Published on March 23rd, 2011 | by Leonard Jackson0
Our Coach of the Year
Living in a college town where the college isn’t your alma mater can be annoying from time to time, but for those of us who suffer this imperious existence here in Johnson County, Ks watching the events over in Lawrence (Ks) with an objective eye can sometimes be incredibly fascinating. In Metro Kansas City Mo we are about forty miles from the University of Kansas campus but it is amazing how many claim KU as “their school.” I’m not certain what qualifies one to make this claim here in the Mid-West, but from where I come from “my school” was the one in which I matriculated and from which, miraculously, graduated. I am told that having two grandsons graduate from KU qualifies me for this distinction, but I just can’t get emotionally attached to “my school” when I have never set foot in any of the beautiful buildings nor even once walked across the campus.
As far as I can determine there must be 200,000 to 300,000 students enrolled annually, or so it seems when you talk to the “alums” in the neighborhood. They are avid supporters and the local merchants, sports talk shows and newspapers fly the colors, sing the praises (sing the praises, sing the praises) and mostly ignore or deny any unusual activities that seem to be such a large part of the daily routine at ole KU.
They hired an athletic director who tried to install a competitive major college football program and was “crushed like a dove” at the urging of a basketball coach who called the entire student body to assemble in the football stadium to tell them “I’m stayin’” and a year later, after attaining sainthood, left to take the job at the school he intended to go to all along.
They hired another AD – this time a super power, big time, major league, nationally recognized administrator, fund raiser and all round miracle worker who accomplished wonderful things until in 2010 his entire ticket office was found guilty of a scheme that looted over $2 million from the school. He was not found guilty of having any knowledge of any of this although, judging from the look on the face of the chancellor of the university on the day of the announcement, she didn’t seem to necessarily agree. Anyway, he “resigned” a short time later and things went back to “normal” in Lawrence.
These are just some of the goings-on that we have watched with amusement over the past years and the environment which our coach of the year moved into. He also has had to endure his share of his own problems, but this has become just part of being a coach in today’s college sport scene. He too, has had players in trouble with the law for firing air guns at the wrong time in the wrong place; allegedly mistreating a girl friend fights with the football team and other violations that were serious enough to merit a suspension for several games for one of the players and last but not least the father of one of his players was allegedly involved in the ticket scandal.
But here is the positive thing that we can focus on out of all of this. This is what the alums can truly be proud of and I heartily agree with them. Through all this circus atmosphere and drama one man stands above it all – basketball coach Bill Self. Despite my less than warm feelings for the Jayhawks I have to admit that this guy has created and (more surprisingly) held together a basketball program that keeps getting stronger and more resilient despite what has come to be this norm in Lawrence. No matter what happens in the NCAA tourney the rest of the way (Kansas has reached the Sweet Sixteen at this writing) this coach has been the go-to guy for the media; to smile pleasantly apologize appropriately for almost daily mishaps in the athletic department, meanwhile holding together a formidable group of talented young men under conditions so bazaar that even at KU it’s become a real test of patience and endurance. All with class and dignity not usually exhibited by his peers in the coaching business. I have to admit – I’m so impressed that I almost hope Kansas goes to the Final Four. Almost.