Bob Lutz

Kansas isn’t going anywhere when it comes to basketball elite

Kansas coach Bill Self talks to his team during the first half of Tuesday’s exhibition win over Washburn.
Kansas coach Bill Self talks to his team during the first half of Tuesday’s exhibition win over Washburn. Associated Press

Kansas has had four men’s basketball coaches over the past 52 years, five over 60 and six since 1920.

And you really need me to tell you where the Jayhawks are going to be in 10 years?

Good. Potentially great. In the NCAA Tournament, for sure, and with a high probability of winning another Big 12 championship. If, that is, the Jayhawks are still in the Big 12.

Heck, the Jayhawks might be gunning for their 23rd consecutive conference championship. Would it really shock you?

It’s strange that anytime power conferences and TV deals are discussed, basketball is never mentioned. It’s the way of the world in a college sports landscape driven by football.

But would KU, with all it brings in basketball, really not be attractive to another power conference? That’s hard to believe.

The Jayhawks have not had a losing season since finishing 13-16 in 1982-83. They’ve been in 32 of the past 33 NCAA tournaments. The last time Kansas failed to reach the dance was 1988-89, a year after Danny Manning and the Miracles won a national championship, and KU wasn’t eligible anyway because of probation.

KU has been ranked inside the Associated Press Top 10 in all but two seasons since 1984-85. The Jayhawks got to No. 16 in 1988-89 and to No. 12 in 2005-06 before stalling.

This is crazy success, unmatched anywhere.

There might be a stronger basketball program or two from year to year, but there’s been nothing to match KU’s decades-long run of success.

KU has won 20 or more games in all but one season – 1988-89 – since 1983-84. And the Jayhawks just missed that season, winning 19.

Over the past 27 seasons under Bill Self and his predecessor, Roy Williams, Kansas has reached or topped 30 wins 12 times. Self has led the Jayhawks to 30 or more wins in seven of his 13 seasons.

Normally, success in any sporting endeavor operates in cycles. You might be good or even great for a while, but inevitably there’s an occasional settling into mediocrity.

Mediocrity for Kansas is getting knocked out of the NCAA Tournament by a team seeded lower than the Jayhawks. That’s something that has happened more often than KU would like and those defeats have left a stain. But c’mon, isn’t the Jayhawks’ legacy above being tarnished?

Let’s discuss Self, who is entering his 14th season and has led KU to conference titles in every season but his first.

A guy could get spoiled.

It has long been rumored that Self will someday leave Kansas to take an NBA job because of the rigors of recruiting and a desire to test his mettle at a higher level.

Yet Self, 53, is still at Kansas. Because it’s a great gig.

The Jayhawks play in an iconic building, Allen Fieldhouse, that is sold out for every game.

And despite the national craze over college football, Kansas has remained a round state, not an oblong one, even though K-State coach Bill Snyder has brought many over to the oblong side.

Self is 385-83 (.823) at Kansas and the Jayhawks almost always send their fans home happy since they’re 206-9 at Allen Fieldhouse under Self. KU has accumulated 25 percent more conference championships than home losses during Self’s 13 seasons.

Kansas has produced 10 NBA draft lottery picks since Self arrived and he’s been coach of the year in the Big 12 seven times as well as national coach of the year twice.

So where is Kansas in 10 years?

If track record means anything, how could anyone think the Jayhawks will not still be a major player in college basketball regardless of where the football discussions nationally might go?

Self could depart. It’s logical that he would want to try the NBA thing at some point, although it’s just as logical that he’d want to stay at Kansas and continue to chalk up Big 12 titles while pursuing national championships.

KU chases the biggest fish and catches more than its share, so the talent is going to remain strong. There have been a few too many one-and-dones swinging through Lawrence the past few years, but that’s part of the price for KU’s enormous success.

What’s Self supposed to do? Chase them away?

Kansas fans are spoiled. Kansas players are spoiled. Self, undoubtedly, is spoiled.

But he’s taken nothing for granted. All of KU’s winning begets more winning.

Self hasn’t allowed the Jayhawks’ enormous success to affect him adversely. He’s as down to earth as the day he arrived at KU. And just as competitive.

Ten years?

Kansas basketball is as reliable and trustworthy as any entity in sports. It’s not as if the Jayhawks don’t have difficult times, it’s that they have fewer difficult times than almost any other team in any other sport you can think of.

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