DES MOINES — Days after spending the Big 12 tournament in a hospital bed, Kansas head coach Bill Self rejoined the defending national champion Jayhawks for the NCAA Tournament in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday.
Self had heart surgery last week and traveled separate from the team to Iowa for the first-round game Thursday. His status for gameday, specifically whether he joins the Jayhawks on the bench, will be made Thursday morning.
“He’s looking great, feeling great. He’s excited and we’re excited for him to be able to coach us starting off (Thursday),” said Jalen Wilson, Big 12 Player of the Year.
Like Self’s players, peers aren’t surprised to see him back at work.
“No, because I’ve known Bill since high school,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said Wednesday. “I know how tough he is. What a competitor he is and I also know how important it is for him to be here for his program and players. I don’t want to speak for Bill. He might not be 100 percent his spry self but … when Bill’s on that sideline, he’s helping his team.”
Kansas (27-7) is the No. 1 seed in the Midwest despite a 20-point loss to Texas in the Big 12 tournament championship game. Assistant coach Norm Roberts served as head coach in the conference tournament and traveled with the team to Iowa ahead of Self.
“He’s doing good,” Roberts said, noting there was no final decision on Self being on the bench Thursday when the Jayhawks play Howard (22-12) at 2 p.m. ET. “We’re just seeing how it goes, day by day. We haven’t decided that yet.”
Roberts took the KU coaching press conference assignment in Self’s stead on Wednesday. Roberts said Self would “get his rest” rather than attending the scheduled media obligation.
“He’s doing well, was at practice tonight, he’s getting better all the time,” Roberts said, adding the Jayhawks are “hopeful” Self gets the green light to be on the bench Thursday. “If you ask our guys, he got after them pretty good today, so he’s doing well.”
–By Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media