Larry Brown writes about Bill Self’s coaching strengths

September 5, 2017 / Winning Hoops
Kansas coach Bill Self is among this year’s inductees into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Ahead of Friday’s ceremony, coach Larry Brown wrote a thoughtful piece about what makes Self so effective.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Brown is a former Kansas coach and longtime friend of Self. In his letter, published by The Players’ Tribune, he reflected on Self’s style and what makes the Jayhawks coach so successful in leading today’s players.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

“The first thing I want to talk about is Bill’s ability as a basketball coach. I coined the phrase “play the right way” — at least I think I did — and I’m always amazed by how Bill’s teams follow that blueprint. When I played for Dean Smith, and later when I coached under him, he would always write three things on the chalkboard in the locker room before a game:

  1. Play Hard
  2. Play Smart
  3. Have Fun

Years later, I asked Coach Smith if I could add a fourth item. I told him that number 4 should be: “It’d be nice if we rebounded and defended, too.” (He he gave me permission to make that addition.)

When I look at how Kansas plays basketball for Bill, it does all those things. I believe that you win games with defense and rebounding, and that’s been Bill’s trademark at Kansas. I’ve seen Bill put his fingerprint on KU basketball up close because I get to spend a lot of time in Lawrence — if you add up all my visits from last year, I was probably there 30 days. I get to go to a lot of games and practices, and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t gain more admiration for Bill and what he has accomplished there. If my son wanted to coach basketball at a high level, there’s no other place I’d rather have him be than within earshot of Bill Self. It’s an incredible environment. Every time I leave Kansas, not only do my personal values feel reinforced, but I feel like my mind has been opened to new possibilities as well.

But to me the most amazing thing to watch is how Bill works with the kids. That’s the heart of the profession, after all. For some of the new generation of kids we get in college now, they have a hard time telling the difference between criticism and coaching. And the fact is that you can’t fool kids — they’re too smart and there’s too much at stake for some of them. Bill not only gets on his kids, but he does it in a way that the kids understand instinctively that he cares. He’s not afraid to coach them, and the kids crave that. They might not seem like it sometimes, but eventually they get it.

Bill is sincere. Bill is honest. I can’t stress how rare that is. The kids can tell right away that he has their back. While I don’t like where the game is going — a lot of times, kids just aren’t prepared to compete at the next level — I never worry about that with Bill’s players. His teams are always well-prepared. For kids who want to make it to the next level, Bill helps them make the transition. To say it plainly — he’s one of the best coaches in the game.”

Brown continued to write about the difficulties coaching at Kansas, with all its tradition and history. “(Self) doesn’t make himself any bigger than he is,” Brown wrote.

Self is among 11 players who will be inducted this week into the Hall of Fame. The class also includes Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw, Rebecca Lobo and Tracy McGrady.

Click here to read Brown’s full letter at The Players’ Tribune.