Presenter Larry Brown truly will have the best seat in the house — in this case Springfield Symphony Hall — for his pupil Bill Self’s induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday night in Massachusetts.
“You walk out on the stage with him, sit and make yourself comfortable. You don’t have to give a speech anymore, which is great. You sit up there and smile and feel good about what’s happening,” said Brown, the former KU coach who was inducted into the Hall in 2002, of the current Jayhawks’ coach, Self.
Self — he started in coaching as graduate assistant on Brown’s 1985-86 KU Final Four staff — will be presented for induction by Brown, the only head coach to lead teams to both college and NBA championships.
The job of the presenter changed several years ago, when in order to save time, introductory speeches of the presenters were eliminated.
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Brown has presented the likes of former KU coach Roy Williams, as well as Allen Iverson, David Robinson, John Calipari and Lindsay Gaze in the past. Former North Carolina coach/KU graduate Dean Smith presented Brown in ’02; Brown returned the favor by presenting Smith in 2006 at the first National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Kansas City.
“It’s kind of neat just to sit there and take it all in,” Brown told The Star. “With Allen I was nervous because he was a wreck (before ceremony). I told him before he went up there, ‘You don’t have to thank everybody.’ He made a point to thank almost everybody he’d come in contact with. Allen was so real. You could feel how important it was for him. So many people were excited for him.
“Bill will handle it great,” Brown added, noting the inductees have use of a teleprompter to read their speeches, which are to last a maximum of eight minutes. “I’m pretty excited about this. It’s just a wonderful thing when guys who have been a big part of your life get honored.”
Self has a career record of 623-193 (.763) in 24 seasons at KU (14), Illinois (3), Tulsa (3) and Oral Roberts (4). He’s won one national championship, had an NCAA runner-up finish and currently has directed KU to 13 straight Big 12 titles entering the 2017-18 season.
“Oh my gosh, yeah,” Brown said of it being appropriate to induct Self at age 54 and with many years likely left in his coaching career. “I mean it’s incredible what he’s accomplished. He’s not done yet. But the thing that stands out to me is he’s got this thirst to learn and he treats people with unbelievable respect. You wouldn’t know he’s won 13 straight championships. That would never enter your mind. Bill deserves it.”
Brown was in the stands in San Antonio the night Self’s Jayhawks defeated Memphis, 75-68, in overtime in the 2008 NCAA title game. Memphis was coached by Calipari, another Brown pupil, former KU assistant and current Kentucky coach.
That was the game in which KU erased a nine-point deficit with 2:12 to play.
“We sat in the Kansas section because Bill asked me to,” Brown said. “When the game was going on, it was kind of hard. All you want to do is see both teams play as well as they are capable of playing. I remember when (Sherron) Collins stole the ball and made the three from the corner (that cut Memphis’ lead to four), I said ‘Holy mackerel, they’ve got a chance to get back in the game.’”
Then-Memphis coach Calipari said the Tigers tried to foul Collins, who dished to Mario Chalmers in the closing seconds of regulation. Chalmers hit a three with 2.1 seconds left that forced OT.
“I spent a lot of time with John that season,” Brown said. “The last month and a half he went over fouling late so they wouldn’t give up a three. All of a sudden Derrick (Rose) might have had a chance to foul Chalmers. Lo and behold the kid makes this unbelievable shot. Here it is Bill wins a championship and someone I cared a lot about didn’t. All of a sudden things happen down the stretch and you go, ‘Wow.’”
Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats beat KU in the 2012 NCAA title game. On that occasion Brown felt joy for Calipari; sadness for Self.
Brown realizes Friday’s occasion is bigger than any one individual game as Self receives the highest honor a coach can receive. The NBA TV telecast is set to begin at 5:30 p.m. Central time with the Hall of Fame Red Carpet Show. The Enshrinement Ceremony is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m., according to NBA TV listings.
“He’s made a lot of people pretty proud. I’m one of them,” Brown said. “A lot of people feel good about this. He’s been good for the game and wonderful to me.”
But what would have happened had Hall of Famer Brown not hired Self at KU back in 1985?
“He probably would have gotten in earlier. I probably screwed him up,” Brown cracked.
Not exactly, says Self, full of praise this week for Brown as well as Self’s other mentors, Leonard Hamilton and Eddie Sutton.
“He gave me my first opportunity whether by accident or (he) actually meant to,” Self said of Brown. “We were able to take advantage of it. I do think when you are young … I thought I had it figured out. A lot of young people do. You think you know maybe more than what other people who have been doing the same thing a while know. It’s like when players come in here a lot of times they think they know more than the coaches, which is common, par for the course. With coach (Brown), I learned in a short amount of time how much I didn’t know.
“I learned more from him in nine months than I’ve learned from anybody else combined, not because everybody else didn’t teach me — because I was so young and a baby, I didn’t know anything. Any knowledge thrown at me I wanted to be a sponge, soak it up. I owe a lot to him. He gave me my first opportunity. He also promoted me and supported me ever since then in different areas. I couldn’t thank him enough for the life we’ve had professionally because he’s played a huge role in it.”