Most sports fans in Oklahoma know Kansas coach Bill Self is actually Bill Self Jr.
When the 2013 class is inducted into Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame Monday night at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Bill Self Sr. will present his son, one of the nation's top college basketball coaches.
“I thought about coach (Eddie) Sutton but his health isn't real good right now,” said the KU coach. “Others suggested people like (Dick) Vitale. My answer was, ‘Why wouldn't I have the person who had the biggest influence on me present me?' It was a no-brainer asking my dad.”
The senior Self was a basketball coach himself decades ago. He led Morris, a rural community near Okmulgee, to the 1966 Class B girls state basketball championship four years after Bill Self Jr. was born in Okmulgee.
Unlike his son, Bill Self Sr. didn't make coaching his career. Soon after that state title, Bill Self Sr. became a school a superintendent for a few years. He's best known for his 27 years working for the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association.
Bill Self Sr. was asked what one quality he feels possibly influenced his son's career, a resume that features a 507-164 career record, two Final Fours, seven trips to the Elite Eight and the 2008 NCAA championship.
“Toughness,” said Bill Self Sr. “His senior year (at Edmond Memorial) he played when he was hurt, played through a lot of pain. From that point on he expected other people, teammates and players he coached, you have to play through a little pain to be successful.”
That toughness was beneficial during the early years of Self's coaching career.
After eight years as a Division I assistant, Self's first head coaching job was at Oral Roberts, a program that had hit rock bottom.
The Golden Eagles were coming off a school-worst 5-22 season. ORU won only six games in Self's first season, 10 the second season. The Golden Eagles were 18-9 the third season. His final season ORU was 21-7 and made the program's first postseason tournament appearance in 13 years.
“I never thought he could maybe make it big until that season he beat OSU under Eddie Sutton and Arkansas under Nolan Richardson,” said Bill Self Sr. “I knew at that point he could coach a little bit because he didn't have top-level talent. The next year Tulsa hired him and he was on his way.”
Bill Self, Sr. said the key to his son's meteoric career was he wisely absorbed traits from elite coaches during his eight seasons as an assistant.
Spending a year under Larry Brown at Kansas as a graduate assistant provided a blueprint how to run a program. Seven years at OSU under Eddie Sutton and Leonard Hamilton prepared him to be a head coach at age 29.
“Larry Brown is great with game strategy and so many other areas,” said Bill Self, Sr. “Leonard Hamilton was a tremendous recruiter. Leonard showed him how to outwork everyone. Eddie Sutton was tremendous with fundamentals. That covers about every aspect of coaching.”
A father's influence
Because of his ties to the OSSAA, Bill Self Sr. never meddled in his son's playing or coaching career. But the KU coach said his father was extremely instrumental in the process. His influence ranged from teaching him intricate basketball fundamentals growing up to life lessons that would be important regardless what profession he chose.
“My dad was straight with everybody,” said the KU coach. “Most people have their own spin on certain things but he was always matter of fact.
“If there was never a chance of something happening he never led people to believe they had a chance of it happening. If he was somewhat optimistic, he would give an optimistic talk. One thing I always respected was how he handled his job, how he always shot people straight.”
Bill Self Jr. admired how his father handled delicate situations at the OSSAA ranging from state basketball pairings to officiating to eligibility issues.
“He taught me everyone has a job to do, including officials,” said the KU coach. “He was in a job filled with problems. I don't know if he had anyone call and say, ‘You're doing a great job,' but he did a great job handling all those various situations.”
Bill Self Sr. rarely talks X's and O's with his son, but the KU coach said his father slips in advice here and there.
“He claims he doesn't get involved but will say something like, ‘From my perspective, how are you going to guard Marcus Smart?'” said Bill Self Jr. “He'll say something like, ‘I don't think you can let him turn that way.' In his own way he'll get his two cents in.
“Basically he's become a fan and tries to enjoy it. I certainly enjoy him and my family being a part of it.”
Bill Self's mother Margaret, sister Shelly and tons of friends have enjoyed the ride. But the coach who led Morris to the 1966 Class B girls state title, without question, is Bill Self's biggest fan.
“It's just unbelievable he is where he is,” said Bill Self Sr. “To win the 2008 national championship, winning the game like he did, winning at the end, down nine points with 2:11 to go, or something like that, you knew right then he would be a national figure.”
Forty-seven years after winning that state title in Morris, the father will present his son into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.
“It's unbelievable. It's the ultimate,” said Bill Self Sr. “This is a different type of rejoicing. You don't jump up and down like you do winning a national championship. I know with Bill and our entire family this means a lot.
“Not only is he being inducted but look at who he is being inducted with. The other six inductees are outstanding that he will be on the stage with. It's such an honor. It's an honor for me and the entire family. Others helped him along the way but Bill did this on his own. I'm so proud of him.”
Bill Self Jr. said having his father present him will be something he'll always cherish.
“I was shocked when I got the call because I know the history of the state and respect it so much,” said the KU coach. “Of course, it means a ton to me personally. The closer it gets, the more I realize how much it means to the people close to me that have supported me along the way.
“Having my dad present me, I know he'll enjoy it. My friends and family will get a big kick out of him doing it. It's pretty cool because no person, no matter who I've been around, has been more positive or a bigger influence on me than my father.”