I would’ve done an interview with Coach about his 300th win but I have a pretty good idea of what the answer to, ‘Coach, how do you feel about getting your 300th win?’ would be. The conversation would immediately be deflected away from the coach who has taken three different programs to the Elite 8, and towards the players like Brian Cook, Michael Ruffin, Eric Coley, Wayne Simien, and Deron Williams. He’d also mention assistants like Tim Jankovich, Norm Roberts, and Billy Gillispie.
In his opinion, he wouldn’t be in this position without those two important cogs in the wheel. Talking about himself is really not what this coach does. He’d much rather point out the terrific players who’ve played for him, and the talented assistants who’ve coached under him.
I’m sure the names, Iba, Sutton, and Brown would come into play. Self respects the people who have helped him along the way and always pays tribute to Coach Brown who gave him his first “coaching break” right here in Lawrence. The four-year KU coach never forgets his roots.
Internally, there is a deep belief in what he’s doing between the lines on the court. He’s picked up bits and pieces of each of the aforementioned coaches along the way and added his own “twists”. Make no mistake about it, Self has a quiet confidence about him, and is extremely humble. With every step he’s taken up the ladder, this has never changed. But you don’t get to this level without confidence and belief in what you’re doing, however you’ll never catch Self boasting.
He’s humble enough to look critically at each and everything he does on a daily basis. KU fans have been extremely critical over the last two first round exits, but trust me; no one has lost more sleep and analyzed those losses more than Self. He always takes responsibility for things he feels should’ve been better.
As a recruiter, he’s one of the best around. You’ve heard it before, seems like he could sell ice to an eskimo. There are reasons the nation’s most talented prospects welcome Self into their worlds. His “tell-it-like-it-is approach” is praised by all that come in contact with him. He makes sure the people around him know exactly how he feels. There are no empty promises to high school talent and he’s emphatic about making sure a prospect knows that he must earn his playing time at KU. He makes it clear that if you do what’s best for the name on the front of the jersey, personal accolades will follow.
He’s young enough, and respected enough to still be able to relate to his players. You’ll frequently hear his team refer to him as, “one of the guys”. He’s a coach that can be in-your-face one minute, and put his arm around you the next. There’s a fine line between when a guy needs a good tongue-lashing and when he needs a confidence boost, and Self seems to have mastered the difference.
Don’t mistake his nice-guy nature for being soft. Self is as fiery as they come, and I think his players would agree. He’s also extremely smart, and if he wasn’t coaching basketball he would make a terrific businessman.
But Self is in the business of winning basketball games and anything less than a deep run in the NCAA tournament will not suffice. He may take a moment to reflect on 300 wins but I guarantee, he’ll go right back to work.