Kansas basketball: The man Bill Self Jr. inherited his toughness from will present his son at hall induction

OKLAHOMA SPORTS HALL OF FAME — 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.
by Michael Baldwin Published: August 2, 2013
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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.


by Michael Baldwin
Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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