Thursday, April 10, 2008

What is Bill Self to Do?
Wow - what do you do if someone offers you $46 million just to do your job? Even if the decision is difficult, this is one hell of a time to be Bill Self, head coach of the national champion Kansas Jayhawks.

I find this story particularly interesting because I knew the Self family in a very casual way. Bill and Cindy's son, Tyler, was in the same grade school class as my son, Rick. They were also in the same Boy Scout troop. My wife had gotten frustrated at the way the troop was run, so ol' lighning36 got the pleasure of going to the meetings. We met every two weeks and parents did not have to stay, but staying and participating seemed really important to the kids, so stay I did most of the time.

Cindy Self was usually the Self parent at the meetings. She was involved not only in Boy Scouts, but also in many of the school functions. Bill was busy with University of Illinois basketball business, but he occasionally came to the scout meetings and the school plays and performances. I had a few of those unmemorable little chats with him that fathers have while waiting for events and meetings to end. He is, as you might suspect from his press conferences, a nice guy with a nice family.

Bill is still a pariah in the Urbana-Champaign area, which is quite unfortunate. After the university ran off long-time coach Lou Henson, it hired Lon Krueger, and the basketball program seemed to have a new enthusiasm. Krueger left after a few years to accept a great offer from the Atlanta Hawks, but seemed to get a pass for leaving since he kept stressing that he was leaving to ensure the security of his family.

When Illinois went looking for a new coach, it got the hottest young coach in the country -- Bill Self, who had done great things for the University of Tulsa Golden Hurricanes. Bill was immediately popular with the basketball faithful with his good-old-boy Oklahoma charm and most importantly, his ability to recruit. Suddenly, Illinois basketball again was the biggest thing in town, and people were beginning to think "national championship."

Unfortunately, Kansas came calling, and the coach who brought so much hope (and certanly gave the impression that he was not leaving anytime soon) left in an awkward fashion. He was heavily criticized for not meeting face-to-face with his team, but most importantly, he destroyed the dream that Illinois basketball, with the best young coach in the country, would become one of the college baskerball elite.

I am not a graduate of Illinois so I don't bleed orange and blue the way many in central Illinois do, but I do understand why so many people wanted to tar and feather Bill Self. The basketball faithful overestimate where they stand in the national pecking order. The fact that Bill left for Kansas told people what they didn't want to hear: Your basketball program is not at that level.

Illinois hired long-time Purdue assistant coach and then Southern Illinois University basketball coach Bill Weber to take over the program. To Weber's credit, he did take Illinois to the Final Four, had a two-loss season, and coached a team that made a great comeback in the championship game, only to lose to North Carolina. But everyone knew that the foundation of that team was Bill Self's recruits.

So ... if T. Boone Pickens's offer is a legitimate story, and with all of Bill Self's ties to Oklahoma State, can Kansas possibly rally enough alumni support (and major bucks) to make an offer that will keep Bill Self in Kansas?

Maybe I should have gone into coaching ...

Oh Yeah - Poker
My poker game has really sucked lately, just when I thought that I was turning things around. I keep running into A-A and K-K, and then last night at Absolute Poker, in a $10 NL tournament, I lost to a guy who didn't understand that his pocket Queens were no good when the flop came 5-5-A. Gee - I re-raised him -- what the hell did he think I had? He put me all in, which I insta-called with A-K. He then runner-runner four-flushed me to send me to the rail. Man, did that suck. But ... that's how I roll lately.


Blogger Unknown said...

That is an interesting story. A deal is going to be completed today. I know this sounds terrible, but I was always amused at Illinois fans getting angry. Kansas is easily one of the top 5 programs in the country, and instead of getting angry, they should be glad that they helped get a coach to that level. Illinois isn't even close to that level, and until they're willing to support their team like Kansas does, they won't be at that level.

Anyway, I didn't read that you felt that way, so nice work, 36!!! And thanks, it's been a wonderful ride so far.

1:01 PM  
Blogger Mondogarage said...

Dude, if my surname were "Poffo", I'd make it more "Macho", too.

11:45 AM  

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