Berry Tramel

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Readers respond on Sean/Self

by Berry Tramel Modified: March 27, 2013 at 2:36 pm •  Published: February 22, 2008

Today, we turn over the Blog to OSU basketball fans, who can’t seem to agree on the status of Bill Self. Some say I am only trying to stir up trouble by suggesting OSU decision-makers even want Self, while others say I am nuts for suggesting that no way would Self leave Kansas at this point in his career. So I don’t know which it is. I’ll let the fans hash it out.

John in Tulsa writes, “How many times are we going to try to turn the obvious into some kind of deep analysis? Geez! Must be a slow day in the newsroom. Only a few delusional OSU fans actually harbor this hope.”

If it’s only a few, they’re all writing to me, like Will: “Being the OU hondo that you are, I know it scares all of you down there at the Daily Disappointment to even think of OSU getting Bill Self as head coach. Obviously, based on your article, you have no clue what you are talking about. Bill Self will come, and he will come soon. I know it’s hard for you sportswriters to take (seeing as that you know everything).”

Actually, we don’t know much. All we know is what people tell us. And people tell us all different kinds of things.

Jerry says: “According to your sources, Sean Sutton may not be the head basketball coach at OSU next year, but nobody knows for sure.  I do and he will.  100% certain: no guesswork involved.  Go ahead and write stuff to sell papers but forget the other options because they do not exist.”

So there you have it. No way Sean is out of a job. No way Self won’t come. I have no idea what’s going to happen. I just know I believe Self will stay at Kansas for the foreseeable future. More on that.

Another Jerry writes, “OSU fans are delusional. Boone’s money has created no sense of reality. Self coaches at a basketball power now. OSU used to be an above average program but has slipped even further. Self leaving KU and going to OSU would be like Stoops leaving OU and going to Kansas State. On another note I can understand why a change might be made. Sean looks like a deer in the headlights and seems to be way over his head.”

Robert agrees with my take that Kansas is a high-reward job void of the kind of pressure found at other elite basketball schools: “The pressure on the head coach at KU is minimal compared to UNC and UK. I lived for a time in Kentucky, and those people can get nasty about UK basketball. And UNC ran off Bill Guthridge, who had taken them to two Final Fours in 3 years. I live in the KC area, and on some of the local talk shows I have heard that the KU coach is on the hot seat, but it’s not true. There was grumbling during Self’s first year when he dumped the secondary break and had KU walk the ball up the court. But Self wised up, restored the break in the middle of the season and KU went to the Final 8. But the two first round upsets didn’t trigger a lot of dissatisfaction.”

Now wait a minute. I said Kansas fans were sane. I didn’t say they were angelic. I think Self caught a lot of grief for losing to Bucknell and Bradley. And some still say Self is not all that enamored with KU. Or KU with him.

John writes, “I grew up in Kansas and am a lifelong Kansas basketball fan along with my entire family that sill lives there, although I attended OSU and am also an OSU fan. I think your column makes sense on a superficial level. OSU is a nice job but you don’t leave OSU or anywhere for that matter for Kansas. Regardless, I don’t think it is as farfetched for Self to leave as you think, and I say that as a lifelong Kansas fan who knows how crazy it sounds. Bill Self is not beloved in Kansas. People are still angry at Deputy Dog for leaving for North Carolina. Self came in and managed to have even more disappointing tournament losses than Roy Williams. Williams at least lost to schools you had heard of in the tournament. For whatever reason, Self has never fit in at Kansas and there has always been a feeling there among fans that he was an OK coach but no Roy Williams and certainly replaceable. Self is respected at Kansas but he is not loved and is in no way an institution there. At OSU he would be all three and then some. He would always be the hometown kid who left Kansas to come coach OSU. Self will always be a couple of off seasons from being shown the door at Kansas. That fact, more than T-Boone Pickens’ money, will entice Self back to OSU. If Self wins the title this year, something Williams never did, then everything changes and he is an institution there and I don’t think he ever leaves. But if KU doesn’t at least make the Final Four this year or suffers a devastating tournament loss (which nearly anything short of a Final Four loss would be), I would say Self coming to OSU is a bigger possibility than you think, like maybe 50-50.”

I don’t necessarily buy that, but it’s an interesting opinion, submitted by someone who obviously is sharp. I clean up some of this writing — not a lot — but John’s dispatch was very well-penned. I tell you, this is one interesting job I have. Anyway, here’s an opposite take.

Steven wrote, “Will you please stop writing all this mumbo jumbo about Bill Self and all this speculation about him coming to OSU? Message board posters brought it up, not Self or any person of substance at OSU. It’s a joke and makes you look like a joke. Write things you have facts on. Sean Sutton will be the coach at OSU for the next few years, at least! It’s people like you that fan the flames of hatred and keep crap like this going. It’s OK to have an opinion, but good Lord, quit insulting the state’s finest basketball program with this stuff just because they are going through a rough spot. This is an insult to OSU, their alumni, their fans and is nothing more than an attempt to sell papers. Quit raiding the internet message boards for stories!”

I am guilty of many things. None of them are raiding, reading or even knowing how to find message boards. I wrote about Bill Self because OSU people are talking about Bill Self. One of Mike Holder’s ex-golfers, Andy Dillard, got on the radio the other day and called for OSU to go get Self as soon as this season is over. OSU also has a man in charge (Boone Pickens) who wants to win and now. And OSU has an athletic director who did not put the Sean-succession deal in place; that came from the previous administration. I think message boards are mostly therapy; people finding an outlet to discuss what’s eating at them, sort of the way Tony Soprano could only turn human by sitting in that shrink’s office. But while much of the message boards are nonsense, I’m told you can find a little truth in them. Remember, just because something is on the message boards doesn’t mean it’s not true.

Zach said I probably was right but I could be wrong. Hopefully he splinters out of his pants from straddling the fence: “I think you are probably right about Bill Self. However, I also feel you are underestimating the power of loyalty one has to their own home state and alma mater. Bill Self is an OSU graduate, is from Oklahoma and his family all lives in Oklahoma. You can win an NCAA national championship in hoops at OSU. I know KU is a better program than OSU but please remember that OSU and KU have the exact same number of basketball NCAA championships. I think the Kansas job is a Top 10 job, tradition, coaching stability and a great arena its best attributes. I would put UCLA, Kentucky, UNC, Duke, Florida, Indiana, Louisville, maybe Arizona, maybe Syracuse, above KU. Also money talks, always.”

First off, ranking coaching jobs — basketball, football, pro, college, high school, doesn’t matter — is one of my favorite pastimes. Second, anyone who would rank Florida above Kansas has been paying attention for about 15 minutes. The Gators recruited well, won two straight NCAA titles and remained in the shadows of their football team. Coaches without big egos can emotionally handle being ultra-successful at a football school; but finding coaches without big egos is darn near impossible. I can see Kansas falling to No. 6; I think there are six jobs above the others. UNC, UK, Duke, UCLA, Kansas and Indiana. But those others are a step below. As for loyalty, I can’t think of one example of a coach in his prime who left a better job for his alma mater. I’m not saying there isn’t one. I’m saying all the examples I remember are guys down and out in their career. Eddie Sutton didn’t leave Kentucky for OSU. Bob Huggins didn’t leave Cincinnati for West Virginia. Tarkanian didn’t leave UNLV for Fresno State. Circumstances took them down that road. Now, Jim Boeheim has stayed at Syracuse when he likely could have gone elsewhere, but he’s been at Syracuse virtually his entire adult life. Gary Williams left Ohio State for Maryland, but I would consider that a lateral move. Actually, I would consider Maryland the better basketball job.

Scott also touches on the how-good-are-these-jobs subject and offers some very interesting research: “As an OSU fan, I wish other OSU fans would get over the Self fantasy. Even if the school is going to try for him, which I find unlikely, we couldn’t get him. Even if we are willing to pay him a ridiculous account,
Kansas isn’t exactly broke. They can match or come close enough for it not to matter. I was wondering — did you have a source that they are, or is it more a counter of speculation? Is it just message board yahoos and rogue boosters spouting about it, or is there someone with real insight into the program who says we will, or might make a go of it? A great story might be to see if anyone employed by OSU or influential with the athletic department is even entertaining the notion. The other thing I thought, reading your article, is that you speculated that KU is a place a coach is a LOT more likely to win a title than OSU, and that’s true. But the right coach can win it at OSU, and that shouldn’t be minimized. Consider the last 15 or so years (from Roy Williams’ first season), KU has been better, never missing the NCAAs and going a little deeper on average. But when it comes to contending for the title? OSU has not been far behind as people might think to winning it all over the modern era. I think to be considered to have been an actual threat, you have to have gone to the Elite 8. Most years, any team that does that can potentially win it. If you consider any Elite 8team to be a threat, KU has threatened seven times, OSU three. That does not put OSU on KU’s level, but it also says that a coach winning it in Stillwater is not an outrageous possibility. Self in Stillwater could win it, not as easily as he could in Lawrence, but he could. It would be more likely than winning it in most other Big 12 programs (OU and Texas would be about the same and have similar records over the same period of time). KU is the only elite program in the conference, but a great coach like Self at Texas, OSU, OU or maybe Mizzou can win the title. I know that you don’t say it’s impossible to win the NCAA Championship in
Stillwater, but the tone of the article sounds as if you think that’s the case. You can win the title in Stillwater, but you aren’t as likely to. OSU is a job where you aren’t a KU, UCLA or Kentucky, but you can attract an elite coach and have a chance to keep him. You just won’t attract one like Self, who’s already at a better job.”

Excellent research. I would agree with Scott’s parameters, that an Elite Eight appearance is a good qualification for NCAA title contention. And his numbers are interesting. KU 7, OSU 3 over the Sutton era. The only trouble is this. While OSU is a very good job, and you can win in Stillwater, the stark truth is that over the last 40 years, Eddie Sutton is the only guy who’s done it. Sutton is a fabulous basketball coach with few peers. Do we know if others can win in Stillwater, or just someone as special as Sutton? I think it’s the former, but I don’t really know. We know just about any good coach can win big at Kansas. We don’t know if just about any good coach can win big at OSU.

Steve offered good insight, too: “I am a fan of Bill and Sean and believe Sean will do a great job. One thing that Self might do is follow in Larry Brown’s (still very close to Brown) footsteps and try the NBA. He has told people close to him of his interest. I doubt it happens, but I would not be surprised either.”

As I wrote, if Self wants to get back to Oklahoma eventually, he almost surely will have the Sonics (or whatever we call them) as a possibility. But I’ve always thought San Antonio might be a destination for Self. Spurs general manager R.C. Buford is an old pal of Self’s.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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