Self and Obama Chat Basketball

Dec. 7, 2011

OSAWATOMIE, Kan. – An e-mail request to meet the President of the United States is not what most people have pop-up in their in-box on any given day, but for Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self, that was exactly what he saw on his computer screen a day ago.

President Obama was scheduled to visit Osawatomie, Kan. on Tuesday morning to make a speech about the economy, and while he was in the Sunflower State, the leader of the free world wanted to meet the leader of Jayhawk nation.

“I got an e-mail yesterday inviting me to come meet the President,” Self explained. “It said that his speech would last until 2 p.m., and I thought, ‘I can’t do that because I have shoot-around!’ So I received an e-mail back saying, he (President Obama) understands, he just wants to meet you.”

Not wanting to disappoint the most powerful person in the country, Self decided to take the short hour-and-fifteen minute drive to the Miami County town and meet the 44th President.

“I drove to Osawatomie this morning and caught him when he was first getting there,” Self said. “We visited for a while… and the talk about him being a big basketball fan is not just talk. He legitimately knows a lot of what’s going on in college athletics.”

120711aaa_218_3659438.jpegFor coach Self, rubbing elbows with the world’s most recognizable is nothing new. That is because Mr. Obama marks the third President and second sitting President he has met.

“Bill Clinton came here with Senator Dole (in 2004) and they used our locker room, which was a neat experience for us. Of course the best experience was actually going to the White House (in 2008 after KU’s national championship) and meeting President Bush. Our families actually went into the Oval Office and spent time with him,” Self explained. “But meeting President Obama was a great treat and is certainly one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.”

While Obama and Self could have chatted at length about basketball and KU, he only had but a few short minutes to shoot the breeze as more pressing matters awaited the President’s attention.

“It is amazing what these people have to go through because every second of their life is planned out,” Self said. “He (Obama) gave me like six minutes to talk and I think he was only allotted five.”

Even though the meeting was short, Self told the President he would like to make a return trip to the nation’s capital sometime next year, but only under one condition.

“I told him, ‘With all due respect Mr. President, just don’t pick us to win anything ever again’, because he picked us (in the NCAA Tournament) two years in a row. He had a good sense of humor about it.”

As for the season at hand, Obama was interested in the coach’s feelings about his current KU squad.

“I told him that I like our guys because they try hard. We are not quite as deep as we have been in the past but I do believe that we have a chance.”

As for the chance that Coach Self had yesterday morning, it was one he was most certainly not going to pass up. That’s because his past presidential experiences made such an impact on him.

“The one thing that my past visits have shown me is the respect you should have as an American for that office,” Self said in his post game press conference on Tuesday night. “So when I was invited today, it was a no brainer for me to go, as long as it did not interfere with anything going on here, and it didn’t.”

It remains unknown whether Self and his team will head to Washington D.C. next summer to meet again with Barack Obama. While he and the Jayhawks will sure try their hardest to, the veteran coach knows no matter what, that cold December morning in a small Eastern Kansas town will be one he remembers for some time.