Bill Self’s first experience as a coach for USA Basketball — one he’s deemed “very positive” — has left him willing to consider an encore performance.
“If they wanted me to, I’d certainly be open to it,” Kansas basketball coach Self said Tuesday, asked if he had a desire to work for the organization in the future, considering he had a “great experience” in leading the U.S. under-18 men’s national team to a gold medal at last week’s FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Canada.
“The organization is first class. They treated our group I’m sure similar to some of the senior teams. It was a good time, more work than what I probably envisioned it would be,” added Self, who is beginning his 16th season at KU. He indicated it was “8 in the morning until 10 every night with 20 to 30 minutes of downtime,” during a week of tryouts in Colorado Springs, Colo. The overall commitment was 19 days.
Could this be a steppingstone for Self to someday become U.S. Olympic coach?
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“No, no, not at all. That’s not going to happen,” Self said. “There’s a few guys with decades of NBA experience who would actually be coaching NBA players in the Olympics. It could happen but I can’t see a college coach doing that again, being a head coach. Obviously Coach Krzyzewski (Mike, Duke) did a remarkable job in the time he was doing it (three Olympic gold medals). Maybe there could be (another) one eventually, but in the near future I can’t see that being the case at all.”
ESPN announcer Dick Vitale is not a fan of college coaches such as Self coaching the under-18 team, since the roster includes some recruitable athletes.
“I said it once and I will say it again / college head coaches SHOULD NOT be eligible to coach 18/u team/ a big advantage in recruiting,” Vitale wrote on Twitter on Saturday.
Self acknowledged that, “Everybody’s got an opinion on something. I think Vitale was one that was speaking out strongest about that. I’ll be quite candid with you. Was it an advantage for Coach Krzyzewski to coach the (U.S.) Senior Team? I would say every kid dreams of being on that team and playing with those guys. I would say that could be an advantage.
“Did he not earn that right? With colleges, there were eight kids that went on our trip that were recruitable: four of them have already signed with schools. What people don’t realize a lot is there were 21 youngsters that were cut and there was a much higher number of kids cut than there were kids kept.”
Cutting players is not necessarily a positive in recruiting, Self noted.
“Guys who have coached these teams … they have lost players they were leading on because of either getting cut or lack of playing time once the games or the tournament started,” Self said.
“Could there be an advantage? Absolutely. If you have a good experience. I don’t think the advantage is near as great as what it could appear. We’ve already been eliminated with some guys. Maybe it’s coincidence within two days after not making the final roster we were eliminated (he did not name the players). We knew going in it could happen.”
Self said his desire to coach the team “is bigger than that. It was a situation where you just want to coach and represent and be a part of what is a very monumental athletic event and achievement for young kids and maybe the first in their life at that level to be part of that. To me that trumped the potential negatives of it. I hope it’s a positive. (But) this was not a recruiting trip. We did not talk like that. We talked about trying to get better playing a certain way. For the most part they bought into that.”
Lagerald Vick update
Self said he was planning on speaking to Lagerald Vick soon about the senior guard’s future. Vick, who has not signed with an agent, withdrew from the NBA Draft and can either play in the NBA G-League next season, play overseas, transfer to another college where he would not be eligible to play in games until 2019-20 or return to KU where he’d be eligible to play in 2018-19.
“Hopefully in the near future we’ll visit,” Self said noting he has already visited with Lagerald "very briefly.”
“At some point in time we’ll talk. Nothing as of now has changed in my mind. We like Lagerald and certainly the thought was when he declared (for draft without agent) is that his time at KU would be done either way. At this point in time it has not been decided, nor has he told us positively (that he wants to return to KU). I think he wants to be able to sit down with us and go over future options and if there are possibly any here. We’ll see what happens with that. No hurry.”
Self was asked if this means the door was not completely shut on a return to KU.
“We’re going to talk so I guess not completely shut,” Self said. “We recruited with the idea of him not being here. We signed a young man late with the idea of him not being here (Ochai Agbaji). There are some things we’d certainly have to talk about because that (leaving) was obviously something he felt comfortable with early on. He may still feel the same way. I think we owe it to each other to at least sit down and visit. We’ve been through too much together — three years and had quite a bit of success. I think we definitely need to do that (talk).”
Self added that, “I don’t think it’s anything you guys (media) should ask every day where this is. As of right now nothing has changed from when we ended the season.”
Self on Silvio De Sousa
Self is confident sophomore forward Silvio De Sousa, who has been attending summer school and taking part in all team activities, will be able to play for the Jayhawks this season.
It’s possible his eligibility could be impacted by the FBI’s assertion that De Sousa’s guardian received payments to steer the player to KU. Court documents do not name De Sousa or his guardian, but the timeline of events outlined in charges against Adidas executive James Gatto line up with De Sousa's commitment to KU. De Sousa's guardian denied accepting any money in an interview with The Star. De Sousa recently told The Star he is “not really worried about it. I know I didn’t do anything so I don’t need to worry about it.”
Self said Thursday: “I haven’t heard one thing contrary (regarding eligibility) with any of our guys. That doesn’t mean that can’t happen,” Self said. “All our guys were cleared by the NCAA. They were all eligible last year. We haven’t heard anything that that was not the case still. What we have read is the same thing everybody else has read to the extent of how that translates to eligibility. We haven’t been told anything on that. I’m confident on it. I know Silvio is very confident on it. That’s something we don’t have access to everything. Based on what we’ve been told right now is we’re in a good place.”
Draft approaching Thursday
Self is hoping former Jayhawks Devonté Graham, Malik Newman, Svi Mykhailiuk and Billy Preston will be selected in the NBA Draft on Thursday.
“I’ll say this. I’ve talked to a lot of NBA teams and every one of them have told me that Svi and Malik and Devonté all, if things fell perfect for them, individually could be late first-rounders, but the reality is probably not, but they could be,” Self said. “I’m very optimistic they will all get drafted and hopefully go as high as they possibly can … I haven’t heard as much on Billy. Everyone is optimistic about his talent, but I still think I haven’t got anyone to tell me exactly where they thought he’d fall. Everybody has told me first-round talent for sure when I’ve talked to them."