KANSAS CITY, Mo. — He doesn’t need a job to set him up for life. Bill Self already has one.
Self, the esteemed men’s basketball coach at the University of Kansas, reportedly rakes in $3.856 million annually. The Boston Celtics last month lured Brad Stevens from Butler with a contract that’s worth $3.67 million per year.
Last fall, Self renegotiated a deal in Lawrence that runs through 2021-22. From 1947-2011, the average career for an NBA coach was 5.05 years, according to a study conducted by the web site Weak Side Awareness.
So if it’s not about money, if it’s not about security, what exactly would be the point?
The 50-year-old Self was inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame on Monday night, another jewel in the crown of a coaching career that’s among the best of his generation. That wasn’t the lead. This was: Self, who grew up in Edmond, Okla., raised eyebrows when asked by a local reporter if he would ever shut the door completely on coaching in the pros, what with Oklahoma City being an NBA town and all.
“It hasn’t really tempted me because I haven’t had that many people talk to me about it,” Self told The Oklahoman.
“But at some point and time, sure, I think it would (tempt me). It would be great to be able to match wits with the best athletes in the world, but I’m certainly happy where I’m at.
“I’m not saying I never would (coach in the NBA), but I’m locked in.”
Locked and loaded, now that you mention it. Self’s renegotiated deal is for 10 years and a reported $52.2 million, and that’s before incentives. He’ll receive a $2.63 million bonus if he stays at KU through 2015 and another $2.63 million if he’s there in 2018, and another $6 million if he’s there nine years from now.
Look, after you’ve won nine straight Big 12 titles — and appear to be in the catbird seat to rack up No. 10 this winter — maybe a minor case of wandering eyes is understandable. Over a decade at Kansas, Self has averaged 30 victories a year, taken the Jayhawks to the Elite Eight five times, to the Final Four twice, to the national championship game twice, and in 2008 helped bring home the program’s first NCAA crown in 20 years. Beyond winning multiple NCAA titles, Self went through the standard KU bucket list awfully quick.
And he’s never been shy about backing away from a challenge, a line of thinking that can be traced all the way up the coaching food chain — from Oral Roberts and Tulsa to Illinois and Kansas. One of Self’s mentors is Larry Brown, the ultimate vagabond, a man who never met an area code he didn’t like. San Antonio Spurs general manager R.C. Buford is a friend, so maybe there’s some post-Gregg Popovich posturing in the works. Maybe not.
Either way, Self knows the NBA pros and cons as well as anyone could. It would have to be the right situation, the right front office, the right roster — and most of the franchises that have those three ducks in a row aren’t necessarily in coach-shopping mode at the moment.
So while he’ll never say never, it’s hard to imagine that kind of jump anytime soon, if at all. At KU, Self gets to coach the projected No. 1 draft pick for 2014 this season in Andrew Wiggins, and maybe the No. 1 pick in 2015 as well, depending on what freshman center Joel Embiid ultimately decides to do. At KU, Self gets to coach his son, Tyler, a freshman walk-on last year. In an unstable profession that chews up time and frays families, can you put a price on that?
Stevens and Self are both excellent at what they do. Both have led their teams to a pair of NCAA title games. But the comparisons largely end there.
Butler is a nice gig. Kansas is a destination job.
Butler has a ceiling. Kansas has the moon, and the stars beyond it, if you can find the bodies to launch you there.
You can retire at Butler and be happy. You can retire with the Celtics and become a legend. But there are very few places where you can taste both with the same gilded spoon.
Lawrence is one of them.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.