Archive for Thursday, January 13, 2005

Opinion: Self styled

January 13, 2005

Dear coach Self,

I know you're probably busy right now preparing for Iowa State, but I appreciate your time and I'll try to be brief.

I'm a die-hard Kansas basketball fan. Been that way since my grandpa lifted me up in his massive hands and plopped me down on his lap to watch a coach he admired, Larry Brown, and a player he adored, Danny Manning. Besides, KU was the alma matter of my grandpa's favorite player, Wilt Chamberlain.

Having submitted evidence of my KU street cred, I'll admit publicly something that has drawn scorn and contempt from Jayhawk fans in private conversations: until now, I haven't been sold on you as our head coach. Although I was initially pleased when you were hired, I have routinely criticized your style of play.

Because I couldn't have been more wrong, I feel I owe you an explanation.

In the past I've said your teams, while a light year ahead of past KU teams on the defensive end, looked like a third-grade girls team offensively. I used a Johnnie Cochran-like vocabulary to describe your offense: the floor spacing was terrible, passing atrocious and shooting a downright injustice.

I even told a buddy that you were taking KU, a thoroughbred team bred to play at a frantic pace, and turning it into a plow horse.

With the state of college basketball today seemingly focused on speed, athleticism and three-point shooting, I didn't believe your philosophy could keep Kansas at its rightful place near the top of the hoops hierarchy.

Last season's losses to national powers like OK State, Texas and Georgia Tech, as well as upset defeats to nobodies like Richmond, Nebraska and Nevada reinforced my thinking.

Coach, like I said, I was wrong, but because I'm coming clean, I have to admit I even tried to give your job away. I told friends of mine that KU made a big mistake not hiring Gonzaga coach Mark Few, an offensive-minded coach and a great recruiter. Nobody wants to play Gonzaga come March, and a Few-coached team running and gunning in the mania of an Allen Fieldhouse crowd would be a scary-good fit for KU.

Today, instead of cursing you, I'm singing your praises, because in the last two weeks you've proved to me, and the rest of the country, that guts and grit can win just as easily as glitz and glamour.

My shift in thinking began emerging after watching your team, minus the services of Wayne Simien, defeat Georgia Tech at home in perhaps the toughest performance I've ever seen from a Jayhawk squad. And let it be known that my skepticism of you was forever vanquished Sunday night when your battered and bruised team walked off the floor at Kentucky having just hung a loss on the Wildcats.

Kansas had no business winning either of those games without the services of Simien and was only able to do so because of your toughness ( I thought it was cool when I heard you practiced the team in football pads and helmet before the G-Tech game). That rough and ready attitude must have carried over into Rupp Sunday.

I'm not sure any other coach in America could have done what you have without Simien. If I had a vote for coach of the year honors, you'd be be my selection hands down.

So, this is my apology. I'll never doubt you again, I promise. Gonzaga can keep Few in Washington or whatever outpost that school resides in, and Roy can remain Dean Smith's caddy for the rest of his life for all I care. You're my guy, no doubt about it.

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