University of Kansas

KU coach Bill Self addresses ‘tough week ... dark week’ for college basketball

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self discussed more than his team’s just-completed boot camp and upcoming Late Night in the Phog during a media session before Thursday’s Coaches vs. Cancer Season Tipoff reception at Bartle Hall.

Self was asked to address the serious topic of corruption in recruiting unearthed by the FBI this week that has led to the arrest of four coaches in the sport and an Adidas representative and that led to Louisville coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich being put on leave.

“It’s been a tough week for college basketball,” Self said on Thursday. “It’s been a dark week there’s no question, but I’m not sure that it (won’t) trigger things that will make this better. It’s not going to be in the immediate future. There have been some things that have obviously transpired that will create talks that allow our sport to become better in the future. I just hope the future’s soon as opposed to down the line.

“It’s sad. It’s been a dark week. And I hope it doesn’t, but all indications are it could get darker before it gets brighter. But I hope that’s not the case.”

Self said anybody in the sport or anybody who follows college basketball closely, “knows that shoe companies and agents and financial guys are involved in the recruiting aspect to some extent because obviously shoe companies provide AAU programs shoes. They provide ’em (players) an opportunity to go travel.

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“You have too many third parties involved. Certainly from what we’ve all seen and read, it’s sad and the biggest thing to me is, ‘How do you fix it?’’’

Self has some ideas but at this time is unable to answer that question.

“It’s going to be one of those deals you could easily say, ‘You could fix it this way or fix it that way.’ I guarantee you whatever ideas people have, there’s a counter to that that says, ‘No that won’t work,’’’ Self said.

“One thing I do think personally would help a lot of it, the vast majority, I think kids should be able to go (to NBA) out of high school,” Self added. “If kids go out of high school, the most highly recruited guys won’t be in college where you are dealing with certain things like this.”

Self recruits plenty of players who are off to the pros after one year of college basketball.

“I don’t know,” he said, if asked if that fact makes him concerned his program could face more scrutiny than others regarding the recruitment of players.

Asked if he’s concerned whether people who are indicted might come out and say something about one of his players or assistant coaches, Self said: “I’m not. I shouldn’t say … there’s not any coach in our industry that is not concerned when you have as many things going on as what’s going on now. But I don’t mean concern from indictment-type stuff.”

He was asked if it helps his state of mind that he is close to his assistant coaches.

“I totally trust my assistants 100 percent,” Self said. “We have been together ... I think Norm (Roberts) and I have been together 18 years. Kurtis (Townsend) and I have been together 13 going or 14. Jerrance (Howard) played for me. Technically we’ve been together eight years or whatever,” Self said.

Self acknowledged that nowadays high-schoolers sometimes listen to others more than their parents and their high-school coach during the recruiting process.

“It could be a high-school basketball coach. It could be his mother, father, his grandparent, his English teacher, his friend down the street. It could be a multitude of things,” Self said. “Now there are more situations where there are third parties that aren’t connected to the family. That’s not always all bad. There are so many instances it’s bad.

“Think of it like this, you also are talking about where it’s totally legal for agents or financial planners to go meet with a 15-year-old and his family or meet with a 16-year-old and his family. Do you think everybody who is meeting with them are 100 percent ethical and above board?

“There’s a lot of stuff. That’s why there needs to be reform. I just don’t know if anybody’s come up with the perfect scenario to do that. Some people say, ‘Just pay players and you won’t have this issue.’ I think that could open up a whole ’nother deal. There’s some serious things that have to be discussed and decisions made in order to allow our sport to move on in a favorable way.” 

Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin was asked what needs to be done in the wake of this week’s scandal.

“I think first and foremost sitting down and talking about situations and addressing them head on and continuing to push forward,” Martin said.

“But right now it’s very unfortunate for a lot of men because whatever happens on the floor you have families,” Martin added. “Their lives are involved with this. Now you’ve got to make some adjustments. Anytime you are talking about jail time that’s a serious deal, but again, I think we have to sit down and address some tough situations and tough topics.”

As was Self, Martin was asked if the fact he’s recruited some potential top draft picks and one-and-done type players will make him have to address the recruitment of players more than other coaches.

“Not at all. I’ll address it one time so if somebody asks me a question I’ll answer it and I’ll move forward. I don’t have anything to worry about,” Martin said.

Former Missouri coach Norm Stewart was also asked about this week’s scandal.

“When I got up this morning and was fixing my smoothie, it didn’t really appear on my screen,” Stewart said. “That’s kind of where I am with that. I obviously have followed and am concerned, but we’ve got to wait and see what is going on. It’s just the initial part. I’m hoping for the best result.”

Gary Bedore: 816-234-4068, @garybedore