Bill Self Ready For His First USA Basketball Head Coaching Assignment
The Kansas men’s coach will lead the U.S. into 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship.
You can say University of Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self has done it all.
Induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame? Check, in 2017.
NCAA championship? Check, in 2008.
Final Fours? Check (2008), check (2012) and check (2018).
Big 12 Conference regular-season championships? A whopping 14 and counting, beginning in 2005.
But missing from that resume has been coaching a USA Basketball squad. That changed in March when Self was announced as head coach of the USA Men’s U18 National Team. The 55-year-old will lead the team at the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, held June 11-17 in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.
“I’ve been involved with USA Basketball in the past in a way that’s been limited,” said Self, who this season took the Jayhawks to their third Final Four appearance in his 15-year tenure.
“I was on the selection committee for three years,” he said of his stint from 2005 through 2008 on the USA Basketball Men’s Collegiate Committee. “I enjoyed that, but I never had the opportunity to coach, in large part because I wanted to wait until my two kids were out of school. They’ve been out of school for a while now, and the opportunity to do this presented itself.”
Self’s daughter Lauren graduated from Kansas in 2013, and his son Tyler played for him at KU before graduating in 2017.
Self does have experience coaching the international game, having led a team of collegians to the gold medal at the 2015 World University Games with an 8-0 record in Gwangju, South Korea.
“That was a different experience than this will be,” Self said. “We basically took our team, a team made up mostly of Kansas players. It’s one thing to take your own team that has been together over the course of a year, but this U18 team, this will be a crash course, so it will be interesting.”
Self called the opportunity to coach the USA Basketball U18s a challenge, but an exciting one he is looking forward to despite some pressure going in. The U18 men are shooting for a sixth consecutive Americas championship.
Rounding out the USA coaching staff will be assistant coaches Anthony Grant (head coach at the University of Dayton) and Danny Manning (head coach at Wake Forest University). They will lead a team for the FIBA Americas U18 Championship that will be selected from the USA’s initial 33-player training camp that is running May 31-June 2 at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The international rules differ from NCAA rules, but Self has experience with them from his time coaching at the World University Games.
“Obviously it’s a different clock and a different game, but there are many things about the international game that, in my opinion, are better,” Self said.
One example he cited was how the shot clock changes the defensive philosophy. In the NCAA, teams get 30 seconds to take a shot, and there’s a full 30-second reset on an offensive rebound. In the international game, it’s 24 seconds for a shot, and just a 14-second reset on the offensive board.
“With the 30-second clock, you want to speed things up, but with the 24-second clock, you want to slow teams down with a press to make them use clock,” he explained. “With the 30-second clock, you can walk the ball up part of the floor and still have time. With the 24-second clock, you have to have ball and body movement, and it’s going to happen fast.”
After graduating from Oklahoma State University in 1985, Self broke into the coaching ranks as an assistant coach under fellow Hall of Famer Larry Brown at Kansas for a season before moving on to his alma mater, where he worked under Leonard Hamilton and Eddie Sutton.
“All of them have the same ideals from a philosophical standpoint,” he said, “but the ways to get the same results are different. Every coach in their mind sees the way they need their team to play to give them the best chance to win, and they don’t deviate from that very much. They tweak it, but they still have those core beliefs.”
Self became a college head coach in 1993 with Oral Roberts University and later led Tulsa University and the University of Illinois before returning to Kansas in 2003. He said he’s looking forward to the USA U18 National Team selection and training camp to see what the young men under his charge can accomplish in a tournament where the USA has a 53-2 all-time record and is the five-time defending champion with eight overall gold medals.
“We need to make sure our players understand how difficult it can be, and the importance of pride,” he said.