seemed to enjoy the banter, all eyes focused on the stage during the Self and Pollard show.
“I don’t know that we decided (which KU team was best),” Self said, assessing the exchange with The Star after the luncheon. “I think the ’97 team was without question the most talented. There’s no doubt about that based on NBA careers and everything, but you can make a strong case that the ’08 team (boasting current or former NBA players in Chalmers, Darrell Arthur, Brandon Rush, Cole Aldrich, Sasha Kaun and Darnell Jackson) was as good a team as what Kansas has had. I don’t think there’s any losers in that conversation,” Self added.
Pollard, by the way, wasn’t trying to suggest he had anything against the 2008 team.
“It was an amazing run. I was there,” Pollard said of being in attendance for the Jayhawks’ wins over North Carolina and Memphis at the 2008 Final Four in San Antonio.
“They are talking about my team 20 years later, and I was the worst player in the starting five. They’ll be talking about that ’08 game (OT win over Memphis) and the ‘shot around the world’ (by Chalmers) 20 years later,” Pollard added.
Self likes current team
Self gave his take on the 2017-18 Jayhawks: “I wish Frank (Mason) and Josh (Jackson) were back,” he said. “We’re going to be fine. We caught a break with Devonté (Graham) coming back. He’s the pulse of our team, the personality. Malik (Newman) is a nice player. We’ll be good at guard. We’ve got Lagerald (Vick), a couple recruits as well. Inside we signed a freshman named Billy Preston. He’ll be a pro. The one who is really talented is the big kid you guys only saw a month last year. That’s Udoka Azubuike. He just turned 17. He’s really, really young and everything. Next to Joel (Embiid), he has a chance to probably be the best big guy we’ve had.”
Self likes Mason’s NBA Combine answer
Self related a story about consensus national player of the year Frank Mason’s love for KU.
“Frank spoke with several teams at the NBA Combine. They interview players and ask all kinds of questions. I had somebody from an NBA franchise tell me they asked Frank, ‘If you could play for anybody next year who would you play for?’ He said, ‘If I could play for anybody I’d go back to KU and play four more years,’ ’’ Self said.
Pollard on the fact Self and Garth Brooks are both Oklahoma State grads and friends. “Those are the only two good things about Oklahoma State,” Pollard cracked. … Self commented on a picture of Pollard wearing a mohawk hairstyle with the Sacramento Kings, shown to the audience on a big screen. “I’m not sure if (Dennis) Rodman hadn’t gone to Korea they would have invited Pollard,” Self said with a wry smile.
Former KU forward Landen Lucas worked out with the Detroit Pistons (Thursday) and Atlanta Hawks (Tuesday) this week, according to published reports. Lucas worked out for the Denver Nuggets on June 6.