KU's Self Sidesteps Distractions

NEW ORLEANS – Kansas coach Bill Self says there were no distractions to deal with in 2008 when the Jayhawks won the national championship. He wants it to be the same way on this Final Four trip.

That's why he asked Southern Illinois and Tulsa to help him out this week. Both schools dipped into Self's staff to hire head coaches.

Assistant coach Danny Manning, the KU legend who led the Jayhawks to the national championship in 1988, is taking over at Tulsa. Director of basketball operations Barry Hinson is the new head coach at Southern Illinois.

Both deals were finalized and announced in a 24-hour period before the Jayhawks met with the media Thursday. That way the staff and players were able to deal with the changes and avoid speculative questions from the media while preparing for Saturday's national semifinal against Ohio State at the Superdome.

"When a team is successful, you hope your assistants have an opportunity to benefit," Self said. "We were fortunate to have two guys get jobs [Wednesday]. I don't know how often that happens. A big deal for me was, I told those respective schools, ‘I'm fine with this, but let's do it now. I don't want the rumors and everybody being interviewed and have to lie and say you haven't taken a job. Let's get it out of the way now and handle the questions."

Self told his player about Hinson Wednesday night and Manning told the team he more than likely was getting the job.

"Our players are fine," Self said. "They are happy for our guys. They are happy for our guys. This isn't a distraction for our guys at all. Trust me, Danny and Barry are not working on Tulsa or Southern Illinois now."

The Kansas players share Self's perspective.

"I know at the end of the day they want to help Kansas," guard Elijah Johnson said. "They want to see us win a national championship. I'm happy they can take care of their families and have a better situation.

"If they have an opportunity, they should take it. Jayhawk nation will always love them. The pie is big enough for everybody. I never thought I'd be ale to help one of our coaches get a job. For us to be part of the reason makes me feel good and makes me want to win even more."

Center Jeff Withey, the Big 12 defensive player of the year, benefitted tremendously from Manning's tutoring. Manning's ability to teach post players such as Cole Aldrich, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris and Withey made him an attractive head coach prospect.

"I'm sad to see him go, but I'm happy for him," Withey said. "He deserves it. He's going to make Tulsa a lot better. He gave me a lot of confidence. Every day we worked with him we got a lot of shots off and we work on our footwork. He gives us a lot of tricks when we are playing, so he will definitely be missed.

"I still have a couple more days to milk as much knowledge as I can from him."

Manning will be introduced next week at Tulsa. He did not talk to the media Thursday. The Tulsa World reported Manning agreed to a four-year, $2.5 million deal.

"I'd like to thank coach Self for giving me the chance to be a part of his staff for the past nine years," Manning said in a statement. "I have learned a tremendous amount about the game and the profession from him and all the members of his staff. . . . Right now my focus is on Kansas and its participation in the Final Four. We've worked extremely hard to get to this point and we want to keep it going for another few days."

In 2008, there could have been a distraction for Self and the Jayhawks. But Self handled the talk of him returning to his alma mater, Oklahoma State, without it impacting his players. Self returned to Lawrence, and within days turned down the OSU job and agreed in princinple to a new deal with the Jayhawks. In August 2008, he signed a new 10-year deal worth $3 million a year.

"In '08, there really wasn't a distraction for us at all," Self said. "There were some things people talked about but it wasn't a distraction."

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