KU coach Bill Self says looking only at Jayhawks' record, ranking is the wrong way to evaluate current state of team
Kansas coach Bill Self has a little advice for the Jayhawk fans out there who choose to look at KU’s 8-0 start and No. 1 ranking six weeks into the season as a sign that all is well in Lawrence. In a word: Don’t.
“That’s not how you should look at it,” the Kansas coach said Tuesday night on his weekly “Hawk Talk” radio show. “You should look at it based on, I hate to say this, but you can leave practice a lot happier if you’re 6-2 some days than 8-0 because you see that they’re trying to do what the big picture is all about.”
That big-picture focus hasn’t always been present for Self’s 2018-19 Jayhawks, and, while it has not hurt them in the win/loss column, it has kept the nation’s top-ranked team from making the kind of weekly progress Self and his coaching staff have come to expect.
The reason? Self said youth and inexperience have played the largest role and it goes beyond their dates of birth and years in school.
“The reason we’re inconsistent so far is because of intangible things that we can control and do a better job of,” Self said. “And I think a lot of that is youth. We have one senior on our team, but the (overall) mentality (of the team) is probably younger than what the actual age is. We need to grow up in some areas and become more mature, but we’ll do that as the season progresses.”
In some ways, the Jayhawks already have. Devon Dotson, who constantly has said he still can improve a lot, has been a steady hand at point guard. Dedric Lawson has become a bona fide go-to player on the offensive end. And, when pressed to lock in against a terrific 3-point shooting team in Wofford last week, the Jayhawks did just that and held the Terriers to 5-of-26 shooting (19.2 percent) from 3-point range and 47 points for the game.
But for every sign of growth and progress there has been one or two other examples of this team being stuck in the mud, a reality that led Self to answer a “Hawk Talk” audience question seeking one word to describe the current state of the team with the word, “frustrating.”
“You’d like to push the guys to the point where, going into conference play (Jan. 2 vs. Oklahoma), you feel totally comfortable on how we’re going to play and they have confidence in how we’re going to play rather than try to tinker and change and figure out things as we go.
“We’re far enough along that we should be fairly set in our ways about what really works.”
According to KU junior Mitch Lightfoot, that type of maturation only will come when the players take it upon themselves to bring better effort, focus and intensity to everything they do. But Self was not willing to leave the burden solely on the players. He said on “Hawk Talk” that the entire KU coaching staff needed to find ways to show the Jayhawks “what really wins and what’s important.”
“To be an elite team we’ve got to improve in those areas,” Self added.