After winning his second title, will Kansas coach Bill Self challenge for a third championship next season?

NEW ORLEANS — Confetti falling in his hair, an extended hug with his recently widowed mother on the floor, a crowd of media absorbing every word he says to them.

Meet Bill Self, once again on top of the sport. Put everything that happens in college basketball coaching into consideration, and it’s obvious that Self is arguably the best out there. Monday proved it. You can also ask anyone in the college coaching profession; The name of oneself is always included when listing who is at the top of a list of top coaches. It often occupies slot number 1.

His No. 1-seeded Jayhawks made history Monday night, holding their own against North Carolina, their 72-69 victory giving the program its fourth national championship: 1952, 1988, 2008 and now.

Self just became the first Kansas coach to win multiple NCAA tournament titles. Fourteen years after Mario Chalmers hit a 3-pointer to rally Kansas from a nine-point deficit against Memphis — then won in overtime — Self has brought his team back to the top of the mountain. He did it in vintage Self style, driving a second-half masterpiece and doing what had never been done in a title game in the great’s 80+ year history. event.

Kansas trailed 38-22 in the first half, and their 15-point halftime deficit (40-25) looked daunting after North Carolina went on a long 29-13 run. Instead, it was Kansas who won, with their win going down as the biggest comeback in title game history. The Jayhawks did it with a well-rounded player performance; five guys finished between 12 and 15 points for Kansas. It was a classic Self masterpiece. For the third straight game, Kansas scored 41-plus points in the second half. Adjustments, adjustments, adjustments.

He is at the top of his trade, this is where he maintained a level for more than 15 years.

“I think we’re probably all a little overwhelmed and burned out,” Self said. “And I don’t know if I’ve ever had a script-turning team like we probably did in the NCAA tournament, whether it’s Miami in the Elite Eight or whether it’s this game. But it would be special to to win regardless.. But to win when your team had to fight and come back like they did and show a lot of grit makes this one off the charts. I thought that would be good. And it’s way better than I thought I was.”

Victory obviously comes with a looming situation for Self and Kansas. This uncertain future has the potential to influence what the Self can do or wants to do. Kansas is awaiting punishment from the NCAA (via IARP), and sources told CBS Sports that the damage is likely to be severe — and to come. A decision on Kansas in the near future is likely.

This, of course, goes back to the FBI scandal, as the NCAA pinned five Level I violations on Self and his program. He is guaranteed a suspension, and his length can range from low double digits in games to an entire season. He will fight anything, and the university will certainly try to sue on his behalf, but since this is the IARP, there is no appeal process.

There’s a chance Kansas will be banned from the 2023 playoffs as well.

Here is the question. Title n°2 in hand. Auto again conquer the sport. Would he choose to take over? I’m not suggesting he should. I don’t predict he will. But if he did, who could blame him? We already know, via Self and Kansas’ own prior statements, how little they care about how the NCAA handles this matter. It’s as antagonistic to a situation between a school and the NCAA as we’ve seen in a long time — maybe ever. But the man has five Level I allegations against him and his program. Something catastrophic could await Kansas later this spring.

No one knows when Self’s next game will be, but it’s safe to say he won’t be coaching college basketball in November, not when a suspension is all but guaranteed at this point. At 59, he still has many years of training left. How will he choose to spend them?

What if the NBA came to call you? Jobs are rotating in this league at a high rate. Few candidates would have Self’s credentials. It has been considered before and is respected at this level. Like many great college coaches, there’s a natural curiosity that’s been there for years. He would need to be offered a job, of course, but if he was… who’s to say he wouldn’t accept it? Or shouldn’t?

Maybe that’ll just refuel it, though. The DNA of varsity coaches is generally to resist, to fight, and to fend off the NCAA more than to reject punishment and seek success elsewhere. That seems the most likely route. Kansas is coming off a national title after living in recruiting limbo for years. A national championship will give him all the boost he could ask for, especially given the uncertainty that still reigns with his case. If anything could help offset recruiting barricades, a title would do it.

After all, if Self was able to do this under the cloud of uncertainty, what good could await once Kansas is on the other side?

It took him 14 years to win a second one. He is one of only 16 men to do so in his sport. It seems natural to him to be at this stage, if not delayed for a few years. He is so good. With Self and Kansas, it was basically a numbers game, and if he kept going long enough, he was going to get it. He could have gotten there in 2020, when Kansas had the better team. If this pandemic never landed, maybe we’re talking about three-time champion Bill Self this Tuesday after the title match. The NCAA tournament is really hard to win, but Self is a good coach. Getting two doesn’t feel so much like a feat as a natural progression in his career – even if his rise came with an alleged rule violation that will make Kansas and its impending infraction case one of the biggest stories of the offseason.

“They’re hard to get,” Self said of nationals. “No one ever pressured me that we had to win another one, but I think I put the pressure on myself knowing that this place deserves more than what we’ve won. And this year, I don’t know not how these guys feel about me, but I’ve never felt more connected to a band than this year.”

Self lost his father, Bill Self Sr., just a few weeks ago. A title race coupled with major life events can prompt reflection on more important things than coaching in games. It was a special group, of course. Ochai Agbaji has become one of Kansas’ all-time greatest four-year-olds, and his development is a testament to Self’s ability to create an environment in his program where one-and-dones can thrive just as much as four-year-old players who get better and better every year.

“When you go through stuff and when individuals go through stuff, everybody’s dealing with shit,” Self said. “But I never said a word to those guys about everything I was going through, but they raised their own level to a level that supported me. That’s what training is the best, because players can learn from coaches, but certainly coaches can learn from players.”

The man has won 763 games in his career. I would love to see him coach into his 60s at KU, but overall Self has nothing left to prove in college. Achieving multiple championships puts you on a level that few others can match. This man won 14 straight regular season championships. This will never happen again at the power conference level. He can stay and fight the NCAA, take suspension and endure penalties and restrictions he’s never had before. Self has been at school for 19 seasons. If he sticks to it, the future could hold another championship or two years later. But that’s probably not on the table for 2023.

If ever there was a window to try something different, now would be the time. Maybe the last time, even.


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