The Kansas City Star recently published an interview with Kansas coach Bill Self. The piece ran in the newspaper’s weekend magazine section, so it was a bit more of a ‘puff piece’ than a hardcore sports interview. Many things a long-time hoops writer would have skipped asking about — questions we might consider to be too basic for our knowledgeable audience — were asked, with some interesting responses coming from a seemingly more relaxed Self.
One such query aped the quintessential sideline reporter question: “What does it feel like?” We often mock such questions, because they rarely give revealing answers, but Self’s level of despondency following some famous losses was actually pretty interesting. The reporter asked him what losses feel like, and this was his answer.
“The end of the world. It took me a year to get over the loss we had to Bucknell in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2005. Every time I took a bite, in between golf shots — it didn’t make any difference what I was doing, my mind always went there. But my mind never goes to when we came from behind and won a big game.”
I’m betting no overwrought Kansas fan can honestly claim he was still chewing that loss with breakfast in the summer of ’05, or banging it around the back nine at Alvamar when he/she was supposed to be enjoying life.
The reporter also asked about a more fresh tournament loss – the 2012 title game. Self revealed something interesting about his players’ state of mind before, during and after that huge matchup.
Q Was losing the championship game hard, since no one expected KU to be there?
A No. Kentucky was loaded. But the way the game went, it was set up for us to have a shot. We fell behind early, which was probably good, because they played not to lose late.
We’re down 7 with 3 1/2 minutes left. We were down more with less time left against Memphis (in 2008).
But I was so proud because the most shocked people in the world that we lost that night were our players. They were crushed. They thought they were better than Kentucky. And if they had not had that attitude we would never have been playing in that game.
Run down your own internal mental lineups for that game and marvel at the chutzpah. Then maybe offer a little tip of the hat to that indomitable athlete mindset.