Bill Self can't bear to watch the big loss

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer
Self, who won a title in 2008 over John Calipari, can't bear to view his beat against the man from April. (Getty Images)

While you'd to have imagine that the organized and ultimate college basketball game from the 2011-12 season that was held the night of April 2, in the cultural amalgam that is New Orleans, is playing on a loop in some not-so-far off room within John Calipari's new Kentucky home, allow yourself to think about the other side.

How is Bill Self coping?

OK, "coping" probably not the right word, since the man has won a national title after all -- oh, right, against John Calipari, too! -- but he's a coach, and so he's none too eager to go back and see his team's failures in his quest for a second ring. Self hasn't re-watched the game, and doesn't plan to anytime soon, either.

Self told the Kansas City Star's Rustin Dodd that things are mighty different after a title-game loss. When Kansas had Mario's miracle shot on the way to an overtime win against Memphis in 2008, Self's April agenda was slammed with interviews, publicity, responsibility and appearances all over the country.

After losing this year, Self just got back to business -- and made sure no copies of the title game were near any of his TVs or computers.

It's been 61 days since No. 2 seed Kansas' amazing NCAA Tournament run came to an end in a 67-59 loss to Kentucky in the NCAA championship game at the Superdome on April 2; 61 days since the Jayhawks ran out of time, their final comeback falling a few baskets short in the waning minutes.

“I haven't watched the game,” Self says. ...

On a Wednesday morning in mid-May, Self sat in his office and reflected on the Jayhawks' championship-game loss. Well, that might not be totally accurate. Self says he's still proud of the run, the way that team came together. He just hasn't managed to do much reflecting. He and his staff would love to be in that game every year, of course. But the bottom line, he says, is this run just felt different.

“I think if we'd have won it, I'd still think I wouldn't have reflected as much,” Self says. “Because that '08 deal was just so fresh and new, and it'd been so long since it'd happened around here — it just made it that much extra special. But I'll go through a day now without even thinking about that game, where as before, I couldn't go a minute without thinking about how good (the championship) felt.”

Self not watching the game isn't surprising, but what's always intriguing to me is to see how coaches and players deal with big losses. Some can accept reality, face it and go back to it to learn or to keep the wound from scabbing. Others want it to be behind them like eighth-grade acne.

Looking ahead, Kansas will be pretty good next year, certainly deeper than the 2011-12 team, but without the star power of Thomas Robinson. Elijah Johnson will have to become an impact guard and be the team leader, since T-Rob and Tyshawn Taylor have exited. Ben McLemore's a name you'll know by Thanksgiving, most likely.

The program also gets its once-every-four-years international excursion this summer; the Jayhawks will be in Switzerland and France. (Don't mind me, I'm picturing Self wearing a beret right now, all the while regretting not Photoshopping one onto his head in that there picture.)

 
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