This college basketball season figures to be one of endless unknowns.
It is unknown how many games will end up being played due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is unknown what the NCAA Tournament will look like – if there is one. And for Kansas fans and head coach Bill Self it is unknown whether he will be able to capture a second national championship that has eluded him the past 12 years.
Self sat down with “Voice of the Jayhawks” Brian Hanni during the most recent episode of The Jayhawker Podcast and discussed his coaching tenure at Kansas.
After discussing the 2008 National Championship, Hanni posed the question, “How much of a game-changer is that when you’ve reached the pinnacle of your profession?”
Self responded in part by saying, “I hope I haven’t reached it yet. I hope that there are still other things to do to reach it…But Brian I will tell you this. The more you get the more you want. And the fact that we have had this many good teams and haven’t won one since – that’s disappointing to me.”
Self went on to say that while at Kansas there have been only three teams in his mind that did not have a legitimate chance to win the title: 2004-05, 2013-14 (once Joel Embiid got hurt), and 2018-19.
Whether Kansas fans view anything about Self’s tenure as a disappointment is up for serious debate. Many will say – and reasonably so – that they are ecstatic with the job Self has done.
His KU teams set an NCAA record with 14-straight conference titles. He has won more conference championships (15) than he has home losses at Allen Fieldhouse (14). He has helped extend Kansas’ record NCAA Tournament appearance streak to 30 and appeared more poised than ever to win his second title this past season with future NBA players Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson before the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the pandemic.
Despite all of these achievements, Self is clearly not satisfied.
“I mean the worst team that we’ve had in 20 years is a 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament,” Self said. “But in the real world as far as evaluators that evaluate people nationally – still didn’t get it done. So, there is a burr in my saddle so to speak that is motivation for that.”
But is it fair for Kansas fans or even Self to be upset at not having another championship when so few others have done it?
Only three active Division 1 coaches have won multiple NCAA titles (Jay Wright, Roy Williams, and Mike Krzyzewski). Including these three, there have been just 15 coaches all time who have more than one national championship. That is an exclusive group filled with fellow Hall of Fame coaches such as John Wooden, Bob Knight, Adolph Rupp, and Dean Smith.
Fair or not, Self appears intent on joining that exclusive company. That unfinished-business mindset of his is likely part of the reason he has turned down other job opportunities these past 12 years. He still feels he has more to accomplish here and that should be a comforting message to Jayhawk fans who have already experienced so much success during Self’s time at Kansas.
Beginning Thanksgiving Day against the No. 1 ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs, we will see if this can be the year that Bill Self finally gets the burr out of his saddle and wins that elusive second championship.