Bill Self said he’s doing well after a health scare kept him from coaching Kansas in the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments last month, and he reiterated Wednesday that he has no plans to step away from the Jayhawks any time soon.
Self spoke to reporters for the first time since March 8, when he went to an emergency room after a final shootaround for the conference tournament. He was complaining of chest tightness and concerns about his balance, and the 60-year-old had two stents placed to help treat blocked arteries at the University of Kansas Health System.
“To be honest,” Self said, “I haven’t done a lot since the Big 12 Tournament. But I’m exercising almost daily. I don’t know if you guys believe this: They told me that I need to improve my diet and exercise more.”
“But I feel fine,” the Hall of Fame coach continued. “My energy level is probably back to where it was prior to the episode but not where it’s getting ready to go, I believe. I think sometimes we don’t realize we don’t feel well until we actually feel well and know the difference. And I’m in the process of feeling well again, so I’m excited about that.”
Longtime assistant Norm Roberts guided the Jayhawks to the Big 12 title game, where they lost to Texas. They still received a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament, thanks to their regular-season Big 12 championship and strong schedule, and easily beat Howard in the first round before losing a 72-71 nail-biter to eighth-seeded Arkansas in the second round.
Self helped to run practices during both of the NCAA tourney games but decided against coaching on game day.
“I was never scared that I wasn’t going to be OK. But it was a different feeling,” he said. “I’m sure many have had it, but it was kind of like an out-of-body type experience that you really don’t know what’s going on. You have no control over what is going on. So it was something that I’d never experienced before, but it was never to the point where I felt like I was in danger.”
Self did acknowledge that the health scare made him reevaluate his future in coaching.
“I think the last several weeks I’ve been able to reflect on a lot of things,” he said. “The one thing I can tell you without question: I missed my job. I love my job and I want to do my job for a long time. That’s what is positive.”
“Now,” Self said, “for me to be effective doing that, I think I have to wake up a little bit and maybe do some things from a lifestyle standpoint, a personal habit standpoint, that I’ve been very, very, very inconsistent with my entire adult life. And I said that jokingly earlier, can you imagine a doctor telling you to lose weight, eat right and exercise? I’ve been told that a long time, but I’m taking that serious for the first time I probably have in my life.”
The Jayhawks, who are holding their end-of-season banquet Thursday, are poised to look much different next season.
Star freshman Gradey Dick has declared for the NBA draft, All-American forward Jalen Wilson has likewise announced his intentions to go pro, and Kevin McCullar Jr. is expected to join them. The Jayhawks also have had forwards MJ Rice and Zach Clemence, big man Cam Martin and guards Joseph Yesufu and Bobby Pettiford Jr. enter the transfer portal.
The Jayhawks have four high-level freshmen arriving next season, but Self acknowledged the need to work the portal.
“We’ve got work to do before we’re a top-10 team, but I’m really hopeful within weeks everybody would say they should be ranked higher than a top-10 team,” Self said. “I feel like we’re in on some good kids.”
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