Self Earns Number 400

Kansas head coach Bill Self attempted to deflect the attention but Phog.net stops and tells KU fans why you should appreciate Self's latest accomplishment.

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 horizon.

"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 chuckle.

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 issues.  

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 lot better."

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 forgotten past.

"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.  

Phog.net Top Stories