DES MOINES, Iowa — On a day when thousands spent “sick days,” doctors kept Kansas head coach Bill Self from his job at the NCAA Tournament to focus on his recovery from a heart procedure.
The 60-year-old Self came home from the hospital four days ago, traveled separately from the team to Iowa and attended practice, all with the hopeful expectation he’d be on the bench. Instead of a green light, Self ran into a stop sign from his medical team.
“I’m doing better. I’m feeling stronger and everything. I’m not going to coach today,” Self said in a pre-recorded message aired on the team’s flagship radio station and at the Kansas pregame booster party. “I don’t think I’m at the point where I can be very good for our team if I was out there. I’ve been at practice every day, sitting and watching practice more so than actually on the court participating in a big way.
“Everything is moving in a positive direction. It’s just taking longer than what I had hoped it would to get me back to the point where I can be out there every day. If we are able to do some good things today, then hopefully Saturday will be a different story in that regard.”
Self had two stents placed for treatment of blocked arteries as part of a heart catheterization on March 8. Assistant coach Norm Roberts, who acted as head coach during the Big 12 tournament, handled media responsibilities on Wednesday and indicated Self could be available for the first-round game.
“The doctors’ decisions,” Roberts said after the Jayhawks pounded Howard in the first round on Thursday. “And he’s been able to spend time with the guys and practice and that type stuff. So he’s doing good.”
KU freshman Gradey Dick, who turned in his first career double-double against Howard, said players didn’t know until Thursday morning that Self wouldn’t be there. Roberts said Self would be watching closely, and had a few moments where he “got after” players this week.
“He’s doing doctor’s wishes, and hopefully we get back and hear from him first thing and what he liked out there and what he didn’t like,” Dick said.
Even with Kansas ahead of Howard for nearly 37 minutes in the game, Roberts was far more energetic and theatrical on the sideline Thursday than his typical stoic, arms-folded observer position most of the Jayhawks recognize. He admitted to feeling the atmospheric adrenaline and perhaps filling the void where the fiery Self might have been heard.
“I probably was more animated today just because we knew what they were capable of doing and we didn’t guard it right in the beginning and we let they will get off to many easy looks and got beat back door,” Roberts said. “Those are things we had discussed and said we didn’t need to have happen so I probably was more animated today.”
Self’s 55 NCAA Tournament wins from 1999-2022 with Illinois and Kansas rank fifth in tournament history and depending on when he returns, he could have time to pass now-retired Jim Boeheim (58) and edge closer to Dean Smith (65). Retired Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has 101 tournament victories and former KU coach Roy Williams stands at 79.
KJ Adams said Kansas will look forward to Self’s return — as soon as Saturday in a second-round game in Iowa — as soon as he’s cleared.
“He’s just day by day, taking it time by time and doing the best he can to make it out here,” Adams said.
–By Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media