LAWRENCE — Kansas coach Bill Self filled one opening on his basketball staff on Friday, just as another job had become vacant.
In a series of anticipated moves, Self hired SMU assistant Jerrance Howard as the Jayhawks’ third assistant coach. Howard will fill the opening created when former assistant Joe Dooley left to take the coaching job at Florida Gulf Coast in mid-April.
The word on Howard, which had been expected for days, came shortly after Self announced that Doc Sadler, KU’s director of basketball operations, was leaving the program after one year to take an assistant coaching job at Iowa State.
Howard, 33, arrives at Kansas after spending last season as an assistant under Larry Brown at SMU.
“Jerrance has great energy, is unbelievably positive and in a short amount of time has established himself as one of the better recruiters in college basketball,” Self said in a statement. “Having worked for one of my former assistants, Billy Gillispie, and my former mentor Larry Brown, I’m totally comfortable with him coming in here, having a smooth transition and having an immediate, positive impact on our program.”
Howard, 33, has now come full circle after a fairly rapid rise in the coaching profession. Recruited to Illinois by Lon Kruger, Howard spent three seasons as a reserve guard for Self at Illinois. After graduating from Illinois, he spent three-plus years working for Gillispie at Texas A&M and Kentucky before being hired as a full-time assistant under Bruce Weber at Illinois in 2007.
And according to Howard, he never thought about coaching until having a brief conversation with Self after a practice one day at Illinois.
“This came about from me playing for Coach Self at Illinois,” Howard said in a statement. “We did some special things — winning Big Ten titles and going to the Elite Eight — but it was Coach Self who inspired me to coach basketball.
“I remember him after practice one day asking, ‘Have you ever thought about coaching?’ and I said, ‘Not really,’ and he said, ‘Well you need to think about it.’ I credit Coach Self getting me started in my coaching career.”
A native of Peoria, Ill., Howard brings plenty of recruiting connections in the Chicago basketball scene. And after one year at SMU, he could also add to the Jayhawks’ recruiting presence in Texas.
“Jerrance is one of my all-time favorite players,” Self said. “Even though he didn’t play a lot, he found a way to impact our program and probably had as much to do with us winning games as anybody on our team in the years I was at Illinois.”
Howard also said he developed an appreciation for Kansas while working under Brown for one season at SMU.
“Kansas is the mecca,” Howard said. “I’ve been excited and haven’t slept in two days. It’s a great feeling to be at Kansas and with my former coach.”
Howard also figures to add an infusion of youth to the Kansas staff, which features long-time Self assistant Kurtis Townsend and Norm Roberts. Last month, when Dooley left for Florida Gulf Coast, Self was clear that he wanted an assistant that would bring recruiting contacts in areas in which KU needed them.
Howard, it seems, fits the profile.
“I wanted someone who is loyal, a tireless worker, has great contacts and will bring something to the table recruiting-wise,” Self said. “From a basketball standpoint, I wanted someone that through their experiences could also add to what we are doing and Jerrance can certainly do that.”
The addition of Howard still leaves Self with one opening on his staff after Sadler left for Iowa State on Friday.
Sadler’s departure appeared likely last month, when Self said Sadler wasn’t a candidate for KU’s open assistant job, which eventually went to Howard. Sadler, meanwhile, told Self that he wanted to get back into a coaching role.
Sadler, 52, will replace former Iowa State assistant T.J. Otzelberger, who left Fred Hoiberg’s staff for a position at Washington. Hoiberg is entering his fourth season at Iowa State and has led the Cyclones to two straight NCAA tournaments. (Sadler was 101-89 in six seasons at Nebraska.)
“Doc is a terrific coach and wants to be on the floor,” Self said. “Fred’s position at Iowa State opened up and he wasted no time in coming after Doc. Doc will be a huge asset for their team not only from a recruiting standpoint, but also as an on-the-floor coach.
“He’s a terrific coach that loved what he did last year but missed getting a chance to work with the guys in practice. I think this is a win-win for everybody.”
Self said that he would like to replace Sadler within the next week.