Larry Brown on Bill Self: 'They know the guy cares, so they're going to do anything for him'
Springfield, Mass. — Former Kansas coach Larry Brown, who on Friday night will present Bill Self during his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has been in the game of basketball long enough to learn a few important things about players and coaches.
None of them, according to Brown, are bigger than the one fundamental truth that exists with players at all levels but has been wildly prevalent with the professional players he has coached and observed throughout the years.
“Everybody always tells me about pro players and how you can’t coach them,” Brown told the Journal-World recently when discussing Kansas coach Bill Self’s addition to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. “But the first thing to pros want to find out is, does this coach know how to coach? And they can tell you that after one practice. The second thing they want to know is, can this coach make me better? And the third thing, which trumps them all, is does this coach care? And that’s what Bill has. He has the ability to be direct and hold them accountable but yet they know he cares about them.”
That trait, among dozens of others, is one that Brown admires most about Self, who actually began his coaching career as a graduate assistant on Brown’s Kansas staff during the 1985-86 season.
Since then, through stops at Oral Roberts, Tulsa, Illinois and the last 14 years at Kansas, Self has racked up 623 victories and a laundry list of achievements and accolades that would make any coach blush.
But for each trophy or trip to the Final Four or Elite Eight has been something deeper that exists within Self and the way he relates to his players. And Brown, who has witnessed this firsthand, both in practices and during games, says that trait has played a huge role in Self becoming a Hall of Famer.
“The thing, to me, that separates the really great, great coaches are the ones that can kind of tell their kids almost anything, but the kids accept it the right way because they know they care,” Brown explained. “He lets small stuff go, and he’s done that wherever he’s been. They all know the guy cares, so then they’re going to do anything for him.”
Brown, who recently penned an open letter to Self on The Players Tribune web site congratulating Self on the Hall of Fame and sharing with the world his admiration for the Kansas coach, has spent a lot of time around the KU program during the Self era and continually marveled at Self’s success.
“What he’s created there, shoot, it’s unbelievable what he’s done,” Brown said. “And he has not accepted it as him doing it, which is really unique.”
As for the kind words that Brown wrote in that letter, Self was asked about them in an interview with NBA TV earlier this week. And, in true Self fashion, he joked: “It was a nice letter. It was probably exactly the way my mother would’ve written it for him. But, no, he was way too kind with that and, certainly, he means a lot to me and he means a lot to so many that have been involved with this game.... Having him with me on Friday will be special.”
Stick with KUsports.com throughout the next two days for all kinds of coverage from Self's induction into the Hall of Fame in Massachusetts and be sure to listen to the complete Self interview with NBA TV.