Bill Self Previews Senior Day, Iowa State

Video Link Coach Self Press Conference
Video Link Senior Press Conference


Bill Self

Q. When you saw Iowa State would be here this coming Saturday early on, did you figure this game was going to be the game that decides what happens in the conference race?
COACH SELF: I’m surprised it happened before this, and so, yeah, I thought this would be a game in which, it would definitely have conference championship implications for us, for them, for other teams that are still in the league that would be fighting for it. Fortunately, for us, we took care of business this past week.

But I certainly have always circled this game as being one of the biggest games on our Big 12 schedule, in large part because they’ve had so much success against us the last five times we’ve played.

Q. Will you still play the game as if there’s something on the line?
COACH SELF: Yeah, there’s still stuff on the line. I think that (seniors) Perry (Ellis) and Hunter (Mickelson) and Jamari (Traylor) and Evan (Manning) deserve to have a memorable day. In order for it to be memorable, you’ve got to win for it to be most memorable. We’ll play the normal way. We’re going to start all our seniors and Frank (Mason III).

Frank and Evan will start the guards and Perry at the three and Jamari and Hunter inside, so that will be how we start. I don’t know how long we’ll stay with that, but I certainly hope that group can play well early. But we’re going to play the game just like it would be any other game.

Q. While you were growing up, how conscious were you of the UCLA dynasty?
COACH SELF: No, I wasn’t. I wasn’t conscious of that. I had known that they had won 10 and 12 years or whatnot, but when you think of UCLA, you think of National Championships. You don’t think of conference championships. So what’s kind of unique about their streak of winning 13 in a row, which would be remarkable any time, is that I believe four of them were done after Coach Wooden retired. They weren’t all done under Coach Wooden. So that’s a little bit unique because I think UCLA’s streak — you just naturally think of Coach Wooden, but there were some other guys that had coached the team after he retired.

Conference streaks are great, and I’m really proud of ours and what we’ve got going. But winning National Championships far outweighs that, without question. But in today’s time where there’s so much balance and so many good teams, it is a nice feat that our guys have been able to accomplish.

Q. Do you have a favorite Perry Ellis old man joke?
COACH SELF: No, there’s been some unique ones that are all in good taste. Whether it be “My grandfather posterized Perry Ellis” or whatever it would be. But the bottom line, he has been around a while. But he gets crap for being around a while but we could say the same thing about Georges (Niang, Iowa State) or about Buddy (Hield, Oklahoma) or some of those other guys being around forever as well. It’s just in today’s time, you just don’t see good players sticking around all four years very often.

Q. The last eight games I think you’re allowing 34 percent from the field, which ranks up with some of those really good teams you’ve had defensively. Can you compare/contrast this team defensively?
COACH SELF: I think we’ve gotten better. I don’t think we’re as good defensively as our best teams have been historically. But over a period of time, a small sample (of the time) we probably played comparable defense. Even though Landen (Lucas) has become a much better rim protector for us, it’s a little bit different when you’ve got (Joel) Embiid back there than maybe when you have guys that are naturally bigger.

But I think we’re a pretty good defensive team, I think we guard actions fairly well. I still think we struggle guarding the ball, which is the hardest thing to guard, and we’ve had other teams that do that much better. But we’ve gotten better. I wouldn’t put this team at the top of some of the other defensive teams we’ve had. But for us to have a great finish, we’re going to have to play to that elite level and hopefully we will continue to get a little bit better.

Q. Are you guys playing better defense than you have the past couple of years, at least?
COACH SELF: Yes. All of our teams have shown flashes of really good and really poor. I think every team does that. But here of late — now granted Iowa State can come hang a hundred on us —  but here of late, we have guarded better than probably for a longer period of time than the last two teams had. The last two teams were probably the weakest we’ve been. And we’ve had some really good defensive teams, but the last two teams were probably the weakest we’ve been defensively that I can remember, and statistically probably so too.

So this year’s team, if you look at the Big 12 numbers, the Big 12 numbers are pretty consistent to what past Big 12 numbers would be. If you look at our entire season, it would be not as good because we obviously didn’t get off to a good start defensively this year.

Q. You wanted Perry to focus on NBA-distance threes in the off-season. Has that added dimension helped his pro prospects from what you can gather?
COACH SELF: Well, yes. Perry was told, and rightfully so, that in order to be an impact player at the next level, obviously, you’ve got to be a stretch four because he’s not big enough. We see that in college he’s not even big, so at the next level he wouldn’t be big enough to play inside. So he’s going to have to do some things to move around on the perimeter. I think we’ve all seen, not only from a shooting standpoint, but from a ball handling standpoint, that he’s really improved in both of those areas.

Q. Did you recruit Perry longer than any player in your career?
COACH SELF: I don’t know. I saw him play his first high school game as a freshman, so I think it was his first one. Of course, we knew of him even before then. So the answer would probably be yes. I know Danny (Manning) was a huge player in his recruitment and the point man for most of it. But I’d say we probably spent more years recruiting Perry than we have anybody else.

Q. Can you put a finger on where he might rank among all-time players from the state of Kansas? I know you haven’t lived here all your life.
COACH SELF: I’ve got a pretty good feel. You know, you start thinking about Lucius Allen and some of those guys; that’s a level that’s really, really, really high. I mean, you’re talking about arguably one of the very best guards in the NBA at one time, and of course, a great player at UCLA, and there are others.

But I really think, at least in the modern era, that I have been around, going back probably from the early ’80s on, I would say he’d have to be in the discussion to be on the all-time all-Kansas team based on what he’s done and what he did in high school and his four years of college have been stellar. (Wayne) Simien would have to be in the mix with that group, without question, and depending if (Brandon) Rush grew up on which side of the state line, he would be in that discussion. All three of them would be in there and there would be obviously many more.

But to me, he’s got a chance to be in the Top 10 in both at our school in scoring and rebounding and he didn’t start as a freshman. That’s a pretty special deal. So most of those guys probably would have started four years. He’s had a great consistent run.

When I think of Perry, I don’t think of the best, I think of consistency. If he was a golfer, he’d just go out and shoot par every day, one of those guys. He’s not one of those guys that the highs are so high and the lows are low; he’s just steady. I think that’s something that we’ve really grown to not only to respect, but also at times to take for granted, because he has been so steady.

Q. How much have you depended on that aspect this season where other guys have lacked consistency?
COACH SELF: If you look at our team, we’ve had Perry be great, Devonte’ (Graham) had a great games. Wayne (Selden Jr.) obviously had great games, Frank be stellar. We’ve had guys that have played at a really high level. But those guys have also not played at near the high level, and Perry’s played at that high level, but his bad is better than everybody else’s bad, at least so far. When he doesn’t have a good game, he still gets numbers which a lot of times even good players don’t do that.

Q. What will your emotions will be like on Senior Day? What’s it like for you?
COACH SELF: Well, it’s pretty comparable most every year. There are some classes that you would think would maybe hit home a little bit more than other classes. This will be one that will hit home more for me because these guys, just to know Evan, watching him grow up, living down the street.

Hunter, when I think of all the sacrifices he’s made and left another program to come be with us, and it hadn’t worked out perfect for him from a playing time standpoint, but nobody’s more respected and not a better person, not a better teammate.

Then Jamari, to me, he’ll go down as one of my all-time guys because just to see where he started and where he is now is just totally remarkable.

Then Perry, you’ve got the rock of all rocks. So, you know, this is a special group. They’ve won a lot of games, but this is a special group for intangibles probably more so than winning.

Q. What hits you most about Jamari? You’ve talked about his story a lot.
COACH SELF: Just watching him mature. Without going into too much, he was dealt a hand that most of us will never see, fortunately. There are multiple hands that would impact any young man, whether it be family crisis, whether it be economic situations, whether it be being homeless for a period of time, fight, scrap for shelter, for food which at age 15 or 16 that’s not something anybody would wish on any kid. Tracy’s (Golson, mother) done an unbelievable job with him, and there was some tough love that she had to give him throughout. You know, that he respects her tremendously now, not understanding back then. And to see how far he’s come after he wasn’t qualified academically. Well, he graduated in four years and he’s working on post-grad stuff now, there are just so many things that he’s done.

Then from a basketball standpoint, teaching the young guys, being a great teammate and an energy guy. When we talk about leaders on our team, he’s definitely one of the two or three best leaders on our team.

Q. Can you share your thoughts on the last game at Allen Fieldhouse for radio broadcaster Bob Davis?
COACH SELF: Unfortunately, I’ve never heard Bob call a game. And even more fortunately, if I heard him call I’d have to hear (Greg) Gurley along with him, so that’s probably the good and the bad of it, or (Chris) Piper or whoever it was back before then.

But I’ve heard sound bites, obviously. The way that everybody feels about Bob or the things that people say about Bob, they tell me he must be unbelievably good at his craft because everybody says nothing but great things. He’s been Sportscaster of the Year how many times, Bob? Fourteen years he’s been Sportscaster of the Year. And trust me, he said he didn’t know. He knew. He is excellent, but he’s a much better person than he is on the mic, I would guarantee that.

I have total respect for him, and it is going to be five seniors. Of course, one of them is a senior citizen — no, I’m joking. But there’s five seniors that will be honored on Saturday, and all deservedly so.

Q. You were a grad assistant when Bob first started out here at KU.
COACH SELF: I think he had actually been on the job a few years, isn’t that right? He started in ’84, and I came in ’85-’86. So only a couple years (difference). But we actually got to know each other a little bit back then. Of course he and Max (Falkenstien) were running everything together back in those days and did for many, many years or a couple decades after that. But it’s been fun to watch and fun to be a part of, and it’s also kind of been neat on this “Kobe farewell tour” he’s been on, to be honored at every place he goes to. That’s been pretty special to see.

Q. Iowa State’s Monté Morris dominated action way back in your last loss. Can you talk about what you could do differently today and how better equipped you are defensively to handle it?
COACH SELF: A lot of it’s going to be up to Frank. Let’s call it like it is. He (Morris) controlled the game the first game. He didn’t turn the ball over. He had, I don’t know the exact numbers, but didn’t he have 18 points and nine assists or something? I didn’t give him enough credit. 21-9-0, so we did nothing to create any type of havoc for him. You know, it’s a defensive deal, but a lot of it is going to be on Frank, and Frank needs to get after him and he will. He’ll play him better. And Devonte’ will be on him too because we’ll switch some.

But we’ve got to do a better job on him and not let him just control the game and be comfortable. He can have a great game and get 16 and 8 and 0 and you’ve done a great job on him. I mean, that would be a natural game for him. But certainly we’ve got to do better than we did last game, without question. Not only keeping him out of the paint, but not letting him be so comfortable.

Q. Frank kind of, in a way after the Texas game, called out an analyst who earlier in the season called him the sixth-best point guard in the Big 12. He called him out on Twitter.
COACH SELF: He didn’t call him out; he just made a statement.

Q. What was your reaction to that? Is that the kind of personality you were talking about you wanted to see from your team earlier?
COACH SELF: I don’t see anything problematic with that at all. He didn’t call out anybody’s name. He didn’t say anything negative. He just said, “Hey, look where my team is.” So I actually think that’s fine.

You know what? The person that made that comment was just doing his job. Somebody asked him to rate the guards and he was just doing his job. But the reality of it is he won’t mind that at all. I mean, everybody’s competitive. Everybody makes statements sometimes of opinions that not a lot of people agree with. I think that he’ll be 100 percent fine with Frank saying that.

Q. Is this team as confident now as they’ve been all year long?
COACH SELF: I think so. We took Tuesday off and basically took yesterday off. We practiced 35 minutes, but we’ll go hard today and tomorrow. Based on the feel and the locker room and on the court and stuff and focus, I do think that we’re as confident as we’ve been.

Q. I know there’s not a formula to it, but is that pretty ideal as you’re coming down the home stretch here?
COACH SELF: I hope so. I mean, you’ve got VCU that didn’t know they were going to get in the tournament a few years ago and end up going to the Final Four. They don’t even have a (Selection Sunday) watch party because they don’t think they’re going to get in, so that may not be the most confident team going into it. And you’ve got some other teams that are riding sky high going into it.

You want to try to hit it at the right time. Hopefully we’re hitting it at a good time, but I don’t really know the exact formula on when you want to peak. If it’s mid-February, first of March, middle of March, I don’t really know. But I do know this: We need to be playing the best ball we’ve played all year moving forward, so hopefully we’ve prepared ourselves to do that.

Q. Wayne Selden Jr., has started all 101 games he’s been at for the university. Was there ever a moment you thought to maybe start him on Senior Day? I know you said you’re going to start Frank.
COACH SELF: No, because it’s nothing negative. If we had two point guards that were seniors, then of course we’d start Wayne. But if you’re already playing three big guys and you’ve got Evan out there, that would put a lot of pressure on one guy if he didn’t play but one guard and have some help bringing it up and stuff like that. So, no, that won’t affect him and it won’t affect me in doing that at all.

Q. Evan’s shown he can play a little bit and you’ve put him out there before. What do you do in this situation where it’s a guy like that that doesn’t get a lot of minutes at that time? Do you do anything different at the start of the game in how you approach things or do you just run your stuff?
COACH SELF: No, we may run something to try to get a guy a touch or whatnot, but for the most part we’ll just do the same thing. That’s how I’ve always done it. Evan’s good enough to do it and play and be effective out there for the time that he’s in there. So, no, we’re not going to try to hide anybody or do anything different other than just play.

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