LAWRENCE, Kan. — The legendary head coach of the Kansas men’s basketball program is back to feeling like himself again.
After rumors of retirement sparked on social media, Self put them all to bed by talking about how much he missed his job.
“I am 100% positive I will be coaching at the University of Kansas this upcoming season and hopefully many more after that,” Self said.
Self missed both the Big 12 Tournament and the NCAA Tournament this season after undergoing a heart procedure prior to the beginning of the Big 12 Tournament.
“The Big 12 Tournament was out. There was no way I was coaching the Big 12 Tournament. Absolutely no way. I thought I would coach against West Virginia and [the doctors] laughed at me,” Self said.
“And then I said, well, I’ll coach the next game and they laughed at me. And then they said, ‘well, maybe you can coach in you know, two or three weeks.’ I said ‘no, no, I gotta be able to go in five days.'”
Doctors also told Self that if he coached the first round game against Howard, there was a good chance he wouldn’t be able to coach the second round game against Arkansas.
“Before the Arkansas game, the day before, there was still a concern of elevated heart rate.”
“The risk of my blood pressure elevating was something that they saw as a potential major concern, so that was eliminated. We had to win the Arkansas game for me to coach in the West Regional.”
The 60-year-old coach said holding him back was the right thing to do and that he was never scared throughout the process because he was in such good care.
“It was kind of like an out-of-body type experience that you really don’t know what’s going on, you have no control and what’s going on. So it was something I’d never experienced before, but it was never to the point where I felt like I was in danger. I was in such good care and all that stuff, I just knew I wasn’t right.”
The Okmulgee, Oklahoma, native has won 17 Big 12 regular season championships, nine Big 12 Tournament championships, four Final Fours and two national championships in his 20 years in Lawrence.
He said this entire experience has made him want to do his job even more and get his health into a better place.
“I miss my job. I love my job and I wanna do my job for a long time. That’s what is positive,” Self said. “Now for me to be as effective doing that, I think I have to you know, wake up a little bit and maybe do some things from a lifestyle standpoint, a personal habit standpoint that I’ve been very, very, very inconsistent with my entire adult life.”
“Can you imagine the doctors telling you you need to lose weight, eat right and exercise, you know I’ve been told that a long time. But I’m taking that serious for the first time I probably have in my life.”
The Jayhawks lost to Arkansas in the second round in a close back-and-forth matchup. Watching the team play up to their highest potential is what Self will remember instead of a loss.
“Whatever their ceiling was, they got about as close to it as they possibly could this year,” Self said. “But to win this league and have those young guys compete at the level they did over a period of time, over the course of months, I’ll remember that and that’ll be my closure more so than what could have happened on the last possession of the last game.”