Former Self assistant Jankovich happy both KU and SMU are competing in Tulsa
Tulsa, Okla. — It has been a decade since Tim Jankovich called Lawrence, Kansas, home. But SMU’s head basketball coach is excited for a little bit of a reunion this weekend at the BOK Center.
After heading the program at North Texas and before lead positions at both Illinois State and SMU, Jankovich spent five seasons working with Bill Self — one at Illinois and four at Kansas, from 2002 to 2007.
The second-year coach of the Mustangs, who has the program in the NCAA Tournament as the No. 6 seed in the East region after regular-season and postseason American Athletic Conference championships, said at his Thursday afternoon press conference he was happy to get the chance to work in the same building as his old friends from Kansas again.
“We’ve been texting,” Jankovich said of his interactions with his former boss, Self, since the brackets came out on Sunday. “I don’t know if we’re gonna get together for dinner — we’re a little bit busy.”
Jankovich will try to guide SMU (30-4) past No. 11 seed USC on Friday afternoon, while Self’s Jayhawks, the No. 1 seed in the Midwest, will face UC-Davis later that night.
The head coach in waiting while former KU head coach Larry Brown led SMU the past four years, Jankovich has the program back in the tournament after the NCAA hit the Mustangs with a postseason ban in 2016. He went 106-64 in five seasons at Illinois State after leaving KU.
His winning ways (SMU is on a 16-game win streak and has already set a program record for victories in a season) are reminiscent of Self, and Jankovich showed Thursday a little bit of his sense of humor while fielding questions — a staple of Self Q & A’s. The SMU coach, of course, paid close attention to Wednesday night’s First Four matchup between Providence and USC, when the Trojans trailed by 17 points in the first half before hammering the Friars, 46-27, in the final 20 minutes.
A reporter asked Jankovich for his assessment of how USC (25-9) looked in the two halves of its First Four victory.
“My thoughts are I wish they would play two halves like their first half,” Jankovich joked of the Trojans’ Friday game versus his Mustangs. “That's kind of what I'm hoping. I like their team way better in the first half, and I recommend they stay with that plan.”
Certainly at some point before the former KU assistant and Self leave Tulsa, they will get to cross paths. And if teams play to their seeding, Self might even be able to help Jankovich with a scouting report on Baylor — a potential hurdle for SMU in the Round of 32.
“But I’m excited that Kansas is here,” Jankovich said. “Hopefully we’ll get to run into a lot of people. I haven’t been back in a while. So it’s a little extra-exciting for me that they’re here.”