Self Already Looking For More Toughness

KU basketball coach Bill Self knows from personal experience how far hard work and effort can get you.

In his playing days under the legendary Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State, Bill Self established a reputation as a bulldog of a player who always seemed to be on the bottom of every loose ball pile and spent nearly as much time in the courtside seats as T. Boone Pickens.

Today, he demands the same type of gritty effort of his Jayhawks. When he doesn't get it, particularly early in the season, he starts dropping the “T” bomb – toughness – and challenging his team to have more of it.

And so it was, after an 85-53 win over Coppin State Friday night, that the fifth year Kansas coach fired a warning shot over his team's head about a perceived lack of ruggedness. As rants go, it was extremely tame. He never mentioned his gender or age. Nevertheless, it was clear that Self wasn't happy.

“I thought our effort was good. I don't think our toughness was very good,” he said, making a face like he'd just had a big drink of orange juice after brushing his teeth.

He continued, “We had one of our centers in a jump ball with one of their guards and he let the ball go. I mean, we gotta go after loose balls harder and things like that. That's been a point of emphasis since day one and we haven't really responded to that.”

Self acknowledged that it's tough for a team to put much stock in such criticism after a 32-point win, but he challenged his team to look at it differently.

“(The score is) not the point. That's not the point. Cole catches it at the top and they've got a 5-10 guy who pressures him, he can't get the ball to the wing because the guy grabs his arm or something like that? You can't have that. We gotta be stronger and play stronger and tougher,” he said.

So, Coach, what do you do in practice to develop that toughness?

He paused, then said, “I could say somethin' that I think would be funny but (the media) would write it and nobody else would. I really don't know except just stress it and get 'em to execute and understand how you've got to play every possession, especially when you get fatigued. We can do that in practice.”

The Jayhawks will have plenty of opportunities to start to develop that bulldog mindset with three games in six days: Kent State on Monday, New Mexico State on Wednesday and Jackson State next Saturday.

“I'd really like to see us play 40 minutes,” Self said.

Note to the team: give the coach what he wants. By being tougher, your life will be easier. Top Stories