The magnitude of coaching basketball at Kansas was gauged by Bill Self the day he was hired.
Legends had designed and executed plays in Allen Fieldhouse long before Self ever directed the Jayhawks. So he immediately paid reverence to coaches who preceded him.
“The day he became head coach, he was kind enough to pick up the phone and give me a call,’’ remembered former KU coach Ted Owens.
Self also called Larry Brown, whom he also consulted about the KU job, as well as Roy Williams.
There was something special, though, about notifying Owens, who guided KU to Final Four appearances in 1971 and ’74 during a 19-year run in which the Jayhawks went 348-182.
“I’d known Ted, but I certainly wanted to make him know I hadn’t forgotten him,’’ Self said of his fellow Oklahoman. “Ted, back then, was kind of the forgotten soul after Larry’s success. I wanted to make sure Ted knew that I appreciated what he accomplished here.’’
…“Bill’s just done a remarkable job and he’s been a dear friend,’’ said Owens, 87. “He’s just gone out of his way to be nice to me and my family, and our players. He’s made us part of things and I’m really grateful for that. The program couldn’t be in better hands.’’
…“I hope everybody appreciates how difficult it is to be good every year,’’ Owens said. “Nobody else in the country has done it. Bill’s had the most consistent program of anyone.’’
Siena coach Jimmy Patsos called up a famous Kansas basketball alumnus before his team’s game Friday. He had to know about Allen Fieldhouse.
Patsos phoned Maryland coach and Topeka native Mark Turgeon in advance of the Saints’ clash with No. 7-ranked KU, which was the Jayhawks’ home opener. Turgeon, who played at KU from 1983-87 and was an assistant coach from graduation until 1992, even met his future wife, Ann, at the Fieldhouse, where he later asked her to marry him.
It’s a place filled with great memories with Turgeon, which prompted a Patsos question about a potential homecoming.
“I said, ‘Yeah, you coming back to play there?’” Patsos recalled. “He said, ‘Hell no.’ Now I know why.”
How has the coach done it?
Bragg did a nice job of summing it up.
“He’s a special coach and this is a special place,” Bragg said. “You put those two things together and special things happen.”
Winning at home is so routine for Kansas that it’s not always as easy to remember the details of the games that send fans home happy.
For this one, maybe the memory of the cherry on top of it will endure. Self’s son, fifth-year walk-on Tyler, hit a big shot, a fade-away jumper just inside the three-point line with 1:14 remaining to put Kansas up by 23 points.
“You know what, I would never think like that, but now that you mentioned it, yeah, it’s nice,” Self said. “I don’t know that I would consider it a big shot when you’re up 20, but still it’s nice that he got in there and made the shot.”
Self’s wife, Cindy, and friends celebrated the shot. Might her son's shot even have meant more to Cindy than her husband getting the record?
“Oh, there’s no question,” the coach said. “I think that him making the shot would probably trump 500 wins in the building.”
Carlton Bragg immediately knew what he’d done wrong.
Kansas coach Bill Self called “41,” which means all ball screens are switched from the 1 through 4 positions. But Bragg forgot, allowing a layup attempt and prompting Self to scream: “Carlton, forty-one!”
Bragg remembered the moment in the postgame interview session following KU’s 86-65 victory over Siena on Friday night.
“Coach was on me,” he said with a half-grin.
In many ways, this was a breakout effort for Bragg. After being stuck in what Self described as a “funk” during the early part of the season, the 6-foot-10 forward posted career highs in both points and rebounds.
Regardless of who Self starts or how he divvies up the minutes, this team will go as its guards go. And sometimes that may mean looking beyond starters Frank Mason III and Devonté Graham.
Siena coach Jimmy Patsos did exactly that before the loss, and, in it, he wound up seeing one of his big fears come true when KU sophomore Lagerald Vick touched his team for career-highs of 12 points and eight rebounds in a career-best 32 minutes.
“He’s the guy that I was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know they had him.’ He’s a killer at our level,” Patsos said. “He’s just a stat stuffer. I just like him. He can switch and guard anybody. I like his energy.... When you win a national championship, you need a guy like that on your team.”
Vick, a 6-foot-5, 175-pound player who Patsos called a “hard-hat, lunch-pail” guy, said his hard work in the offseason to improve his scoring has been key to his hot start.
“(I’m) mainly just doing what the coaches ask,” Vick said. “You know, I’ve been working all summer, listening to Devonte’, Frank and just doing the small things to help the team win.”
When asked what kind of advice the upperclassmen Graham and Mason had given him, he said they’ve told him to be aggressive on both ends of the court.
…The Jayhawks took Saturday off and had a light practice Sunday in preparation for their 8:30 p.m. Monday clash with UAB (2-1) in a semifinal contest at the CBE Classic at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
KU, which concluded a 10,000-plus mile trek to Honolulu and New York with a flight home Wednesday, had the look of a tired team against Siena, Self said.
“We were physically tired and our brain told our body we were tired,” Self said, “and I think that’s why we probably didn’t perform quite as well.”
If the Jayhawks defeat UAB, a championship game awaits them at 9 p.m. Tuesday against either Georgia (2-1) or George Washington (3-0), who play the early semifinal Monday.
“I’m not as concerned about Monday as I will be about Tuesday,” Self said. “… Hopefully fans will turn out and show up. It will be a good test, but I’ll be glad when Wednesday gets here because I think we can catch our breath a little bit.”
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Billy Preston is the latest Kansas basketball signee to possess talents that extend off the court.
The 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward with guard skills from Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., who Friday announced for KU over Indiana, USC and Syracuse, “loves to dance, sing. He is an amazing artist,” said Preston’s mom, Nicole Player.
“I say ‘amazing’ with just as much emphasis as you can make on ‘amazing.’ He is very talented. One of his favorite classes is creative writing. He’s able to tap into the artistic side of himself, to just become someone else (besides a basketball player). That’s what he enjoys,” Player said.
Preston follows in the footsteps of KU sophomore Carlton Bragg, who is proficient at the piano, and freshman Josh Jackson, who plays the saxophone and also a mean game of chess.
“Flashy? No,” Player said of the style of Los Angeles native Preston, who spent his freshman year at St. John Bosco in Bellflower, Calif., his sophomore year at both Redondo Union in Southern California and Prime Prep in Dallas, and his junior year at Advanced Prep International in Dallas.
“He is the polar opposite of that. He’s the kind of kid who wears basketball shorts in the snow. He is far from flashy. He’s humble, laid back, a guy of few words. He lives by the mantra actions speak louder than words,” Player said.
As far as how long Preston, the No. 8-rated player nationally by Rivals.com, will elect to stay in school before entering the NBA Draft … well, Player has no idea.
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