Let’s make one thing clear about all this chatter of Kansas basketball coach Bill Self’s aspirations for the NBA: All Self said was that, if the NBA comes knocking, he’d answer the door.
Which is a good bit different than Self asking the NBA if it’s interested in him, then taking the NBA out for dinner, a movie and an all-out wooing session.
“I only said, ‘Sure, I’d be open to it,’ ” Self told FOXSports.com on Tuesday, a bit flabbergasted by the storm surrounding his comments to The Oklahoman newspaper the night before. “That was something taken way out of context.”
Isn’t there something refreshingly honest about a coach admitting he’d consider a different job if it came his way, instead of pledging loyalty to his current school when we all know no job is forever? As much as Jayhawk fans would like to think Self’s already bought himself a burial plot next to Allen Fieldhouse, the truth is any coaching job — even the best coaching jobs, like Kansas — is a business relationship, not a promise of lifetime fidelity.
Back in June, I was sitting in Brad Stevens’ office at Butler, chatting about the charm of historic Hinkle Fieldhouse, about his school’s transition to the Big East, and most of all about all those false rumors the past few years about him interviewing for other college head-coaching jobs. He told me about how surreal it was to be fishing in his suburban Indianapolis backyard with his son when his phone started blowing up, people asking about reports that he was currently at another college campus, interviewing for a different job. Sitting in his office that day, Stevens didn’t promise he’d stay at Butler forever, but he gave absolutely no indication he was eyeing another job.
Later that night was when he first got contacted by the Boston Celtics. A week later he left the school he’d vaulted into national prominence, and he became an NBA coach. Who could blame him?
The same goes for Bill Self. Kudos to him for admitting he’s open to the possibility of another job instead of playing into our fallacy that coaches should be married to their institutions. Anyway, it’s not as if Self would be in any rush. He told FOXSports.com that the Kansas job is one of the best in the country. And a year ago Self’s contract was restructured to extend through 2022 with a raise to $3.86 million a year.
It should be noted that Self’s contract did not come with a buyout penalty, a common clause in college head-coaching contracts. (For example, Steve Alford’s contract with UCLA has a $10.6 million buyout for both the school and for Alford, like a prenuptial agreement where a stiff penalty kicks in if Alford takes another job or if the school fires him before 2016.) That means, should Self decide to take an NBA job — or one of the few college jobs that might be considered more high-profile than Kansas — he won’t have to go broke doing so.
The comments that Self made to spark this storm? Self was asked by The Oklahoman about whether he’d been tempted to jump to the NBA. “It hasn’t really tempted me because I haven’t had that many people talk to me about it. But at some point and time, sure I think it would. It would be great to be able to match wits with the best athletes in the world, but I’m certainly happy where I’m at.”
When we spoke Tuesday, Self clarified his comments by giving a bit of personal context.
“In my situation, I made a mistake before when I was coaching at Illinois,” he said. “When I first got the job, I made a mistake. I said I was in it for the long haul, and I totally meant it, but I only stayed three years. I learned from then that you don’t really say anything directly. Because you never know. But anybody who knows me knows I’m totally locked in where I’m at.”
As he should be. On top of the job security of being as close as you’ll ever get to Jayhawk-head-coach-for-life, on top of the millions he’s making to lead one of the nation’s best basketball programs, on top of the legit shot he has at being one of the greatest college coaches of all time (507 wins and only 50 years old), Bill Self is welcoming his greatest recruiting class ever to Kansas.
He’s got the No. 2-ranked recruiting class in the country coming in this season. In Andrew Wiggins he has the best player coming out of high school since The Chosen One. He’s got a preseason top-five team and a great shot at his second national title. He’s also got a chance to expand his coaching reputation, from that of a coach who has historically been great at developing raw talents into NBA players (Jeff Withey, Thomas Robinson, the Morris twins) to a coach who can also turn meteoric young talents into polished superstars (Ben McLemore, Wiggins).
So Kansas fans, don’t worry about Bill Self dumping you for the NBA. Not just yet. Know it’s a possibility, as it is with every great coach. Know that only a fool would ignore the NBA’s entreaties if they actually came.
But also know that it’s nothing imminent, and that the NBA is far from the front of his mind.
“Nobody has flirted with me,” Self told FOXSports.com. “It’s not like I’m on everybody’s wish list or anything like that. I really don’t know what it would take. But it would have to be awfully good though. Even a so-called better job — I don’t know what job would be better than the one I have right now.”
Follow Reid Forgrave on Twitter @reidforgrave or email him at [email protected].