ST. LOUIS -- Leading up to Kansas' game against North Carolina, Jayhawks coach Bill Self had just spent almost an hour answering questions from the media. The winner would advance to the Final Four, yet nearly one-fourth of the questions directed at Self were about Roy Williams, who -- perhaps you've heard -- was replaced by Self at Kansas.
After Saturday's press conference ended, Self sat down in a golf cart waiting to be taken back to the locker room where the local media awaited with even more questions.
"I guess I'll go answer some more Roy questions," Self told me. "What's it been? Nine years?"
Yes it has. Nine long years -- but Self officially escaped Williams' shadow Sunday evening.
"What Bill Self has done speaks for itself," Big 12 acting commissioner Chuck Neinas said. "Bill Self is in no one's shadow. Well, unless, it's Phog Allen."
The Jayhawks pulled away from North Carolina 80-67 on Sunday. Kansas' defense stifled North Carolina as the Tar Heels were limited to 22.6 percent shooting in the second half, the lowest percentage in a half for the storied program ever in an NCAA tournament game.
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The victory gave the 49-year-old Self a second Final Four to go along with eight consecutive Big 12 titles, the 2008 national championship and, oh yeah, a 2-0 record against Williams in the NCAA tournament at KU.
While the Jayhawks were celebrating on the court, Cindy Self, Bill's wife, stood four rows behind Kansas' bench, tears streaming down her face.
"In November," Cindy said, "wow, who would have thought this?"
Not many people. Before the season, Bill admitted to Cindy the months ahead coaching the Jayhawks were "going to be a lot of work."
The Jayhawks had only one returning starter off last year's 35-win team and there were a lot more questions than answers about the upcoming season.
Bill Self said he also had a lot of questions and doubts if he should even take over for Williams in 2003.
"I called dad [Bill Sr.] and I said 'I don't know if I can do this. I don't know if I can take that job. Roy won so much. He's loved there, and all that stuff, blah, blah, blah, blah,' "Bill said.
"He said 'You know what, you're right. You're exactly right.'
"And I said 'So you don't think I should take it?'
"And he told me 'No, I think if you're scared to follow him, you're right, I don't think you should take it.' "
Bill's father was calling his son soft.
"That was a good call, because I was being soft," Self said.
Shelly Self Anderson, Bill's sister, remembers the period before his brother decided to leave Illinois for Kansas.
"He was back and forth," she said. "I know he changed his mind a lot. He was advised by Dick Vitale not to take it because he thought Bill couldn't live up to Roy Williams."
Sorry Dickie V., but you were wrong.
Self had heard enough. He made the move -- and hasn't stopped winning ever since.
"I just really believed that following a guy like that, I think could have been hard," Self said. "But I tried to make it as easy as possible because I was never intimidated by his success."
Self's success at Kansas has been extraordinary and, quite frankly, taken for granted. He wins 84 percent of the time and the Jayhawks' APR has been a perfect 1,000 the past six seasons. There's no question he's had some hiccups in March, but his NCAA tournament record at Kansas is still an impressive 22-7, a 75.8 winning percentage.
Not bad for a guy who at 30 became a head coach for the first time at Oral Roberts -- where he recruited his first player while ordering lunch at a Subway restaurant. He had losing records his first two seasons at ORU, but since then he's only won fewer than 20 games twice in the past 15 seasons and has won at least 30 games the past three seasons and five of the past six years.
"As long as he's coaching at North Carolina and Kansas and North Carolina are playing, people are going to be hyped about it," Kansas senior guard Conner Teahan said. "I know Coach Self has done a great job but there are people that still hold grudges. I think that will play into it if there's ever a Kansas-North Carolina matchup again."
For what it's worth, Self would love to schedule a regular-season series in North Carolina. Williams said he wants no part of that because it would be too emotional. By the way at Williams' Saturday press conference leading up to the game, more than half of the questions he was asked revolved around Kansas or Self.
Kansas junior guard Travis Releford said Sunday's game should stop any more comparisons between Self and Williams.
"It puts it to rest," Releford said. "You can't compare. They've played head-to-head [on Sunday and in 2008 in the national semifinals, an 84-66 KU win], two of the best teams. You've seen the outcome."
After all of the Jayhawks had cut a strand from the net, it was Self's turn. He climbed the ladder to cut the final three strands.
Self then took the net in his hand and waved it to the Jayhawks' contingent inside Edward Jones Dome to his right and then to his left. He took one step and then jumped all the way down to the court from the third step onto the court.
Clinching the net in his hand Self beamed. There wasn't a shadow to be seen anywhere.