Tuesday, April 22, 2003

With mixed emotions, Self takes over at Kansas



By Doug Tucker
The Associated Press

LAWRENCE, Kan. - Bill Self is back where his career began. He was introduced Monday as the new basketball coach at Kansas, which lost Roy Williams to North Carolina a week after losing the NCAA championship game.

Self talked about smoothing over the bitterness stirred by Williams' departure - and similar feelings at Illinois, where Self coached for three years.

"I stand before you with mixed emotions," he said. "There's been a lot of things said, a lot of feelings have been hurt, a lot of things happen in the last seven or eight days at two wonderful institutions. Nobody picks the timing."

His first college coaching job was as an assistant to Larry Brown at Kansas in 1985, and Self called his new post "the most prestigious act in all of college basketball."

About 300 people were at Hadl Auditorium on campus for the news conference, greeting Self and chancellor Robert Hemenway with a standing ovation as they entered.

Hemenway said his school's search focused only on Self, who won two Big Ten regular-season titles and one conference tournament championship with the Illini. His record there was 78-24, and he led the team to the NCAA tournament each year, reaching the final eight in 2001.

"It pulls on your emotional strings to walk away from people who have been very good to you," Self said.

Self's hiring didn't go over well at Illinois.

"It's disappointing. When you make a commitment to get the job done, the right thing was for him to stay," athletic director Ron Guenther said. Illinois gave Self a five-year contract extension in December worth $900,000 a season.

Sophomore center Nick Smith said the players tried to talk Self out of leaving.

"We did our best to change his mind, but I guess we weren't persuasive enough," he said.

The 40-year-old Self, who played at Oklahoma State, has an overall record of 207-105 in 10 seasons at a head coach, including stints at Oral Roberts and Tulsa.

With the Jayhawks, he replaces the beloved Williams, who departed a week ago for his alma mater. Williams led Kansas to nine conference titles and four Final Fours in 15 seasons, going 418-101. He lost in the national title game twice.

"You've had a remarkable coach here for the last 15 years," Self said. "He's a tough act to follow, but Larry Brown was a tough act to follow, and Ted Owens was a tough act to follow."

Self said he contacted three of the four star recruits whom Williams signed to letters of intent. Self hasn't spoken to Omar Wilkes, a 6-foot-4 guard from Los Angeles who's the son of former NBA player Jamaal Wilkes. But Self knows the Wilkes family, having tried to recruit Omar to Illinois, and Omar's mother, Valerie, said her son still planned to attend Kansas.

Another recruit, David Padgett, a 7-foot high school all-American from Reno, Nev., watched Monday's news conference with his family. Pete Padgett, his father and high school coach, said the family probably won't seek a release from David's letter of intent, but he said Self would come for an extended visit.

"He was impressive, but we've got some questions," Pete Padgett said. "We spent two and a half years picking a school. It's not reasonable to think we can get through it here in a day or two."

Self met with Kansas' current players - including three starters from the 81-78 loss to Syracuse in the NCAA title game April 7 - for more than an hour Sunday night, and he apparently made a good impression.

"He's cool. I like him," sophomore point guard Aaron Miles said. "He said he is a different coach than Roy Williams, but he is a good coach."

Self showed his famous sense of humor Monday. When Hemenway handed him a chair representing the Kansas head coach's seat, Self had a quick response:

"I just touched it," he said, "and it already feels very hot."




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