A 44-minute initial phone conversation between Bill Self and Jeff Long, followed by additional chats between the Kansas basketball coach and the Jayhawks’ athletic director candidate, apparently proved pivotal in Long taking the job.
“I saw firsthand why Bill Self is such a great recruiter, because I’ll be candid, he recruited me here,” former Arkansas and Pittsburgh AD Long said Wednesday at his introductory news conference in KU’s Lied Center.
“That meant a lot to me that Bill reached out," Long said. "And he did. He recruited me. I’ve respected him throughout my career in athletics. He is someone people look up to. Bill Self is an admired coach. I was really excited to have a chance to talk with him and share his views of Kansas and the program, what we have here."
Self, in speaking with reporters after the news conference, played down his role in “recruiting” the 58-year-old Long to lead KU’s athletic department.
“I didn’t promise him he’s going to start. I can promise you that,” Self said jokingly. “I didn’t recruit him. That was him being kind. That’s an exaggeration. The place recruited him, but I had a chance to talk to Jeff a few times throughout the process.
"I shook his hand for the first time today.”
Self’s speaking to Long was by design. Chancellor Douglas Girod made sure to involve Self, who is beginning his 16th season at KU, in the AD search.
“Coach Self brings so much experience, expertise. He is very present on the national level, brings so much perspective. Obviously he has a lot of connections,” Girod said, adding, “He was valuable for me as well in the process, bouncing ideas off him.”
Self was happy to address any questions Long had regarding the FBI’s investigation into shoe companies and college basketball recruiting, which has involved KU.
“He asked me (about) that in our first conversation. I said, ‘I’m glad you asked me,' ’’ Self said. “Because how can anybody be serious about a job that wouldn’t ask that question? To me, that was a sign of experience, knowing what potential obstacles could be out there. I thought it was great he asked the questions. I went into as much detail as I could,” Self added, indicating he told him it’d probably be best to ask the chancellor about that issue as well.
Girod wound up putting a provision in Long’s contract that provides some security in case KU receives NCAA punishment. The provision states that if KU is put on probation or has NCAA restrictions in football, volleyball, men's basketball or women's basketball based on events that took place before July 4, 2018, the duration of his deal will be extended "equal to the length of the penalties."
“That language was ours in discussion with our consultant,” Girod said. “Knowing of course that story is out there, that that conversation continues, we wanted to demonstrate our confidence in where we were with this and our ability to go through this and our belief we are not at risk in this. That was really our doing to put that language out there. That was not at his request. It was a way to reassure him that we are confident as well in how it will work out.”
Long said he was “very confident that Kansas … we are going to work through this process and we’re going to be just fine. That was something I certainly considered if I decided to take the job, so I’m very confident we’re going to work through this and in our ability to work through this."
Self said “absolutely” when asked if he’d be comfortable playing sophomore Silvio De Sousa if the 2018-19 season started this week. The FBI is looking into allegations that De Sousa’s guardian was paid by an Adidas representative 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.
“You’ve got to understand something,” Self said, “Silvio was declared eligible. There was a process the NCAA went through with Silvio to declare him eligible, which there is with a lot of kids, because there were questions about Silvio’s amateurism. Not that there was anything wrong with it, but when a kid transfers schools, when he’s an international kid, there’s a lot of things that trigger certain things. That stuff was all talked about.
"The NCAA is the one who declared him eligible, not Kansas. There’s been nothing I’ve heard to take away from that whatsoever. That doesn’t mean if something comes out new in the future that could be questioned, but I am confident at this point in time. ... Nobody at this stage has given us any information that would lead to believe he could be in jeopardy in that way (eligibility-wise).”
Self did say things could change.
“That’s with us not knowing all the information, or do we know all the information?” Self said. “If we know it, then I feel very comfortable. The bottom line is that’s something that’s got to play out. As much as I’d like to say he’s positively this or that, I can’t do that. There’s been no indication yet at this time that we will have a serious problem with that. Something could come up we are unaware of at this time.”
Self said he was looking forward to the upcoming school year with summer practice going well and a new AD hired.
“I think this is a great place. I think our place got better today,” Self said, acknowledging the hire of Long while also stressing, “I’m not putting down the past whatsoever.”
Self also stressed that he was close with his two previous bosses — Sheahon Zenger and Lew Perkins.
“The one thing I have found out in my time here is how good this place can be,” Self said. “I thought it was a good place before I got here. It’s five times better now than what it was when I was (first) here, and it’s going to be better moving forward because of past people’s efforts, because there are some things in place — facilities, housing, food, so many things we didn’t have 15 years ago."
Of his 2018-19 team, which continues to work out four hours a week with coaches during the summer months, Self said: “It’s been very competitive, far more competitive than it’s been in years. Lagerald (Vick, who reported to campus July 5 after considering turning pro) is doing fine. Whatever the situations were with Lagerald on him exploring … on why he would explore (entering NBA Draft), why I’d felt at the time it probably would be a wise decision for him to explore, those are over. The past is the past. He knows that. I know that. We are definitely right now on the same page. I’ve been real impressed with how hard he’s working.”