Kansas coach Self seeks second title, place in history | Sports

NEW ORLEANS — Kansas trainer Bill Self reveals himself in the similar state of affairs that longtime North Carolina trainer Dean Smith as soon as did.

Both had gained nationwide championships at their respective faculties, two of the proudest within the historical past of basketball, and each had piled extra Final Four appearances on best of them. Along the way in which, each and every slipped right into a coveted gold jacket from the Hall of Fame, one thing intended to constitute the crowning success for a faculty trainer.

Yet it took Smith, who grew up in southeast Kansas and performed for the Jayhawks, greater than a decade to win a validating 2d nationwide championship with the Tar Heels. And it has likewise been 14 years and counting since Self captured his first with the Jayhawks.

Perhaps fittingly, Self gets every other crack at his 2d in opposition to the Tar Heels on Monday evening on the Superdome.

“Coach doesn’t need to do anything to be one of the greats,” stated the Jayhawks’ Mitch Lightfoot, “but I think we would all like to win another, as any coach in America would like to win another.

“We want to go out there and fight for him,” Lightfoot said. “He means the world to us and we want to go fight for him.”

Unlike so many coaches who seek the spotlight, Self would rather do just about anything than talk about himself. He has an uncanny ability to take any question about him, or his legacy, and deflect it entirely or spin the answer in the context of his program, for which he routinely calls himself nothing more than “a caretaker.”

But he’s also the first to admit that hanging one national title banner since 1988 in the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse is not enough. Nor are three NCAA titles in the history of the program. And the long period since Self’s own in 2008 doesn’t cut it for the school that produced Wilt Chamberlain whose first coach, James Naismith, invented the game.

“At most places winning one national championship would be quite an accomplishment,” Self stated Sunday, someday after Kansas beat Villanova within the Final Four. “I think as many good teams as we’ve had, one’s not enough. And so I don’t think that I personally feel pressure that we have to win, but I do know that when you have a chance to coach at a place where you have an opportunity to be in the game most years, you need to take advantage of that more than we have.”

Indeed, Self has won 762 games during his career, including his time at Oral Roberts, Tulsa and Illinois, and given another year he is certain to pass Lou Henson, Lute Olson and Lefty Driesell and approach the top 10 on the career list.

As it stands, nine of the 15 ahead of him have won multiple titles. That includes Roy Williams, who led Kansas to four Final Fours but did not win a championship until returning to North Carolina, where he won three before retiring last year.

The coaches who have won multiple championships, who took the leap from being a great coach to one of the all-time greats: John Wooden at UCLA and Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, Adolph Rupp at Kentucky and Bob Knight at Indiana. And yes, Smith, whose two titles with the Tar Heels matches such luminaries as Henry Iba and Denny Crum.

That is the the rarified company that Self is still trying to join.

“He’s a part of that group. He just is,” Tar Heels coach Hubert Davis said. “The job that he’s done throughout his entire career, not just on the court, but in the classroom, in the community, the way that he loves his players, how hard his players play for him, the impact that he’s made for his players, not only in basketball but in life, that’s the determining factor to me on a really good coach. That it’s not just about basketball. It’s about people. It’s about relationships.”

Self is in some ways a posh particular person.

He’s intensely aggressive but is aware of when to place the sport into correct viewpoint. He’s a herbal charmer with an “aw shucks” angle that serves him neatly within the kitchen’s of recruits, but he too can cuss like a sailor when there’s a ignored name — or no less than one he thinks used to be ignored — throughout a vital juncture of a recreation.

He’s additionally a circle of relatives guy who liked not anything greater than training his son, Tyler Self, and nonetheless catches himself in search of recommendation from his father, an established trainer and educator, although Bill Self Sr. gave up the ghost in January.

“I actually probably have talked to him more in the last couple of months than I probably did when he was still living,” Self said. “I don’t know there’s any specific things. I know when we get in a bind, ‘All right, what do you think? What do we need to do here.’ Stuff like that. But everybody goes through stuff. And certainly my stuff isn’t bigger than anybody else’s.”

There is some stuff that looms quite large over Self and his program.

The past few years, the Jayhawks have played amid the shadow of an NCAA investigation that found five Level I infractions within the program, including a charge leveled directly at the head coach. It was part of a larger FBI probe into college basketball corruption that ensnared several big-time programs, and that has left Kansas awaiting its fate from independent arbitrators that were empaneled in part because of the legal complexity of the case.

The potential for serious and lasting NCAA penalties has not made it any easier for Self to win another championship.

“We’ve been dealing with some stuff off the court for a while,” he admitted, “but there was never a doubt that we didn’t have the potential to get back here because two out of the last three years we’ve been arguably as good as anybody.”

Three years in the past, the Jayhawks had a staff constructed to win in March, that includes implementing Udoka Azubuike, the dynamic Devon Dotson and a forged of characters that gave the impression destined to chop down the nets. They had been unbeatable from January on, successful all however one recreation within the Big 12 and positioning themselves for the No. 1 general seed within the NCAA Tournament.

It in the end took COVID-19 to prevent them. The pandemic impulsively ended the season and their championship hopes.

Now, with a number of of the similar avid gamers at the staff, the Jayhawks are inside of one win of completing the activity.

If they may be able to beat North Carolina on Monday evening, Lightfoot and Christian Braun and Ochai Agbaji will in the end get to chop down the ones nets, and Self will in the end have the second one nationwide championship that has see you later eluded him.

“It’s time. We got here. This was the goal all along,” Braun stated. “We always say, ‘We come to Kansas to play in big games,’ but we come to Kansas to play in national championship games. Everybody is feeling good right now. We are all confident. It’s time to put another national championship banner up.”

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