The Oklahoma City Thunder of the NBA fired head coach Scott Brooks on Wednesday. Names of potential replacements are starting to surface. Would the Thunder consider going after Kansas Jayhawks coach Bill Self? There’s a case that could be made for that.
Oklahoma City had more than its share of problems this season, but the one that may have marked the end of the line for Brooks was missing the playoffs for the first time in the last six seasons.
Seems like a pretty hasty reaction for a team that finished with a 45-37 record this season despite not having NBA All-Star Kevin Durant for a good part of the year and also missing fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook for periods of time this season.Mar 20, 2015; Omaha, NE, USA; Kansas Jayhawks head coach Bill Self calls a play against the New Mexico State Aggies in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at CenturyLink Center. Kansas defeated New Mexico State 75-56. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
We’re talking about a head coach who was voted Coach of the Year in 2010 and led the Thunder to the NBA Finals in 2012. In the coaching business, though, it’s a matter of “What have you done for me lately?” and “What does that mean for the future?” that matters the most.
That being said, the Thunder are actively looking for a new head coach. The names of two college coaches – Billy Donovan of Florida and Kevin Ollie of Connecticut – are being rumored by several national outlets as being high on the Oklahoma City search list.
Both Donovan and Ollie are former NBA players, and both have won NCAA national championships. In fact, Ollie was a Thunder teammate of Durant and Westbrook.
It wouldn’t be prudent not to consider coaching candidates from the NBA level, as well, which we suspect they will. But as long as college coaches are in the conversation, it is hard to believe that the Kansas Jayhawks’ Bill Self would not also be a consideration.
I’m sure throwing out Self’s name like that doesn’t endear many Jayhawk fans, but in many respects Self would be a stronger consideration for the Thunder job than the other two popular names.
First of all, Self is from the state of Oklahoma. he played his college ball at Oklahoma State. His success in 12 seasons at Kansas speaks for itself. He has 352 wins in his dozen seasons as the Jayhawks’ head coach, an .821 winning percentage, plus a national championship and two Final Four appearances. Even more impressive, though, are his 11 consecutive Big 12 championships. The only season that Kansas did not finish first in the Big 12 was in Self’s first year on the job (2003-04), and that team finished second.
Self has coached at three other Division I schools in his 22 seasons as a head coach, and he has had a winning record at every stop.
What’s to say that Self would be interested in an opportunity to coach in the NBA? And, if so, if this would be the right time, from his point of view?
At Kansas, he holds one of the two or three top college jobs in the country. It’s probably safe to say that he wouldn’t be interested in any other college job – he turned down the one other job that might have caught his interest when his alma mater was looking for a new coach seven years back. Which leaves the NBA as perhaps the only other reason he might consider leaving Kansas.
On the con side of the case study regarding Self’s NBA candidacy, there have been enough disaster stories concerning successful college coaches who have jumped to the NBA – Lon Kruger, Rick Pitino, John Calipari, Tim Floyd, P.J. Carlisimo, even former Kansas coach Larry Brown (who Self served under at KU as an assistant in the mid-1980s).
Logic would lead us to conclude that if and when Self might consider an NBA coaching opportunity, the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City would be the most attractive to him. Oklahoma City because of his native roots, and San Antonio because of his longtime friendship with Spurs general manager R.J. Buford.
San Antonio is not an option at this time, so that leaves OKC.
The fact that Self’ name hasn’t come up anywhere I’ve seen – at least, not yet – is a very good sign for Kansas fans and for the Big 12 as a whole. Perhaps Self has already ruled himself out of such consideration. Regardless, it’s difficult to fathom that his name won’t at least come up as the management of the Thunder conduct their due diligence and ponder their coaching options.