What if KU had been down only 2 points before Mario's Miracle?
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self on Sunday came out of what he called “Twitter retirement” to live-Tweet the CBS rebroadcast of the 2008 national title game.
Heading into the day, Self had sent 273 career Tweets from his verified account (@CoachBillSelf), and, in about three hours time, he bumped up that total by more than 20% after firing off 56 Tweets relating to the action during KU’s 75-68, overtime win over Memphis in San Antonio.
“Our social media team asked me to do it,” Self said. “I haven’t Tweeted in a year. And I’m terrible at it. But that’s hard for me to watch the game and Tweet and do it in a timely manner and all that stuff. So I hope people enjoyed it.”
They did. Big time. And Self covered it all, from what he was thinking and calling at the time a dozen years ago, to new thoughts and reactions he had while re-watching it.
Self said Sunday that he had seen the game probably 50 times since it happened. But he also revealed that it had been a decade since he last saw it. So the idea of watching it again during times of quarantine, when his 2019-20 team should have been preparing for its second-round NCAA Tournament game in Omaha, brought a little joy to an otherwise disappointing time.
The same was true for KU fans across the globe, who ate up all of Self’s commentary, retweeting it and chiming in with their own thoughts and questions.
A handful of Lawrence residents even reenacted part of the celebration by flooding Mass Street in their cars, honking horns and waving KU flags to celebrate the now 12-year old title. It was nothing like the scene that unfolded back in 2008, of course. For one, it wasn’t new and fresh. And, for two, we’re all about social distancing these days. So bravo to everyone who enjoyed it responsibly.
While watching the replay, a thought that has popped into my head during the past 12 years surfaced once again.
We all know that Derrick Rose’s 1-of-2 trip to the free throw line in the game’s final 12 seconds set the stage for KU’s Mario Chalmers to become a hero.
But what if Rose had missed the second free throw, too? What would the Jayhawks have done if they were down by two points there instead of three?
After he jumped off of Twitter, Self took my phone call to answer that very question.
“We would’ve taken whatever we could get,” Self told me.
It could have been a 3-pointer. It could’ve been a drive to the rim. It could have been a drive-and-kick or something designed to get to the free throw line. Self said the Jayhawks would not have necessarily gone for the win or the tie. They simply would have taken whatever produced the best shot.
“Part of our strategy off that play is to have like five or six options,” Self said of the now famous “Chop” play that has been used throughout the years and been copied by coaches at other programs. “In that deal, we thought they would switch ball screens so we didn’t even set a ball screen. That was just a dribble handoff. And the reason it worked, as much as anything, was the fact that Sherron (Collins) fell down. If it was a handoff, it would’ve been an easy switch. But when he fell down, it made it about a 4-foot pass and that led to some confusion — was it a switch or was it a stay? — and created just enough time where Mario could get the shot off.”
Self had time to think about those scenarios on Sunday. But he did not really even let them enter his mind during that final timeout of regulation 12 years ago.
“When we called timeout, before (Rose) shot the first free throw, you don’t go into the timeout thinking he’s going to miss both,” Self noted. “You just want to leave (your players) that one thought of what you’re going to do as opposed to an either/or situation. Because when you’ve got the future NBA MVP shooting free throws you’d think he’d make at least one and that’s what he did.”
Rose missed the first and made the second, leaving KU hope with 10.8 seconds to play. Self said that reality gave the Jayhawks a sense of calm, partly because they were still in it and partly because they were confident in Chop.
“If you look at Mario as soon as (Rose) missed the first one, he like looked up to the heavens and said OK, thank God, we’ve got a chance. One of those deals,” Self said.
Although their chances would have been significantly worse if Rose had made both free throws and put the Tigers up 64-60 with 10.8 seconds to play, Self said the Jayhawks would have run the same thing.
“And Mario would’ve probably tried to turn the corner and played to a drive or a penetrate-and-pitch,” he added.
But that wasn’t necessary. Self said KU never even considered that scenario, instead focusing during the entire timeout on what they needed to do if Rose made 1-of-2 at the free throw line.
And the rest is history.
Here’s a look back at 2017 KUsports.com season tip-off event in which Collins, Tyrel Reed, Jeremy Case, Brennan Bechard and Matt Kleimann came together to rewatch the end of regulation and overtime with a few hundred KU fans on the big screen at Abe & Jake’s.
Like Self’s input on Twitter on Sunday, that group offered a great glimpse back at what it was like to live those moments.
And here's our photo gallery from the 2008 national title game because our photographers were beasts and why the heck not.
And below is the full replay of the 2008 title game in case you missed it yesterday or even if you watched yesterday and just want to watch it again.
And here's a sampling of some of Self's input from Sunday's rebroadcast...