Bill Self walked the red carpet in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Center Court grand ballroom into the waiting arms of John Doleva on Thursday afternoon. Doleva is the Hall’s president/CEO, and he was helping Self, Kansas’ 15th-year coach, slip on the famed “Orange Jacket.”
“I don’t know if it’s the jacket you can wear out in public that often, but this certainly is nice,” Self said of the coat given to all inductees the day before enshrinement ceremonies.
“I hope it doesn’t feel like a ball. It’s supposed to look like one,” Self added, running his fingers over the smooth garment.
Self said Thursday’s two-hour news conference — one in which he also received a Hall of Fame trophy which resembled the statue given out at the Oscars — has made him realize this all isn’t a dream.
He is actually about to become the 20th person affiliated with Kansas basketball to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, which is named after the founder of basketball and KU’s first coach.
“The reality of being inducted in the Hall probably started hitting today more so than it has,” said Self. He found out he’d make the final cut and would be a first-ballot inductee back in April. “It’s pretty cool. I’ve gotten to know everybody else in the class. Certainly it’s a pretty good group — one I’m proud to be part of.”
Self said he’s enjoyed getting to spend some time with inductees he knows personally — Tracy McGrady, Rebecca Lobo, Muffet McGraw, Tom Jernstedt and Mannie Jackson.
“One person I’ve really enjoyed being around is George McGinnis and his family,” Self said of the former NBA/ABA star. “From talking to others who have approached him, it’s a long overdue deal for him and I know this means a lot to him.”
Others to be enshrined during Friday’s ceremony at Symphony Hall (6:30 p.m., Central time, NBA-TV) are Zack Clayton, Nick Galis, Robert Hughes and Jerry Krause.
Self said final count indicates about 60 of his former players from KU, Illinois, Tulsa, Oral Roberts and Oklahoma State (where he was an assistant) will attend the induction event.
If they are able to make it over to the Hall beforehand, they’ll see Self’s smiling face high on the third level of the rotunda with all the other inductees throughout history.
The pictures of inductees line the top of the building.
“I actually looked up there and saw it (Self’s picture),” Self said, noting his eyes immediately shot upward upon arriving at the Hall for Thursday’s media responsibilities, jacket ceremony and autograph session for fans.
“I said, ‘They’ve already got me up there.’ Then I realized they’ve got everybody up there. I’m right between Rebecca Lobo and Phog Allen if I’m not mistaken. That’s a pretty good group.”
The picture of Naismith, also is in Self’s row of four — three pictures below Self’s.
“Walking in the arena and seeing all the portraits up top, you look around and see everybody, people you tried to emulate and copy, it’s pretty cool,” Self said. “I’m not that old to be going up there. At least I don’t think so. It’s humbling to be part of that group.”
The 54-year-old Self spoke about family on Thursday.
His daughter, Lauren, who is expecting a baby soon, will attend the ceremonies as will son, Tyler, who recently started a job as basketball operations quality assurance assistant for the San Antonio Spurs.
“Lauren is emotional. She’ll cry. She will make me a grandpa here pretty soon. That’s exciting,” Self said. “She is the more emotional of the two. Tyler … it’ll be water off (the bridge), not a big deal at all. I know they’re proud of their dad, that’s all that matters.”
Self did something meaningful for his own dad, Bill, Sr., in conjunction with the Hall weekend. Bill, Jr., submitted a quote from his dad — instead of one of his own quotes — to be emblazoned in concrete below a statue of Dr. James Naismith right outside the Hall. Quotes from many of the inductees are included below the statue.
The quote from Bill, Sr., reads: “Don’t worry about the mules, just load the wagon.”
“Right next to (Winston) Churchill, (John) Wooden is Bill Self Sr.’s quote,” Self said.
“Hey, Bill Self, Sr., from Hitchita, Okla., you got your quote out there like everybody else did. I think it means something to him. They (mom and dad) will get a chance to go over and see it when they get in tonight,” Self added.
KU’s coach will be sure to mention family during his speech on Friday.
“I spent several hours on it,” Self said of his eight-minute speech. “I probably spent a couple hours reading it off, writing it, getting my thoughts together, refining it. Shortening it to eight minutes took a little bit of work. I spent a fair share of time on it.
“I’ve read it multiple times. I’ve timed it. On the plane yesterday I probably read it a minimum of 10 times. I usually speak better off the cuff. I thought I’d make some bullet points and go. They (Hall officials) said, ‘No, you aren’t going to do that and give a speech here. We’ve got to know everything you are going to say.’ Plus you’ll leave somebody out if you do it that way.
“It’s probably not going to be good,” Self added with a smile, “not because I didn’t put some effort into it.”