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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Bill Self intends to finish his coaching career at Kansas, making his clearest statement yet one day after the announcement of a lifetime contract that will pay the Hall of Famer $53 million over the first five years and make him the most highly compensated men’s basketball coach at a public university.
Self has said repeatedly over the years that he is content with the Jayhawks. But there has always been the suspicion that an NBA team could come calling — perhaps Oklahoma City, near where he grew up, or San Antonio, where he has long been rumored to be in line to succeed close friend Gregg Popovich with the Spurs.
Yet the 60-year-old Self was as definitive as ever about his future while speaking Wednesday with a small group of reporters.
“Make no mistake, they can still get rid of me. That’s why contracts are written where there is, ‘If this happens or that happens, this happens and these are the consequences,” said Self, whose amended contract amounts to a five-year deal that extends each year. “But that’s the way it should be, you know, in every walk of life. But I’m excited that I will finish my career here.”
Kansas athletic director Travis Goff said he approached Self early this year about amending his contract. The reason it took so long to announce was because of the back-and-forth with lawyers, not because the university was awaiting a decision from an independent panel on an investigation into NCAA rule violations.
The panel last month lowered what had been five Level I violations and gave the Jayhawks relatively minor penalties.
Self’s amended deal will pay more than $11 million this season, including a one-time signing bonus and retention payments that include money deferred during the pandemic, and far outstrips the contract signed by Kentucky coach John Calipari, who had been the most highly-compensated coach at a public university. (It is unclear what private schools, such as Duke, have paid their coaches because they are not required to make those contracts public.)
“I mean, literally, we’re talking about the most consistent, most successful coach in modern basketball,” Goff said Wednesday, “and for a number of reasons, I didn’t feel like his contract was reflective of that. And so, to me that’s what this contract reflects. It reflects having the best coach in college basketball at the helm and not necessarily ensuring, but maybe it’s viewed as cementing, him to finish his career right here at Kansas.”
Self did not say how long he would continue coaching the Jayhawks, who are ranked No. 1 and coming off a season-opening rout of North Carolina Central on Monday night. But he did acknowledge that after more than three decades at a head coach, he has made the turn — in golf parlance — to the back nine of his career.
“Not only the back nine, but I’m on the back, you know, three or four,” Self said. “But that’s OK. You know, I’ve been a head coach now for 31 years. And 23 of them have been in the fastlane, OK? I don’t even count Tulsa as the fastline, or Oral Roberts, but Illinois and Kansas? That’s the fastlane. I mean, you’re competing against the big boys daily.
“So you know, could I do it for another 23 years now, or would I want to? No,” he continued. “But I could do it for several more, absolutely. I don’t have a timeframe on when the end is, but I say closer to two thirds of the way (through his career).”
One potential determining factor is Self’s health.
He was taken to the hospital on the eve of the Big 12 tournament in March with heart trouble, and wound up having an aortic valve replaced. Self missed the entire conference tournament, where the Jayhawks lost to Texas in the title game, and the NCAA tournament, where the No. 1 seed and defending champions lost to Arkansas in the second round.
“I don’t think I’m doing much different. I don’t think I would in games anyway,” said Self, who is quickly approaching the top 10 in career Division I wins. “I think I would more in practice, but I don’t. I don’t. I don’t sense a big change.”
One thing Self probably doesn’t have stressing him out anymore is money. Then again, it doesn’t seem like that has ever been a factor, even when he was making $4,400 a year just starting out as an assistant to Larry Brown in the mid-1980s.
“You know, the thing about it is, I’m happy for anybody when they do well. I’m not jealous about that at all,” Self said. “But I will tell you, me or whoever it is, when you have your team play close to their ceiling, that is far more important toward happiness in our world than what other people may think it is.”