Tuesday night marks special anniversary for KU coach Bill Self
When taking my regular look through the game notes for Kansas' next contest — 7 p.m. Friday vs. Texas Southern at Allen Fieldhouse — a few things jumped out at me.
For one, Texas Southern is coached by former Indiana boss Mike Davis, who once led the Hoosiers to the national title game back in 2002.
For two, the Tigers are playing their first 13 games of the 2017-18 season on the road, an experiment that has been done before — even by at least one recent KU opponent — but always seems so incredible to me given the fact that KU plays nearly all of its non-conference games in cozy Allen Fieldhouse.
But while those two nuggets were interesting, by far the most notable of the bunch was the section called “This Day In Kansas Basketball History.”
It's a regular feature in the game notes, but rarely does it deliver such an interesting trip down Memory Lane.
On Nov. 21, 2003, 14 years ago, Kansas coach Bill Self coached in and won his first game as a Jayhawk.
Since that night, Self has racked up 418 more victories, two trips to the Final Four, two appearances in the national title game, one national championship, 13 consecutive Big 12 titles and a short trip to Springfield, Mass., to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, coached his first game as a Jayhawk.
Looking back at the game revealed that the Bill Self era got off to a less than memorable start.
Kansas trailed visiting Tennessee-Chattanooga early on, 24-14, and, seemed to be still searching for its identity under Self, who, that night, became the first man not named Roy Williams to walk the KU sidelines since the 1987-88 season.
After the victory, which was sparked by a 28-6 run late in the first half, Self even joked about his first few minutes in charge of the Jayhawks.
“We got off to such a great start,” Self dead-panned of the beginning of his first game as leader of the Jayhawks. "We didn't play as bad as the score, and they played really well.”
While Kansas went on to win, 90-76, delivering Self his first of 419 KU victories (and counting), most of the talk after the game was about how energized the former Illinois, Tulsa and Oral Roberts coach was to get his career going with the Jayhawks.
“He was so pumped up, if he could have put on a uniform, he'd have been out there,” said junior guard Keith Langford of KU's then-40-year-old, first-year coach.
Added junior forward Wayne Simien: "We wanted to make sure he'd get his career here off on the right foot. We showed how hard we could play, getting loose balls. You saw us hit the floor three or four times. There was a sense of urgency tonight for everybody, not just coach Self, but us, too.”
Self admitted after the victory that his KU debut had a different feeling than nearly all of the 300-plus games he had coached leading up to that point. But he also said he felt very few nerves and sounded an awful lot like the man who has Kansas out to a 3-0 start in his 15th season in charge.
“I was excited,” he said. “I don't think I was over-excited," "They (players) knew I was excited, probably. We were so bad in practice yesterday, I almost felt I had to kind of be that way tonight, kind of make sure everybody's spirits were up because yesterday wasn't quite as pleasant as some other days we've had. “I'm glad the way this turned out. I'll be extra glad if the second one turns out as well.”
As it turned out, it did, with Kansas topping Michigan State, 81-74, at Allen Fieldhouse just four days later.
For what it's worth, KU is 6-1 all-time on Nov. 21.