Kevin Haskin: Expect reference to Naismith in Bill Self’s induction speech

Kansas coach to be inducted Friday into hoops hall in Springfield, Mass

Kansas Jayhawks head coach Bill Self watches his team against the Kansas State Wildcats during an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in Lawrence. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

LAWRENCE — One speech to be delivered during the induction ceremony for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame could have been spoiled Tuesday.


Bill Self, however, was not going to provide his complete remarks at a news conference, or even give the media an advance copy of the speech he began working on since learning of his induction in April.

Expect Self, however, to share something Friday about James Naismith, the Hall of Fame’s namesake, the inventor of basketball and the first coach at Kansas.

“It’s pretty cool to have Naismith Drive go right by Allen Fieldhouse and that’s where you office,’’ said Self, who will mark his 15th season at KU in 2017-18.

“It’s a strong connection and certainly pretty surreal that you get the phone call that you’re going to be inducted while you’re driving down Naismith Drive.’’

When he got his start in coaching, Self also drove that same street, worked in the same storied building and was a graduate assistant for another Hall of Fame coach.

Working under Larry Brown, Self earned $4,400.

Bill Self comments on Larry Brown on Tuesday.

So a stark grasp of reality accompanies anything surreal regarding his coaching career.

“I was thinking, where can I go eat free in town?’’ Self recalled. “Who could I give my two free complimentary tickets to who would actually pay for them?’’

Opportunities to work under Brown, who will present Self at his hall induction, as well as Leonard Hamilton and Eddie Sutton helped Self attain his first head coaching job at the age of 30.

He promptly lost 18 straight that first season at ORU, going 6-21 and 10-17. Soon, Self was scrambling to climb to .500, a mark he exceeded by winning 31 of the last 38 games he coached for the independent Tulsa school.

“It was just the perfect time to be a head coach at a place where my mistakes weren’t magnified, but I was really fortunate at a young age,’’ said Self, 54.

“It was pretty ridiculously amazing that just because of contacts, and being in the right place at the right time, how doors have opened.’’

To an extent, perhaps.

Self, however, also earned every promotion he accepted — from Oral Roberts to Tulsa to Illinois to Kansas. He continually exceeded expectations, then found himself back at a place, KU, where expectations can be exceedingly high.

Self’s KU teams have captured one national title, reached another Final Four, played for NCAA regional championships seven times and, of course, captured 13 Big 12 titles. Consecutively.

The record could be better, of course, particularly with some additional Final Four berths. Yet no one at Kansas has ever protected its fabled court better than Self and his squads, which stand 220-10 in Allen Fieldhouse.

That connection to KU and its tradition, in Self’s mind, greatly influenced his induction into the hall while still active — very much so — as a college coach.

“This is sad to say, but the reason I have a chance to go into the hall is because I coach at Kansas. Let’s be real,’’ Self said. “You’re at this place, where there’s so much attention and history.

“Everybody who’s coached here has had unparalleled success, just about. It’s unbelievable among the eight coaches, the success all of them have had and what they’ve meant to our sport.’’

That doesn’t make the job easy, however.

Self was especially adept at getting his ORU, Tulsa and Illinois teams to thrive as underdogs.

That label was abandoned the instant he accepted the KU job. So Self adapted and learned to coach high-profile recruits, while also relying on proven veterans each season.

“Tough to me is when you have expectations to win, but you have no players,’’ Self said. “That’s what’s tough. Tough is when you just got laid off, but you’ve still got a family to provide for. That would be tough. Adjusting because it’s a new style or new expectations, that just goes with the territory.’’

Territory that has led to 416 wins and counting with the Jayhawks, and 623 in 24 seasons overall.

A career presumably far from over, which makes Self’s induction seem a bit premature. Not that anyone at the after-party Friday in Springfield, Mass, will mention that detail while toasting the 20th basketball figure with KU connections to be inducted into the Naismith basketball hall.

“I’m certainly not going to give it back,’’ Self said.

No reason to considering how far Self has come since first arriving at Kansas — when he was steering something far more clunky down Naismith Drive.

Contact Kevin Haskin at or @KevinHaskin on Twitter.



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