Bill Self doesn't deserve Big 12 Coach of the Year? I disagree
Kansas had zero returning starters, and four of the Jayhawks' top six players are freshmen. Still, KU won the Big 12 by two games.
Kansas coach Bill Self spent his portion on this week's Big 12 teleconference mostly addressing Joel Embiid's back -- making it clear that things are more serious than he initially grasped while stressing that he still "anticipates" having the 7-foot center again this season.
One after another, the questions came.
Then somebody randomly asked Self why he wasn't named Big 12 Coach of the Year.
"Probably because I didn't deserve it," Self said without hesitation before complimenting Texas' Rick Barnes, the official Big 12 Coach of the Year, and Oklahoma's Lon Kruger, the AP Big 12 Coach of the Year. It was a quick and humble response. It played well.
But it was also intellectually untrue.
Because Self absolutely and undeniably deserves it.
To be clear, I have no issue with Barnes or Kruger taking the honor considering the former went from the so-called hot seat to the NCAA Tournament while the latter took a ho-hum roster to a second-place finish in the Big 12; they're both reasonable picks. But what Self did this season should not be overlooked even if it's still mostly taken for granted.
Yes, what Self did this season -- win the Big 12 -- is what Self does every season.
I know you're used to it and, at this point, I know you expect it.
But the fact that Self makes it look easy doesn't mean that it is, you know, easy, and I'll stand by that statement forever unless you can hit me with a long list of coaches who have A) won 10 consecutive league titles, or B) done it three times without a single returning starter.
That's what Self did this season, by the way.
KU's top returning scorer entering this season was sophomore Perry Ellis, who averaged just 13.6 minutes per game as a reserve last year. Right now, five of the Jayhawks' top seven scorers are in their first season in the Kansas program, and four of the top six are freshmen.
And yet Kansas still won the Big 12's regular-season title by two games.
And don't even try to claim that anybody could do this with KU's talent.
Because that's overly simplistic and, more to the point, 100 percent untrue.
No doubt, Self has spent this season coaching talented freshmen -- most notably Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden. But those are the only three Jayhawks currently listed as top-100 NBA prospects by DraftExpress.com. Meantime, Kentucky has six top-100 NBA prospects, according to the same site; that's twice as many as KU. And yet the Wildcats are currently unranked, point being that enrolling elite prospects doesn't guarantee success ... or, at least, it hasn't proved successful for John Calipari this season.
Exactly what's gone wrong at UK is a conversation for another day.
That's not the point.
The point is that Kansas is essentially just as young as Kentucky and arguably less talented, but you'd never know it by looking at the Jayhawks' body of work, which is why it's ridiculous to take what Self has done this season for granted. How he'll do from this point forward will be interesting to watch, of course, because, suddenly, he's coaching a team without its top post player, and it's possible Embiid won't return at all; time will tell, I guess. But regardless of what happens over the next month, what Bill Self did with this young and inexperienced roster from November to now is absolutely worthy of recognition.
So I know he said he doesn't deserve Big 12 Coach of the Year.
But I respectfully disagree.
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