Some might say that Kansas head basketball coach Bill Self has nothing left to prove. However, Self still has room to further cement his legacy as one of the greatest coaches in college basketball.
This offseason, Bill Self was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Last week, Self became the second-winningest Kansas coach ever, only behind the namesake of the fieldhouse. It seems like Self has it all. But how does he stack up against the greatest of the modern era?
When comparing Self with Mike Krzyzewski, John Calipari, Tom Izzo and Roy Williams, he ranks fourth in winning percentage. Roy Williams has won almost 80 percent of his games, the best mark, though Self has won more often at Kansas. While winning percentages show consistency, they obviously don’t weight other games as more notable than others. His record at Oral Roberts in this category will always drag Self down, so his shortcomings in this area aren’t of major relevance.
While winning a conference tournament can be a great way to build momentum going into March Madness, regular-season championships indicate sustained excellence throughout the season. Not surprisingly, Self’s streak at Kansas brings him to the front of the pack, falling only behind John Calipari, who also has 17 regular-season titles, but bests Self 14-8 in conference tournament hardware. Self’s Big 12 dominance is great sports trivia fodder and certainly displays his ability to compete at a high level, but has not always translated into success in the next few coaching metrics.
Here’s where the numbers start to favor Self’s counterparts. Self’s winning percentage in the NCAA tournament ranks him dead last amongst his elite peers. Coach K and Williams have won 76 percent of their tournament games compared to Self’s 70 percent. Calipari also has won five percent more of his March appearances than Self.
Fans’ views on tournament record versus overall wins depend on their priorities for a program. For a blue-blood squad like Kansas, banners are attainable and anticipated. Self certainly has left some money on the table when it comes to producing in March.
Bill Self has advanced to the championship game both of the two times his team has appeared in the Final Four, but overall, he’s been severely outpaced by the other top-shelf coaches. Coach K has won in 75 percent of his 12 Final Fours and Williams has won over 66 percent of his nine. Izzo, while only capitalizing on two of his chances, has gone to the Final Four seven times. Calipari, scandal and vacated wins notwithstanding, has played .500 ball in his six Final Fours.
Coach K and Williams have had longer careers than Self, but Calipari and Izzo have been coaching for one year less and one year more, respectively. At this point in his career at Kansas, Self has failed to take his team to the final weekend too many times. Reaching the Final Four is no small feat, but only twice in 14 years leaves a lot to be desired when you look at what these other coaches have achieved.
Self, Williams and Izzo all have won half of their title games. While Williams has lost just as much as he has won, he still has three titles to the single banner Self, Calipari and Izzo have hung. Coach K holds the most hardware, five titles, and the strongest winning percentage. While Calipari has his lone title against Kansas, he has the worst winning percentage of all of these coaches. In the end, as hard as a title loss is on a fan base, a program wants as many opportunities as possible, and Self lags behind.
In too many instances, Kansas has fallen short of expectations under Bill Self. Self has had a No. 1 seed in the tournament in seven of his 14 seasons and has only reached the mountaintop once. The Jayhawks have only won 28.6 percent of their Elite Eight games under Self. Regular-season accolades and statistics aside, Self will need to absolve some of his tournament results and win another National Championship to firmly cement his place in hoops history.