BY JOHN ROHDE
(The Oklahoman – April 8, 2008)
SAN ANTONIO – Oklahoma State wants Bill Self to be its next basketball coach, and Kansas wants to keep him.
Here are some reasons why this is so:
- Self is the guy who can remember the name of a junior varsity assistant coach he met eight years ago.
- Self is the guy who will walk past a worker who’s sweeping the arena floor, give him a nod hello and say, “Appreciate it. You’re doing a helluva job.” And Self will actually mean it.
- Though Self is the center of attention, he’ll make you feel like you’re the most important person in the room.
- Self is a chameleon. His communication skills have no bounds. Rich or poor, young or old, man or woman, boy or girl, black or white. Doesn’t matter.
- Within the first 10 seconds of a conversation, Self will be the one asking the questions, not you. How’s the family? What’s going on? Anything new?
- Strangers strike up a conversation with Self and he’ll eventually ask their name. Self will shake their hand and introduce himself. “Hi, I’m Bill Self,” to which the stranger will reply, “Uh, yeah. No kidding.”
- Self’s primary goal is to make you feel as comfortable with him as he feels with you.
- Self is the guy who proclaims his wife, Cindy, is “the best coach’s wife in the country.”
- Self is the guy who came to Oklahoma City in February to watch two stud high school recruits. But before he watched the boys play, he attended a girls game at Edmond Memorial High School to watch his niece, Taylor, play even though he could stay for only the first quarter.
- When he was named the new Kansas coach five years ago and flew into Lawrence on a private plane, Self approached airport worker Troy Jantz and said, “Good to see you. What do you do here?” Jantz replied, “I refuel airplanes.” Self smiled and said, “Well then, you must be the man around this place.”
- While playing in a four-ball golf match, Self is the guy who can hit a 7-iron within 3 feet of the cup from 210 yards away, then claim the reason he was able to do it was because you’re such a great golf partner. (Self probably misses the putt, but that’s not the point here.)
- Self doesn’t hire jerk assistants.
- Former assistant Barry Hinson describes Self’s brain as “organized chaos” and insists he’s one of the most organized disorganized people he’s ever met. “You show him a list of things, he doesn’t write anything down, but when you check back with him, everything’s already been done,” Hinson said.
- Self is the guy who approaches media to say hello. Nobody does that.
- Self is the guy who telephones friends in Oklahoma to let them know he’ll do all he can to round up some Final Four tickets. He does this two measly hours after beating Davidson in the Midwest Regional Final, his most important moment as a coach.
- Amid all the chaos at the Final Four, Self asks Cindy to invite 40 or so friends to a hotel suite Saturday night after KU’s semifinal game against North Carolina – win or lose. Self feels guilty he hasn’t been able to say hello because he’s been in lock-down mode all weekend.
- The gathering includes family and friends, KU staff members and assistant coaches, plus former assistants from Self’s days at Oral Roberts, Tulsa and Illinois. Not a jock-sniffing booster in sight.
- Self eventually joins the party and effortlessly works the room, holding court with pocket gatherings of five or six people at a time. Hinson’s wide-eyed daughter tells her father, “He actually seemed to care how I was doing,” to which Hinson playfully responds, “Hey, remember I’m still your father.”
- After a 45-minute visit, Self exits quietly at 1 a.m., walks across the hall and studies game film with his staff until 3.
- Self is the guy who out of the blue visits your wife in an Oklahoma City hospital while she’s struggling with the premature birth of your son 11 years ago. When your child is born nine weeks early, Self and Cindy soon deliver a framed keepsake that reads “God’s blessings are never early nor late … They are always on time.”
Bill Self is one of God’s blessings.
This is why the Cowboys want him, and why the Jayhawks want him to stay.
One last tidbit: Self’s team won the NCAA title last night, beating Memphis 75-68 in overtime inside the Alamodome.
Turns out the guy can also coach a little bit.