KU head coach Bill Self has only been a head coach for 17 seasons at the Division I level but on Saturday in his 546th game, he earned his 400th career victory.
The Edmond, Oklahoma native is not the type to get caught up in the
attention that goes along with personal accolades and awards.
So when he was asked questions about being on the doorstep of win
number 400 prior to Saturday's contest he shrugged off most of the
praise. When asked what it would mean to be half way to 800 he answered
jokingly, "It means I'm a little older than I want to believe I am."
But if you know him you are well aware that this is just Bill Self.
Reacting any differently would go against the norm.
"I'll be honest; it doesn't mean that much," said Self who is in his
seventh year at Kansas. "It will mean that we won a game. We've really
been fortunate that we've been around some really good players and some
really good people that have given us a chance to win a lot of games."
"I'm sure he just looks at it as another game," junior sharpshooter
Tyrel Reed concurred. "And that's the way we have to take it as well.
It's a great accomplishment for him. Hopefully we just get a win
against Iowa State, that's the main thing."
"It would be great. I think Coach Self would tell you that it's not
just another stepping stone for himself and his career, but also for
our team," said center Cole Aldrich who committed to Self two years
prior to graduating high school. "He's won some huge games and whatnot.
It's something that we would love to do for him to ensure his legacy."
For Self there's only one win that matters – the next one. That's why
when the final buzzer sounded after the 14-point win against Iowa State
Self simply walked through the handshake line just like he always does.
What meant the most to Self was a "W" against the Cyclones, a win that
gave KU its 10th in conference and 24th overall. Guaranteed he
immediately began thinking about the preparation needed in order to get
his team ready to face another tough Big Monday test on the road this
time against Texas A&M in College Station. Or at least he tried
to. But Self couldn't escape the short post game ceremony held in his
honor. Fans stayed in their seats to voice their appreciation for him,
and players huddled around him as he was presented with a game ball by
Athletic Director Lew Perkins. Self humbly held the basketball up and
briefly enjoyed the celebration amongst his players.
"That really wasn't much of a celebration," Self said while enjoying a
hearty chuckle. "Brady (Morningstar) was the ringleader saying ‘great
job, great job', and I told him no thanks to him (2 pts, 1-5 from the
field vs. Iowa State), but I say that jokingly. He was trying to make a
big deal so I wouldn't get on him in the locker room."
"We've been through a lot with him," said senior Sherron Collins. "Good
times, bad times he knows it's all a learning experience for us. It's
still special to see him reach this milestone in his career and just be
a part of it. We'll probably always be mentioned as part of his 400th
win, (there are) more wins to come but its special for us."
Self has coached in 546 games and won 400 of them meaning he has won
over 73 percent of the time. It appears the 47-year old Self has much
more to accomplish and many more wins to accumulate.
"It is nice to coach as many great players as we have and if you coach
long enough you should win games and they should add up if you coach
long enough. We've kind of won at an accelerated rate lately in large
part because we've had such good players," said Self who has won over
82 percent of his games on the KU bench.
With a career in mid stride many believe a second national title,
likely a Hall of Fame induction, and maybe even 800 wins are on the
"Bill Self has done an outstanding job everywhere he has been,"
according to ESPN analyst Dick Vitale. "Now that he is a part o of the
400-win club, I believe the sky is the limit and his future should be
en route to the Hall of Fame."
Right now he's averaging almost 24 wins a year and hasn't won less than
23 games in his last 12 seasons so that average is likely to continue
to increase. At that pace, it would take just another 17 seasons or
less to reach 800. That would STILL put Self on the young end of
reaching such a lofty number in this profession.
"I won't coach until I'm 75. That can be a big byline tomorrow. That
will not happen. OK?" Self said rhetorically with a big grin and a
He joked about the length of his career but alluded to the fact that
coaching has definitely changed over time. The pressure of being a head
coach at this level takes its toll and lately the struggles it can
present have been visible in football and basketball. Most recently
we've seen the toll coaching at the collegiate level can take with
Urban Meyer of Florida and Jim Calhoun of Connecticut recent medical
On a day when Calhoun returned from an extended medical absence and
Duke head coach Mike Kryzyzewski coached in his 1000th game Self
admitted he believes the kinds of numbers put up by today's marquee
coaches will be a thing of the past.
"Some of those guys, I don't know how long they'll go, but I don't
think coaching into your mid to late 60s will be as common an
occurrence going forward as it has been, in large part because of all
the attention and all the other things that go along with the job,"
Self stated after mentioning names like Calhoun, Kryzyzewski, Gary Williams, Roy Williams, and Jim Boeheim. "Some of those guys are a lot
younger than that. I would anticipate those guys doing it for a long
time, but I don't know if I can do it that long."
800 wins according to Self from this point forward will be even rarer
for a plethora of reasons and its no just about the immense pressure
there is to win.
"Coaches are making more money now so you don't have to work as long to
retire," continued Self. "I think there are a lot of reasons why guys
won't coach as long. It is amazing to me how so many have withstood the
test of time and been so good at their job for so long. As a young
coach we should always respect the ones that came before us and gave us
a chance to do what we do. And there's some guys out there like the
coach Suttons of the world that have certainly made our profession a
It is just like Self to remember his roots. He doesn't forget the
stepping stones, the people who helped him, or the failures along the
way. His first two years at Oral Roberts proved that it wasn't always a
bed of roses for Self, there were plenty of thorns. He never forgets
those first couple of seasons where he won just 16 games and was part
of a serious losing streak. But to those who've watched him climb the
ladder of success, the rocky start is in the distant and all-but
"Starting out losing 18 in a row at ORU, I didn't know if this would
ever get to this point," said Self who went 55-54 in four years at Oral
Roberts. "We'd have been lucky to ever win a hundred. At the rate we
were going it would have taken us 20 years to win a hundred. It's
pretty remarkable to turn around and have the opportunity to coach the
guys that I have coached."
It's obvious when you win at least 20 games for 11 straight seasons and
you win a conference title in nine of the last 10 years -
including five Big 12 titles at KU - that you can coach and you can
recruit. But what gets undersold and undervalued is Self's competitive
nature and ability to motivate.
On the exterior you see the terrific sense of humor, winning smile, and
his friendly Oklahoman nature. All those qualities make him a terrific
people person. He's respected by his peers, loved by the fans, and
lauded by his players. But what makes him one of the nation's best
coaches is his competitive nature. As personable as he is off the
court, he's an even fiercer competitor on it.
After the milestone win against Iowa State Collins was asked what it is
that flips the switch for KU and turns a tight game into a blowout and
with a smile brewing throughout the entire question, Collins gave a
very succinct response.
"I think its coach just yelling at us. When we come in he gets all into
us. Like I said he's a great motivator," Collins answered.
"Intense. Focused. Driven. (He's) Just a
great coach," said Reed when asked how he would describe Coach Self's
style. "He's so good with players. He knows how to get the
best out of them."
He is a master at pushing buttons and knowing what it takes to pull the
best out of kids. He knows exactly what to say, how to say it, and when
to say it.
"That's the mark of a good coach. You know how certain people
react to a situation and you know how you can coach them.
He's great about that. He's always going to bring out the
best in everybody," Reed added.
Self Earns Number 400
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