Self Looking to Make History... Again

Jan. 2, 2011


If you are Clark Gable, how do you follow “Gone With the Wind?” If you are Pink Floyd, how do you follow “Dark Side of the Moon?” And if you are Bill Self, how on earth do you follow your sixth consecutive conference championship? You could probably say that the 2008 national championship is the most impressive bullet point on Self’s resume, but finishing atop the Big 12 standings every year since the 2004-05 season is not far behind.

Take a moment to reflect on the history of Kansas basketball. Think of all the successful teams, great coaches and talented players that the program has seen. Only at one other time in Kansas’ history has a team won six consecutive conference titles, and that was when Calvin Coolidge was president during the 1920’s. This year’s team is going for an unprecedented seventh-straight conference title, and anytime a team or a coach has the opportunity to accomplish something that has never been done in KU’s history, it is safe to say it is pretty significant.

“There are very few teams in college basketball anywhere that have ever won six or seven conference titles in a row,” Self said. “That doesn’t happen in today’s time very often. I think the only one who has done it is Gonzaga. It is a great accomplishment, but Kansas has always won conference titles because it, without question, leads the country in the number of conference championships over time. Certainly, the groups that we have had here have added to that. In a BCS conference with so much turnover with players, it is hard to win year in and year out.”

Self is correct. Even the most elite group of college basketball programs have not been able to duplicate Kansas’ conference success in recent memory. While the Big 12 coaches’ poll called for Kansas State to win the league this year, the Jayhawks have looked strong and dominant early, and look poised to make another run for first place. Self admits that although the team has looked impressive thus far, he won’t have a clear idea of how good his team can actually be until all the pieces are put into place.

“I feel good about this team,” Self said. “I think we play well in spurts. We certainly haven’t put together 40 minutes. I’m not sure how many other teams have put together a good 40 minutes this early in the season. I like our team a lot, but I see a lot of room for improvements.”

“With this team, I probably won’t get a true feel until we get all of our players (on the court together). It will be important to see how that impacts us. I like our team a lot now, I think we can have some success. But, I think to really gauge what the ceiling is for this team, we’ve got to have all of our players.”

Self is of course referring to freshman guard Josh Selby, perhaps the most talented recruit he has landed in his tenure at Kansas. When Selby becomes available to play on December 18, he figures to make the team even tougher to beat.

Taking more of a hands-off approach and letting his teams figure out how to play together on their own is something Self has been working on in recent years and will look to continue this season.

“I’d say, from a playing standpoint, I probably trust the players more and give them more freedom now than when I first got here,” Self said. “I think that has a lot to do with me changing as a coach as time has changed. I used to like to control the game more. Now, I like the players to control the game.”

Not only does Self’s 2010-11 Jayhawk squad look to control games, it looks to control the conference once again. It will no doubt be difficult with the massive target on its back, but assuming the team grows and performs to expectations, Bill Self will yet again make history in Kansas basketball.