Bill Self stood in back of the Grand Ballroom at Bartle Hall, signing autographs and posing for pictures with VIP’s for about 40 minutes at Thursday night’s 11th-annual Coaches vs. Cancer season tipoff reception.
Self, Kansas’ 16th-year coach who was decked out in white shirt, sports coat and slacks, stressed he was happy to be on hand supporting such a good cause along with Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin, Kansas State coach Bruce Weber, UMKC coach Kareem Richardson and special guest of honor Bo Ryan, the longtime Wisconsin head coach, now retired.
“I like doing this,” Self said. “We’ve got a lot going on right now. There are certainly other places I could be with five recruits flying in right now,” added Self, whose KU program plays host to the 34th-annual Late Night in the Phog on Friday night.
“This is definitely a worthwhile cause. I love getting a chance to come out and mingle and see some real heroes who have gone through some real stuff,” Self added of cancer survivors.
He arrived in downtown Kansas City for Thursday’s event immediately after Thursday’s practice, already the second of the 2018-19 season for the Jayhawks.
“We had a decent practice yesterday,” Self said of Wednesday’s opener. “A lot of walk-through stuff. We had a very good practice today (Thursday). It was competitive. The guys really responded well to keeping it fast pace since they knew what we were doing since we went over a lot of stuff yesterday. It was a good first couple days,” Self added.
MU coach Martin, who is a cancer survivor, greeted Self with a back slap and hug at Thursday’s event.
“I think it’s important always if you have an opportunity to support a cause like this to do so,” said Martin, also dressed in formal attire. “We spend a lot of time doing a lot of different things. This is valuable for a lot of people here, also for me being diagnosed with cancer in ’96 I understand the importance of being involved in helping raise money.
“This is my second year (at KC event). It’s very impressive. You’ve got to have many people on board to go this many years, 10 plus years. Doing it at this level is impressive. You’ve got to have a great team to make it happen. They’ve done a great job of making it happen,” Martin added.
Martin said he was looking forward to coaching his second year for the Missouri Tigers.
“We always want to be tough, play hard, play together. It doesn’t matter who is in the program. As long as I’m coach I hope that is the case,” Martin said.
Put Martin and Self in the same room and of course the topic of KU and Missouri scheduling basketball games is bound to surface.
Self recently told The Star he would have liked his Jayhawks to play Missouri in an exhibition game for charity for a second straight season.
Last year the teams raised more than $2 million for Houston hurricane relief by playing an exhibition game. This year, North Carolina has been ravaged by hurricane winds and floods.
Self, however, explained the Jayhawks already have two exhibition games and the NCAA will not allow a third.
“They are not going to let you have three games. I don’t want to mislead anybody that could happen,” said Self. “That’s not on the table this year the way the rules read.”
Martin said simply: “The NCAA has to do what they have to do. They do things for a reason. It would have been nice (to have another exhibition with KU). It would have been even better to play a regular-season game. That would be nice,” Martin added, noting he and Self haven’t had any recent conversations about the matter.
Weber coached Cuonzo at Purdue
In the Q&A portion of the program, Kansas State coach Weber reminisced about being an assistant coach at Purdue when Martin played for the Boilermakers.
“I got him so mad once, 14,000 people in the arena … he stopped playing, went over to coach (Gene) Keady and said, ‘Tell Weber to leave me alone,’’’ Weber exclaimed, drawing laughs from the crowd in the ballroom. “I was just trying to coach him. He is a cancer survivor which is amazing,” Weber added in a serious tone. “I’m so proud of him. What he’s done … I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Richardson interviewed by Ryan
UMKC’s Richardson reminisced about once interviewing for an assistant job at Wisconsin, which was coached at the time by Ryan.
“At the time it was nerve-wracking,” Richardson said. “He made things so easy. He has a great personality, a great sense of humor, made things relaxing. I was as nervous as could be walking into coach Ryan’s office. Having the opportunity to spend time with him, seeing what made his program special, it was easy to see why there program was where it is and why coach Ryan is such a great coach. Even though I didn’t get the job and was (angry) at him, I still love him,” Richardson added.
Self on his Jayhawks
“The last two years we’ve been spoiled,” Self said. “You could put the ball in a couple guys’ hands and go win the game the last five, seven minutes with Devonté (Graham) and Frank (Mason). Last year was not one of our better teams, but one of our hardest teams to guard. Everybody could shoot. You shoot 42 percent from three, you have a chance every night. This year we’re going back to being bad shooters, but a lot bigger,” he added jokingly.
“I do like our team. I do think we are actually as deep as we’ve been in a long time. I don’t think we have superstar potential, a high lottery pick, but a lot of good players. You’ve got to shoot the ball in today’s time to perform consistently well. We’ll labor (shooting) from time to time I’m sure.”