Q&A With Kansas Men's Basketball Coach Bill Self

Sept. 14, 2007

<?xml:namespace prefix=”st1″ ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags”?>Kansas head men’s basketball coach Bill Self recently discussed the Jayhawks for the upcoming 2007-08 season. Here is the Q&A with the 2006 Big 12 Coach of the Year who has guided KU to each of the last three conference regular-season titles, the last two Big 12 tourney championships and the NCAA Elite Eight in 2007.<?xml:namespace prefix=”o” ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office”?>

–Kansas returns four starters, 13 of 14 letterwinners, 85 percent of its scoring, 80 percent of its rebounding and 86 percent of it minutes from last year’s team. What will be the key for success on this year’s team?

Bill Self: “Last year’s team really liked each other and they shared the ball; they weren’t selfish. I also believe that will be a big key to this year’s success – understanding that we have good players and not really caring who gets the credit or the bulk of the minutes or shots. What we care about is being as good as we can be. Intangibles will probably be the most important thing with this team.”

–This season’s senior class – Jeremy Case, Darnell Jackson, Sasha Kaun, Russell Robinson and Rodrick Stewart – has the opportunity to win four straight Big 12 regular-season titles (a feat that has actually happened five times at KU, last being from 1995-98). Could you comment on how this class has impacted Kansas basketball?

Bill Self: “This class came in as our first full recruiting class and came in as an unheralded group. To see what this group has accomplished, along with the help of some good underclassmen, is amazing. Having the opportunity to play for a fourth consecutive Big 12 Championship speaks volumes for what these young men mean to this program.”

–Who will be the headliners this year for Kansas?

Bill Self: “I think the headliners will be by committee; different guys on different nights. You would think our four returning leading scorers, being Brandon (Rush), Mario (Chalmers), Shady (Darrell Arthur) and Sherron Collins would be the ones that most people would look to as headliners.”

–You bring in another solid freshmen class – Cole Aldrich, Chase Buford, Tyrel Reed, Conner Teahan. How do you see these guys impacting this season’s team?

Bill Self: “I hope that a couple of them can. I think we have one of the biggest deals out there in Conner Teahan, getting him to come, paying his own way, when he had opportunities to go to many mid-major type schools. I think eventually he will help us. I’m looking for Cole (Aldrich) and Tyrel (Reed) to be a part of our rotation very early in their career.”

–Goals and expectations for this season?

Bill Self: “My goal is the same as always. I hope we just allow ourselves to be as good as we can possibly be and if we do those things I think that we’ll be one of the premier teams around.”

–Year-in and year-out Kansas has one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation. Is this year’s tough because of what you have coming back?

Bill Self: “That could be part of it. For the first time in three years we’ve been able to say we have an experienced team coming back and so that may have played into it a little. The bottom line is we’re going to play at least five known programs year in and year out and this year the five we play are very, very difficult. The five we play will all have very good teams.”

–Can you size up the Big 12 race? Where does Kansas fit in?

Bill Self: “We had a coaching change at (Texas) A&M. They’re good and return a lot of guys and they’re very good inside. Texas is huge and they return their perimeter. OklahomaState has some great players back. KansasState should be one of the most talented teams in the league, without question. Missouri returns a majority of their guys. It’s going to be a very, very talented league that we’ll have a chance to do well in if we perform to the best of our ability.”

–Kansas was ranked in the Top 10 for most of last season. Can you size up the Jayhawks in the national race this season?

Bill Self: “I would say that we’d have a chance if Brandon (Rush) comes back healthy to be a top-five team from a talent standpoint. Whether or not we play to that remains to be seen.”

–Last year Kansas was the target and withstood all challengers to tie for the fourth most wins in school history with 33, win the Big 12 regular season and Big 12 Tournament and advance to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. With what returns, how much pressure do you, your staff and these players feel with the same target in 2007-08?

Bill Self: “There’s always going to be pressure here to perform well. Each team is different, but there will not be additional pressure because of their performance last year. Last year, things fell right for us. We had favorable scheduling within the Big 12. Who knows how things will play out? Our goal will be to be as good as we can be when it counts the most.”

–You have had numerous players try out for USA national teams and go to other well known camps – Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers, Sherron Collins, Sasha Kaun. Could you comment on the importance of these tryouts to these players?

Bill Self: “I think going to these different camps or trying out for different teams is great because we see things through our own eyes here at Kansas and we do not have a great feel for what is going on nationally. Being able to play against the nation’s elite is great to let you know where you are at this particular moment with your own personal game and development. I think those are all very positive.”

–Last year was such a historic season, Kansas’ fourth straight, seventh Big 12 and 50th overall conference title, the school’s 1,900th all-time win, your 300th career win. When Kansas wins its fourth home game this season it will mark the 600th all-time victory in Allen Fieldhouse. How does it make you feel to be part of such historic feats in Kansas basketball?

Bill Self: “It’s great, but by no means is it a reflection of this team like it is a reflection of everybody that has put on a uniform before these guys. Kansas tradition and history is second to none and when you think about all the great players and coaches have been here, I think it’s an awesome responsibility to be caretakers for the period of time we’re here and we look at that with great pride.”

–Your staff has changed with Tim Jankovich moving on to be the head coach at IllinoisState. How has Danny Manning fit into his new role as an assistant coach at Kansas?

Bill Self: “He’s done fine. It’s still early for him from a recruiting standpoint. He’s out on the road, he’s eager, he’s aggressive and he’s going to be an excellent recruiter. I know, positively, he is going to be a great coach. I think he fits in well; he’s certainly paid his dues. To sit back the last four years and although he had a major role, it was not the one that would allow him to utilize all of his talents, but now he really has the chance to really impact the program in a bigger way.”

–Kansas will play two events in the new SprintCenter in Kansas City – vs. OhioUniversity on Dec. 15 and at the Big 12 Championship, March 13-16. What are your thoughts on the league tournament moving back to Kansas City?

Bill Self: “I’m excited about SprintCenter. It will be fabulous. I really feel that the Big 12 returning to Kansas City will certainly be comparable to the Big Eight (Tournament) in Kansas City many years ago; where it was as good a post-season tournament there was in the nation. I think the city will support it. I think that Oklahoma City did a great job this past year, but Kansas City is a site that all colleges in the league will look at and say they did it right.”