Bill Self heard Dick Vitale's advice: Don't follow the guy. Follow the guy who follows the guy.
But the call of Kansas, the magic of The Phog, the heritage set down by Dr. James Naismith and carried on through Roy Williams - it was too strong.
That was now almost a decade ago. The 2012-13 college basketball season will be Bill Self's 10th in Lawrence.
Now, after nine seasons of sustained excellence as the keeper of the Kansas flame, Self has attained celebrity status - he's a rock chalk rock star - and he's never been more comfortable in his own skin.
"I would say previously I'd worry about things that had nothing to do with winning," Self said Wednesday at Big 12 basketball media day. "Now I worry about the big picture."
One example: Former Jayhawk Tyshawn Taylor missed four weeks in 2009 with a dislocated thumb sustained in a brawl with the football team. Later in his career, Taylor openly criticized KU fans on Twitter.
"The appearance of some things that happened with him in the past would have really bothered me," Self said. "Now? That doesn't bother me at all. That's part of growing up, and as I get a little older, being able to see that and probably understand more about kids and how to deal with 'em than maybe I did five years ago."
..In the gym, players say neither age nor family has mellowed Self.
"He has the same attitude every year," said senior center Jeff Withey. "He's intense always during practice, he doesn't let up on people, doesn't matter if we're No. 1 in the nation or whatever. He expects perfection."
"He definitely hasn't changed," said senior guard Elijah Johnson. "Small things mean a lot to him. When you understand that, then you understand him."
Johnson said he has friends at other schools who recognize that their coach is - well, that their coach is not Bill Self. His engaging personality is rare even in a profession filled with slick-talking salesmen.
"Coach Self, he'll yell at you and then crack a joke with you. He's normal," Johnson said. "He's gonna get onto you, but he's a cool person. Like, he could sit right here, right now and hang out with us for just hours and talk relevant stuff with us. I think he knows how to relate to us, and that's what makes him so special."
…He actually got a question Wednesday about whether he wanted to coach in the NBA, and answered with polite incredulity.
"I just committed to be at the school for a long time, and they committed to me. ... But I can't see myself coaching anywhere else right now - in college for sure. And then as far as the NBA goes, there's only 30 jobs, and to be honest with you, I hate to say this, but I've got a better job than three-quarters of 'em. So I got one of the best jobs basketball has to offer, in my opinion. I can't see me being anywhere else.
"I like my job. I like my job a lot."
A scene from Bill Self's 10th year as Kansas basketball coach: It's Wednesday at Big 12 media day, just before noon in the Sprint Center, and Self is staring at an iPhone screen.
Moments earlier, KU is ranked No. 7 in the preseason coaches' poll, and now a reporter is handing over his phone, the full top 25 cued up. Self wants to see the entire list — to make a mental note of each team in the top 10.
“I'm probably a little surprised,” Self says. “But I like it.”
…But there's another reason Self can see himself at Kansas for another 10 years — another reason KU seems more enticing than possible NBA riches.
“You win,” says Self, who will turn 50 later this year. “Because it doesn't matter what they pay you, if you don't win, you're gonna be miserable.”
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The Jayhawks will be reloading after losing bruising forward Thomas Robinson and senior guard Tyshawn Taylor to the NBA, but three returning starters and a crowded class of freshman were enough to make them the unanimous preseason pick to win the Big 12 for the ninth straight time.
“It’s a great sense of pride, or source of pride for us,” said Kansas coach Bill Self, who agreed to a new contract in the offseason that should keep him in Lawrence for the next decade.
“Our players don’t want to be the team that doesn’t win it. They put that pressure on themselves,” Self said. “There isn’t a jubilation of winning the league that you might anticipate with our guys because they take the approach that this is their job. They’re supposed to win.”
Until they lose, they’ll keep getting picked first.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of programs, including the two newcomers, salivating at the opportunity to knock the Jayhawks from their comfy perch.
“We’d like to be the first team that doesn’t have ‘Kansas’ on its uniform to win this thing in a long, long time,” Huggins said.
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Among the questions Kansas State athletic director John Currie posed in initial conversations with Bruce Weber, a candidate to become the Wildcats’ basketball coach, was if he could handle Bill Self.
Not necessarily a Self-coached team. Self and Weber had met only once, in the 2011 NCAA Tournament in a game won by Self’s Kansas Jayhawks. But the idea of the successful and popular Kansas coach, the same one Weber followed at Illinois and held a mock funeral to signal the end of Self at Champaign.
“However long he felt he lived in Self’s shadow at Illinois, how was he going to feel about the same coach 90 miles away?” Currie said. “We had to establish early this wasn’t going to be a problem.”
Currie got what he needed to hear.
“He wanted that challenge,” Currie said. “He’s confident and competitive. It was part of the appeal.”
Weber recalled the funeral Wednesday during Big 12 men’s basketball media day at the Sprint Center. Weber had grown tired of queries about his predecessor and boiled over because his Illinois players had to constantly deal with questions about how it was under Self.
“They wouldn’t leave it alone,” Weber said. “Our players were telling me every question is about Bill Self and not about our program. So, I had to do something to help our guys. There were no theatrics, just a simple thing.”
It really was simple. Weber arrived at game wearing a black suit jacket, a black tie, and black pants to address his players in the locker room. He was coming to a funeral, the end of Bill Self, Weber told his team.
“It got blown up,” Weber said.
As it did when Illinois played Kansas two years ago in the NCAAs, and will again when the Wildcats and Jayhawks meet this season. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Digs add spice to any rivalry.
…Oh, Weber’s been known to kick up a fuss. Or mock a predecessor.
“It was difficult to follow him,” Weber said. “The kids liked him, the fans liked him, and I had to get them sold that we’d be OK.”
Now, Weber gets to deal with Self again in a different way, and there’s only one way to get the better of him.
“It’s obviously a rivalry,” Weber said. “But we hope we can compete and have a chance to really get them worried about us.”
Other than winning more often, about all Weber could do to approach the sizzle Huggins and Martin brought to the rivalry is wear all black every time he faces KU, but he’s not likely to cling to the weirdest incident of his career.
I asked Weber about the mock funeral and whether if he had to do over again he would not have done it. He stopped short of saying that.
“To me it was a compliment to Bill,” Weber said this morning in the Sprint Center at Big 12 Media Day. “The players loved him. The fans loved him. And he left. And I always joked, the fans were mad at me for coming and he’s the one who left. It didn’t make sense to me and I would always tell people, this is bass-akward.”
Why the funeral?
“I did it for the players,” Weber said. “The players kept saying, ‘Coach, we can’t move on. The media’s not letting us.’ Just like you’re not letting me move on. ‘They keep asking the same question.’ So I said, ‘I’m going to end it for you guys.’ That was my way of doing it.”
The after-shock continues.
The tangible connection Huggins had with K-State dissolved with Frank Martin’s departure to South Carolina,
Nonetheless, when Bruce Weber was hired to take over the Wildcats, a call was received from West Virginia. It was Huggins, offering essential advice.
“I saw his press conference and he didn’t have any purple on. I told him he’s going to get run out of town,’’ Huggins recalled.
Actually, a few more details were included, along with well-wishes from a coach whose 710 career wins span 30 seasons.
“He still has a deep love and affection for K-State,’’ said Weber, who has since learned to accessorize by acquiring 13 purple ties.
West Virginia football's move to the Big 12 was accompanied by the suggestion that life there was about Texas and Oklahoma. WVU basketball's introduction isn't much different. The league is very much about the Kansas Jawhawks.
Make that the eight-time defending regular-season conference champion Kansas Jayhawks, who were showing off their bedazzled championship rings at Big 12 media day at the Sprint Center on Wednesday.
…"It's really amazing," WVU Coach Bob Huggins said. "You talk about home court advantages, and I don't know who has a bigger home court advantage than KU has. We went in there and lost by I think it was (by) 106 my year at Kansas State (2007). My 7-foot-2 center fouled out in seven minutes.
"When you talk about KU winning all of those, I think there is one guy really responsible, and that's Bill. He's a great coach. Of course having all those players doesn't hurt anything either, just in case you were wondering. That doesn't hurt at all either."
Huggins was 0-3 as the Wildcats coach against Kansas, but lost by 37 at Kansas, by nine at home and then by six in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinal.
Amric Fields had never been to Kansas City before, let alone the Sprint Center, the downtown arena that plays host to the Big 12 Conference championship tournament. He was impressed with the vibrant downtown scene, surprised at how big the city looked and compared it to his hometown of Oklahoma City.
Fields, a junior, looking suave in his new sport coat that coach Trent Johnson helped him pick out, represented Horned Frog basketball with his coach at Wednesday's Big 12 Media Day.
The Sprint Center is one of many new arenas Fields and the Frogs will experience for the first time during their maiden voyage through the league. And for Johnson, who is counting on Fields to build off his solid sophomore season, the jump from the Mountain West to the Big 12 is going to be an eye-opening experience for his team.
"Experience don't mean a thing if you can play," Johnson said, echoing sage advice from legend Bill Russell years ago. "Well, define 'playing'? Playing is when you play against elite-level competition. That's what's going to happen to him; that's what's going to happen to our whole team. But you have to go through it. You can't fast-forward."
Translation: This first year in the Big 12 is a necessary rite of passage for TCU.
As part of Baylor's NCAA probation for impermissible phone calls and text messages, coach Scott Drew will be suspended for the first two games of Big 12 play. He'll miss the Bears' Jan. 5 game against Texas and a Jan. 8 game at Texas Tech.
Veteran assistant Jerome Tang will take Drew's place.
“I think as a coach if you do your job in practice, the game is really about the players,” Drew said. “Me missing a game is a lot better than one of my players.”
Like a basketball version of Cinderella, Pierre Jackson looked on in disbelief at the LeBron James Basketball Camp wondering why he wasn't invited.
The top college basketball players were summoned to the Miami Heat star's camp last summer in Jackson's hometown of Las Vegas, so he went to the workouts to check out who had been selected instead of him.
“There were no guards better than me,” Jackson said, still a little incredulous about the snub. “It hurt a little bit, but at the same time, it just proves I have more people to prove wrong.”
Jackson won't need to convince the Big 12 coaches, who picked him as the conference's preseason player of the year for the upcoming season. That honor came after Jackson directed the Bears to a school-record 30 victories last season, producing eight go-ahead, game-tying or game-winning plays that decided games.
“Without question, I think he's the best guard in the country,” Kansas coach Bill Self said about Jackson, whom he termed as a likely first-round NBA draft selection.
Jackson led the Bears in scoring, assists and steals last season on a balanced squad that featured five scorers in double figures. But with the loss of Quincy Acy, Quincy Miller and Perry Jones III to the pros, Jackson is poised to pick up even more offensive responsibilities.
It's a challenge that excites the 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior.
Baylor power forward Cory Jefferson has drastically changed his body since the end of last season. The 6-9 Jefferson is an incumbent starter up front for the Bears and has all the requisites to be one of the breakout players in the Big 12. Jefferson logged starters minutes in Baylor’s first five games of the season a year ago when Perry Jones III was serving a suspension and averaged seven points, 6.9 rebounds, and three blocks per contest. Keep this guy in bold print.
Fred Hoiberg smiled at the question.
When a reporter asked the Iowa State men’s basketball coach what he’d most like to “steal” from Kansas coach Bill Self, the answer flowed naturally.
“I’d try to steal how he wins all the time,” said Hoiberg, who saw another Big 12 media day at the Sprint Center come and go Wednesday with the Jayhawks picked to be league champions and his team pegged for eighth. “They lose one group of talented players, they bring in a new crop and he finds a way to get those guys to buy into their roles. You look at (former Kansas forward and NBA Lottery pick) Thomas Robinson. He was a role player two years ago then he’s the best player in the country the following year. So you find a way to get your guys to accept roles and if a team like Kansas can do it, your guys better do it as well.”
Kansas’ perpetual role: Favorite.
Injuries were already a storyline surrounding the Oklahoma State basketball team. And concern is amplifying, with Cowboys coach Travis Ford revealing that starting swingman Brian Williams has injured his wrist and is out indefinitely.
Ford broke the news Wednesday at Big 12 Media Day inKansas City, saying Williams “is pretty seriously hurt right now… will be out for a while, and that does not help our basketball team as far as rebounding. Brian Williams was one of the more athletic players in our league – 6-5, he was playing the three-four for us. He’s out for a while. We’re not sure how long yet.”
A Los Angeles judge has dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought by former UCLA player Reeves Nelson against Time Inc., the parent company of Sports Illustrated, and a reporter who wrote a story about problems in the school's basketball program.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary Ann Murphy agreed with attorneys for the media conglomerate and reporter George Dohrmann that the complaint concerning the story - "Not the UCLA Way" - that appeared in the magazine's March 5 print edition, infringed on their clients' right to free speech. She also found that Dohrmann had numerous sources to back up the facts in his story.
"This man spent a lot of time and talked to a lot of people," Murphy said Wednesday.
Hall of Famer Bob Knight is selling his championship basketball rings and Olympic gold medal for what he considers a very good reason: the education of his grandchildren.
A collection of the former coach's memorabilia will be auctioned by Steiner Sports Memorabilia. It's part of a sale that features the jersey Yankees pitcher Don Larsen wore while pitching a perfect game in the World Series.
"John Havlicek and I were just talking one day about all the stuff we had accumulated over the years," Knight said Monday from the Denver airport, referring to his college teammate at Ohio State who went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Boston Celtics. "As we talked we decided the money could be very useful to put our grandchildren through college."
The auction, which has already started for some items, runs through Dec. 5 and will feature Knight's rings from his three NCAA championship teams at Indiana — the undefeated 1976 season and the ones from 1981 and 1987.
The company will also sell a sports coat and a warmup jacket given to Knight as coach of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team in 1984.
College basketball’s best-known TV analyst last season chose not to mention by name the team cruising to the national championship. ESPN’s Bob Knight referred to Kentucky only as that “team from the SEC.”
So of course ESPN will formally announce today that Knight will be reassigned to call SEC games — alongside play-by-play announcer Rece Davis on Thursday nights — including Kentucky action.
ESPN spokesman Mike Humes on Sunday said Knight will work UK games — but not ones on the Wildcats’ home court.
Knight was unavailable for comment Sunday but said in an ESPN statement that “the SEC has a lot of good matchups, good play and good coaching. I’m looking forward to watching and describing these games.”
It is no secret that Kentucky values their national champion basketball team more than their not-as-relevant football team. That being said, the overwhelming difference between the attention spent focusing on the court as supposed to the field can still catch anyone off guard.
Obviously, the success of the program has brought about an immense amount of affluence to the organization. While Kentucky is expected to throw overly lavish pep-rallies for their team, this has to be crossing some sort of march madness line. According to “Bleed Blue Kentucky” (a Twitter account that enlightens its readers with news about the Wildcats) Kentucky spend over 300k on the lighting for march madness. That is basically just as much as they spend on football recruiting. The Tweeter provided us with numbers: In 2011, Kentucky spent $336,000 on football recruiting. The light show cost close to $300,000.
In short, Kentucky spend basically as much money on having a light show for a basketball pep rally than they spent on trying to recruit players for their football team.
Kentucky freshman forward Nerlens Noel has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season for the Wildcats.
NCAA spokesman Cameron Schuh said Wednesday the 6-foot-10, 228-pound Noel was "cleared to practice and play'' following a probe into the funding of unofficial visits to Kentucky.
A spokesman for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie calls the NCAA's decision to move championship games out of the state because of plans to legalize sports betting "ludicrous and hypocritical."
The college athletic association says it cannot host games in states where gambling is allowed on them. New Jersey plans to license sports betting as soon as Jan. 9th.
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak says the NCAA is penalizing New Jersey for legalizing what occurs illegally every day, often with the participation of organized crime. The spokesman also notes New Jersey's law bans betting on New Jersey college teams, or on any college game played here.
The NCAA and the major professional sports leagues are suing New Jersey to try to block the sports betting plan.
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2012-13 Early Season Events List
Kansas University’s men’s basketball recruiting Class of 2013 is currently ranked No. 2 in the country by ESPN.com.
The Jayhawks’ class of Conner Frankamp (No. 28 Rivals.com, No. 37 ESPN.com), Brannen Greene (No. 22 Rivals, No. 41 ESPN), Wayne Selden (No. 14 ESPN, No. 23 Rivals) and Frank Mason (No. 131 Rivals, unranked ESPN) trails only Kentucky’s class of Andrew Harrison (No. 2 ESPN, No. 4 Rivals), Aaron Harrison (No. 3 Rivals, No. 4 ESPN), James Young (No. 5 ESPN, No. 8 Rivals) and Derek Willis (No. 126 Rivals, unranked ESPN).
We’re hearing Rutgers and Syracuse are the teams to beat for 2013 Roselle Catholic forward Tyler Roberson. The Scarlet Knights have been desperately attempting to land a marquee wing under Mike Rice and the addition of Roberson could make Rutgers a legitimate NCAA Tournament threat over the next few seasons. An athletic combo forward whose best basketball ahead of him, the 6-8 Roberson is eerily similar to NBA star Trevor Ariza in terms of his instincts and body type.
Highly regarded 2013 power forward Aaron Gordon will continue his who's-who of basketball recruiting stops this weekend by taking in Arizona's Red-Blue intrasquad scrimmage.
It may take a long time, however, to find out if he has a really good time.
Tim Kennedy, Gordon's coach at Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, Calif., said Gordon plans to visit Kentucky sometime after this weekend and will not make a decision until next spring.
Gordon has already officially visited Oregon and Washington and last weekend visited Kansas for the Jayhawks' Late Night in the Phog preseason event. He has also seen California unofficially, though Kennedy said Gordon's list is pretty much the five schools he is visiting officially.
"He had a good trip to Kansas," Kennedy said. "He's definitely been even-keeled about it, and he's going to wait until spring to make a decision."
Arizona Daily Star
There’s a running joke among elite high school basketball players that college coaches “probably just change the names and forward the same texts,” according to Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.) senior forward Aaron Gordon.
He would know. The No. 6 overall prospect in the ESPN 100, Gordon has caught coaches double-dipping with their sales pitches.
“I had a school tell me that if I came there I’d definitely be Player of the Year, but then I talked to my friend and he told me that they told him the exact same thing,” said Gordon, who’s being courted by the likes of Kentucky, Arizona and Stanford. “I don’t know how we’re both going to be Player of the Year.”
…We caught up with a handful of elite recruits to find out what college coaches told them (and their friends):
Emmanuel Mudiay, Prime Prep Academy (Arlington, Texas)
Point Guard, Uncommitted
“Me and a few of my friends laugh about it all the time. This one coach told me that I could have the ball in my hands at all times, but then I found out he told one of my friends the same thing. I’m thinking, ‘How can we both have the ball?’”
Julius Randle, Prestonwood Christian Academy (Plano, Texas)
“They all say the same things. All of them. You can almost say it with them after a while. But that’s their job, so I understand. The funny thing for me is hearing that they tell another player he’s the priority in the class when they told me the same thing. We just laugh about it.”
Simeon Career Academy (Chicago) forward Jabari Parker, the nation's No. 1-ranked senior, doesn't plan to commit and sign during the early signing period, his father said on Tuesday.
Parker, a 6-foot-8 forward, recently cut his list from 10 to five schools: BYU, Duke, Florida, Michigan State and Stanford.
Parker is scheduled to visit Michigan State this weekend, Duke (Oct. 26-28), Florida (Nov. 2-4), Stanford (Nov. 9-11) and BYU (Nov. 16-20). He's previously made unofficial visits to all of the schools, except Florida.
The early signing period is from Nov. 14-21, and Parker would only have one day following his final visit to make a decision.
"I would like for him to commit and sign in one day," Parker's father Sonny Parker said. "He's doing this thing on his own, and I just have to support him. From what I'm hearing (from him), he's going to commit probably in December.
"He committed to his five visits. Maybe it'll change. As of now, everything has been scheduled."
In an education column on the NCAA’s website posted Wednesday, the organization explains that coaches are not allowed to use Instagram before sending a photo to a recruit. Here’s the excerpt:
Question: May a coach take a photo and use software (e.g., Instagram, Photoshop, Camera Awesome, Camera+,) to enhance the content of the photo (e.g., changed color of photo to sepia tones or add content to the photograph), and send it to a prospective student-athlete as an attachment it to an email or direct social media message?
Answer: No, a photograph that has been altered or staged for a recruiting purpose cannot be sent to a prospective student-athlete.
Using an Instagram filter is different than doctoring a photo to make it look like a recruit was wearing a certain team uniform, or something of that nature. It’s changing the lighting. It’s why we use it to take and share photos of our delicious home-cooked meals with friends (because we may not be good cooks, but everything looks tastier with the “earlybird” filter.)
The NCAA still leaves some unanswered questions related to Instagram use. How does this give one coach a recruiting advantage over another? What if a coach uses the app to take the photo but doesn’t apply a filter — is that kosher? And what if a coach posts a photo from Instagram onto his Twitter feed, like Kentucky coach John Calipari does? Is that OK because it’s not sent directly to a recruit?
So many questions. So many filters. So little time.
With an ESPN crew and dozens of friends, family members and classmates on hand, Deer Valley High basketball star Marcus Lee orally committed to Kentucky on Wednesday.
Rated a five-star prospect by Rivals, Lee chose the defending NCAA champions over Cal during a ceremony at his school's gymnasium.
The 6-foot-9, 205-pound forward made his decision just days after returning from his official visit to Kentucky, where he was on hand for the program's Midnight Madness celebration "Big Blue Madness."
At the ceremony, Deer Valley basketball coach LeChet Phillips and volleyball coach Lou Panzella both spoke to Lee's talent and character before Lee took the floor and announced his decision.
"The atmosphere (at Kentucky) is crazy," Lee said. "Once I got there I got treated with so much love. ... The coaches force-fed me love and passion. I felt like if I was going to go somewhere really far and my parents weren't going to be there I felt I had other types of parents that were going to look out for me."
Contra Costa Times
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