Kevin Haskin: Bill Self’s rapid rate of wins reflection of KU basketball’s stability

Current Jayhawk coach needs one victory to tie Roy Williams for second on all-time list

Kansas coach Bill Self can earn his 418th win with the Jayhawks by beating No. 5 Kentucky on Tuesday night in the Champions Classic. That would tie Roy Williams for No. 2 all-time at KU. (File photograph/The Associated Press)

CHICAGO — One more victory and Bill Self moves into a tie for second place with Roy Williams on the all-time wins list among basketball coaches at Kansas.

 

Big deal?

Not with how his team performs Tuesday against Kentucky in the Champions Classic.

“I did not know (about the win totals), but obviously he had an unbelievable career here and obviously we’ve been able to be pretty consistent since we’ve been here, so that’s something that’s nice,’’ Self said.

“But that really won’t mean much. If we were fortunate enough to win the game, I don’t think there would be one thought in anyone’s mind that, ‘You tied Roy for wins at Kansas.’ I don’t think that will be part of the equation at all and certainly doesn’t need to be.’’

Many of the Jayhawks were just learning to dribble and hoisting shots from their hips when KU’s 15th-year coach took over the program in 2003-04.

Yet that transition had its skeptics. In large part because Williams had been so successful winning 418 games in, yes, 15 seasons at KU.

This is the 120th season Kansas has played basketball and only Phog Allen won more games, 590 over 39 seasons. At the pace he is on, Self could pass that win total in six additional seasons.

Which would also mean he stuck around, something Williams did not do. Williams entered this his 15th season at North Carolina with 399 wins and three national championships.

Self, of course, claimed something at Kansas that eluded Williams, a national title. The four Final Four bids Williams attained for the Jayhawks exceeds the two the Jayhawks have managed under Self.

Comparisons are like splitting shoestrings on high-tops.

Competitively, both coaches have been great for KU. The program, unlike just about any other elite major, has excelled for 30-plus years, beginning with Larry Brown’s arrival, his two trips with the Jayhawks to the Final Four and the 1988 national title.

Think about that extensive time frame and realize at Kansas there has been …

No eight-win seasons like North Carolina went through under Matt Doherty to end a streak of 27 consecutive NCAA berths.

No NIT consolation bids like Kentucky accepted under Billy Gillispie to end an 18-year string of NCAA appearances.

No inconsistent stretches following the tumultuous removal of a controversial coach such as Indiana has experienced since the dismissal of Bob Knight.

No problems maintaining tradition established in a different era that overshadow operations at UCLA because of John Wooden’s incomparable success.

Even Duke finished 13-18 in 1995 when Mike Krzyzewski stepped away after 12 games to undergo back surgery and also recover from exhaustion.

Of course, arguments will still be waged from time to time regarding Bill and Roy, Roy and Bill.

Those who value appearances in the Final Four — an event known by that name as much as the national championship eventually contested — will favor Roy and point to Self’s troubles advancing past the Elite Eight.

At Late Night this year, even Self alluded to his 2-5 record with KU in Elite Eight appearances and told a packed house in Allen Fieldhouse, “We’ve knocked on the door. We’ve beaten the door. It’s time for this team to kick the door in.’’

It can be done — in big fashion considering Self did claim an NCAA title with the Jayhawks, though that was 10 years ago.

Granted, if KU topples Kentucky, the discussion will not be, and should not be, about the tie between Self and Williams with 418 wins coaching the Jayhawks.

By reaching that point this quickly into his 15th season, Self bagged his total faster than Williams and did so with 13 consecutive Big 12 titles that factor into his .826 win percentage at KU. Also, Self is 3-0 against Williams in games between KU and North Carolina.

Yet some, perhaps those who majored in Kansas math, contend Roy did more for the Jayhawks than Bill.

What always matters most, however, is what you’ve done lately. For the Jayhawks, that involves an opportunity Tuesday to gain a third straight win in the blueblood series with Kentucky.

For mid-November that’s a suitable goal.

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