Commentary

Self should ignore the dollars and stay at Kansas

Originally Published: April 8, 2008
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

SAN ANTONIO -- Don't do it, Bill Self.

Don't take billionaire T. Boone Pickens' money, even if it means you could walk from Lawrence, Kan., to Stillwater, Okla., on a road paved with his cash.

[+] EnlargeBill Self
AP Photo/Matt YorkDon't do it, Bill. Stay in Kansas and enjoy one of the greatest title victories ever.

Don't become Dollar Bill, the guy who gets money whipped into leaving hoops heaven for what has become a hoops graveyard.

Don't leave Kansas for Oklahoma State. Not now. Not ever. And especially not after you just won one of the greatest Final Four championship games of all time.

Self was born and raised in Oklahoma. Played at Oklahoma State. Was an assistant coach at Oklahoma State. His father still lives in Oklahoma.

But no matter how much OSU sugar daddy Pickens pulls from his money clip, Self should stay put. The cash might be greener in Stillwater, but the basketball will never be as sweet. How could it?

Pickens' money might be able to buy Self, but it can't buy what Self has at Kansas. And it will never buy what Self experienced in San Antonio Monday evening.

List the the best Final Four national title games ever played, and Kansas' 75-68 overtime victory against Memphis will have to be on it. If it isn't, then you need a remedial course in how to be a hoops fan.

The Jayhawks were down by nine with 2:12 left in regulation. They were down by five with 83 seconds remaining. They were down by three when Mario Chalmers' 3-point attempt left his hands with a scant 3.4 seconds showing on the clock.

And he made it! With Memphis freshman Derrick Rose in his face, and another Memphis player flying toward him, hand outstretched for the block. CBS, Self, and the Jayhawks had their shining moment.

[+] EnlargeJohn Calipari
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallJohn Calipari was stunned after his team blew a nine-point lead with 2:12 left in regulation.

Overtime couldn't match those last few minutes of regulation. Memphis was oven baked by then. The Tigers had missed what would have been game-clinching free throws in those final minutes before OT, and then missed fouling KU guard Sherron Collins before he handed it to Chalmers for The Shot.

"All I want to say is I thought we were the national champions," said Memphis coach John Calipari, who was in full zombie mode after the stunning loss. "And that's the great thing about college basketball and sports. Within 30 seconds they make a play and it's OT, and it's on again."

Self now sits happily atop the college basketball world. He's there because of Memphis' mind-boggling collapse, and because KU's players took full advantage of every one of the Tigers' mistakes.

"Maybe just got a little luckier today," said Self.

But now it gets complicated. Oklahoma State is going to make a run at Self. A Tulsa World columnist was throwing around rumored numbers of a $6 million signing bonus and $3.5 million per year.

Could be true. Could be fantasy. But before you dismiss those sort of figures, remember that Pickens donated $165 million to the school to build a football stadium. The guy is a multibillionaire. Think Oprah's Big Give, but with a twang.

Self said late Monday night that if Oklahoma State called, he'd listen.

"That's my alma mater," he said.

Alma maters are overrated. So is money.

"I've said this last week: I would recommend [OSU] go in a different direction," said Self.

He would recommend it, but he isn't married to it.

"I want to visit with my athletic director," he said. "To be real honest with you, I love Kansas. I love my job here and hopefully it will be a situation where I can spend a long time here. I'm certainly not looking to leave, but [KU athletic director] Lew [Perkins] and I got to visit. I'm sure that'll happen in the next couple of days."

[+] EnlargeBill Self
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallBill Self hasn't said yes to Oklahoma State, but he hasn't exactly said no either.

First of all, I always get nervous when someone prefaces their remarks with, "To be real honest with you," or, "To be real candid with you." Self does that a lot.

Second, I thought Perkins was going to have a small seizure when I asked him about Self and the OSU dilemma.

"Please don't take away a great night," said Perkins, who added that he'd be willing to discuss the situation on Wednesday.

You think Oklahoma State is going to wait that long? Doubtful.

But the question becomes: Is OSU's money worth trading mailing from Lawrence to Stillwater?

The answer, of course, is no.

Perkins is one of the reasons the answer should be no. With Perkins you get an AD who has your back during good times and those times when Kansas' fickle, demanding fans have future memory lapses about what happened here Monday night.

Kansas is going to offer Self a raise. That's a given. So it's not like Self is going to have to sell Amway products on the side to make ends meet. He can make millions at KU, or more millions at Oklahoma State. So it becomes a matter of how many yachts do you need to ski behind?

The chances of winning a national championship at Oklahoma State compared to winning one at KU are, oh, about the equivalent of a No. 12 seed beating a No. 1.

And, sorry, but if a recruit has to choose between Kansas and OSU, where do you think they'll go? Nine times out of 10, KU. Maybe 9.9 times.

"If you can get them on campus, if you can get them on campus when the [Allen] Fieldhouse is full, it's a hard place to say no to," said a coach who knows.

The coach? Bill Self.

Self was the last one up the ladder Monday night. He held a pair of scissors with his right hand and a few moments later, held the freshly snipped net with his left hand.

"I thought this would be great," he said. "It's a lot better than I thought it would be."

And it doesn't have to end. Unless he listens to his wallet and not his heart.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com.

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter

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