Before selecting former Kansas star Andrew Wiggins with the No. 1 overall pick in late June, the Cleveland Cavaliers also had interest in Jayhawks men’s basketball coach Bill Self.
During a lengthy search that included courtships with multiple college coaches, the NBA’s Cavaliers contacted Self about the vacancy, Self said on Monday. Self declined to discuss specifics about his conversations with the Cavaliers, and he did not provide a timetable for when they occurred. Cleveland ultimately hired David Blatt on June 20, three weeks before LeBron James announced his return home to Northeast Ohio.
Before being asked about his talks with the Cavs on Monday, Self had yet to speak publicly about the opportunity.
“I talked to the Cavs’ people a lot throughout their evaluation process and the draft, but I’ll just leave it at that,” Self said. “That wasn’t anything I wanted to become public, certainly, and they didn’t either.”
While Self quietly passed on the overtures from the Cavaliers, the franchise’s pursuit of some other high-profile college coaches played out in a more public fashion.
In early June, Yahoo! Sports reported that Kentucky coach John Calipari had talked with the Cavaliers before signing a seven-year, $52 million extension at Kentucky. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Calipari was “deep in discussions” with Cleveland on a deal worth seven years and $60 million. Calipari would have become president and coach of the organization.
Florida coach Bill Donovan was also reportedly contacted about the job, while Michigan State coach Tom Izzo rejected an offer from the Cavaliers.
“I am going to be a lifer,” Izzo said at a news conference in mid-June after announcing his decision to stay in East Lansing. “This is what I’m going to be, and I’m damn proud of it.”
While Izzo and others were aware that James’ return to Cleveland was a possibility — and Self would have known Cleveland possessed the No. 1 overall pick — the coaches contacted couldn’t have known that the Cavs’ job was poised to become a basketball gold mine.
James announced his return to Cleveland on Friday in an essay on Sports Illustrated’s website. And with a roster that now includes James, Wiggins and point guard Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers are suddenly trendy favorites in the Eastern Conference.
Self, though, appears to have no regrets. During the last few years, he has continually downplayed his interest in an NBA coaching job — though he’s never ruled out taking the leap.
“There’s nothing about me and the NBA. Zero,” Self said on May 2 in Lawrence. “Anybody that would waste any time on talk radio talking about that surely there’s some Royals games or something like that going on that other people can talk about.”
At other times, Self has mentioned his ideal setup at Kansas, where he has won one NCAA title and 10 straight Big 12 regular-season championships during an 11-year tenure.
“I think I’ve got a better situation than a lot of the franchises in the league,” Self said earlier this spring in an interview with ESPN’s Andy Katz. “People may think that’s hard to believe, but they haven’t been here or know what’s gone on here. (I’m) very content where I am.”