On Monday evening, as Kansas coach Bill Self was inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, he was asked a question that has become increasingly common in the last few years.
Would Self, after 10 illustrious seasons at Kansas, ever be interested in coaching in the NBA?
Self has never been one to duck a question, of course. And when the question has come up in recent years, he’s often said that his situation at Kansas is probably better than 90 percent of NBA jobs. Why take a mediocre job when he’s paid handsomely to run one of the most historic programs in college basketball?
But Self has never been one to close doors, either. And on Monday evening, he left the door open. Would he ever be interested in coaching in the NBA? Well, never say never.
“It hasn't really tempted me because I haven't had that many people talk to me about it,” Self told The Oklahoman newspaper. “But at some point and time, sure, I think it would (tempt me). It would be great to be able to match wits with the best athletes in the world, but I'm certainly happy where I'm at.
“I'm not saying I never would (coach in the NBA), but I'm locked in.”
In 10 years at Kansas, Self’s credentials are nearly unmatched at the college level. He has won nine straight Big 12 titles. He has won nearly 84 percent of his games (300-59). He has won the third NCAA title in KU history.
Self’s record has been so good, though, it has been cause for wonder. Would he be attractive to some NBA general manager? Would he been interested in a lucrative NBA contract?
And it wasn’t just the victory total. One of Self’s best friends in basketball is San Antonio general manager R.C. Buford, who built a dynasty with Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan. And then there are his ties in his home state of Oklahoma, which became home to the Oklahoma City Thunder after the franchise relocated from Seattle in 2008.
Those two destinations always seemed like logical options for Self. But on Monday, Self downplayed any interest in the Thunder, mentioning Thunder coach Scott Brooks’ successful tenure in Oklahoma City.
“I wouldn't say the Thunder,” Self said. “They've done a remarkable job. They have a coach (Scott Brooks) who is one of the bright stars in all of basketball, at any level. That's not anything I would think about.”
Self, who turned 50 last year, signed a contract extension last fall that will pay him more than $50 million over the next 10 years, including more than $11 million in retention bonuses. But more than the money, Self says, the quality of life at Kansas is hard to match.
“Yeah (the money is good), but the biggest thing is you will never be happy as a coach unless you know you can attract good players,” Self said on Monday. “I'm fortunate to coach at a place where the product is so good we're always going to get, at least I hope so, some pretty good players.
“I love it at Kansas, and they love basketball there. I've been very fortunate to coach at such a tradition-rich place.”
The NBA has often mined the college ranks for top coaches, but the practice gained more attention earlier this year, when the Boston Celtics hired Butler coach Brad Stevens, a 36-year-old who led the Bulldogs to back-to-back NCAA title games in 2010 and 2011.
For now, Self appears energized as he enters his 11th season at Kansas. The Jayhawks will feature a young starting five that will include No. 1 overall recruit Andrew Wiggins, and they’ll likely be favored to win at least a share of their 10th straight Big 12 title.
“A lot of people give coaches way too much credit when you win and too much blame when you don't win,” Self said on Monday. “My success has been a byproduct of having really good players. I've had an unbelievable run in large part because of timing and so many people that have played a huge role in my life.”