Bill Self has been the head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks’ men’s basketball team since 2003. He has led Kansas to tremendous success in his tenure. The Jayhawks have won 10 consecutive Big 12 regular season titles since Self took over for Roy Williams. One would think that level of success would have led multiple national championships, but think again. Self and Kansas have won just one national title in 10 years, while appearing in two.
Regular season success is nothing to scoff at, as many coaches in the country would love to be in the position Self is in, but it only goes so far. At the end of the day, the main goal of the season is to win a national championship and be the last team standing. Kansas is a perennial power house, especially in the preseason rankings. Once again, that doesn’t always translate to success in the postseason.
Self is one of the best recruiters in the country, his team are usually stocked with a slew of talented players who happen to be some of the best in the country. Kansas is usually a higher-seeded team in the NCAA Tournament, but lower-seeded teams have found success against the powerhouse that is Kansas.
In his first season as the Kansas head coach, Self led the Jayhawks to the Elite 8 where they eventually fell to Georgia Tech. The next two years were filled with regular season success, but not postseason success. Before the 2004-05 season, Kansas was the preseason No. 1 team in the country. However, that did not last in the tournament as the 3 seeded Jayhawks fell to the 14 seeded Bucknell Bison in the first round. The next year the team was comprised mostly of freshmen and sophomores, but Self once again led the team to a Big 12 regular season title, before falling to 13 seeded Bradley in the opening round.
The next season, Self and Kansas returned to the Elite 8, where it lost to the UCLA Bruins. The 2007-08 season saw Kansas finally win the big one as it marched to the national championship game and defeated the Memphis Tigers, led by now Kentucky head coach, John Calipari. In the Final 4, Kansas defeated former head coach Roy Williams and the No. 1 overall seeded North Carolina Tar Heels.
The job got even tougher for Self in the 2008-09 season as he lost five starters and two reserves to the NBA. This didn’t hinder the Jayhawks as it once again won the Big 12 regular season title and earned a trip back to the NCAA Tournament. Kansas’ run fell short to the eventual runner-up Michigan State Spartans in the Sweet 16. Not bad at all for the amount of talent Kansas lost. The following season, the Jayhawks were awarded a 1 seed, but fell in the second round to the 9 seed, Northern Iowa. The year after that, Kansas landed the top recruit in the country, Josh Selby. Self and company returned to the Elite 8, where it fell to VirginiaCommonwealthUniversity, a Cinderella team that season.
The 2011-12 season saw the Jayhawks return to the big dance and make some noise. Self led the team back to the national championship game and faced off against Calipari, who was the coach of Kentucky. The Wildcats got the best of the Jayhawks in the big game and Calipari, not Self, cut down the nets. In last year’s tournament, Kansas was grooving along before it met Michigan in the Sweet 16. Kansas squandered a 14-point second half lead and bowed out of the tournament. This year, Kansas started the season with high hopes as it landed the No. 1 recruit in the country once again, in Andrew Wiggins, who many thought would and still could be the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft. Kansas saw another potential top-5 pick, Joel Embiid go down with an injury. Kansas looked to win in the opening weekend and have Embiid back for the Sweet 16, but those plans came to a screeching halt as Kansas once again lost to a double-digit seed in 10 seeded Stanford in the Round of 32.
So let’s recap. 10 straight Big 12 regular season titles, 11 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, four losses to double-digit seeds, and a national championship. Self is one of the elite coaches in the country, but doesn’t have all the success that he probably should have. In the tournament this year, Self knew he wasn’t going to have Embiid, but made no adjustments to get Wiggins going, who played his worst game as a collegiate against Stanford. Teams might get the best recruits in the country and be talent-filled, but if they aren’t put in the proper position to succeed, they won’t. The verdict is up in the air on Self. A great regular season coach, who finds his team in the big dance yearly, but at the same time, not so great in the tournament. Sure, Sweet 16 and Elite 8 appearances are nothing to overlook, but it’s all about one thing: the national championship.
Does Bill Self deserve a pass or fail for his tenure as the head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks?