Bill Self Doesn’t Mind the Pressure Heading Into League Play with Eight Consecutive Regular-Season Championships on the Line

January 10, 2013 – 8:40 am by Steven Cuce

The Kansas Jayhawks opened up league play Wednesday night with a 97-89 win over Iowa State. All eyes are on the No. 6-ranked Jayhawks in the Big 12 as they defend eight straight regular-season championships.

Bill Self embraces the pressure. The Jayhawks’ head coach explains in the following interview his philosophy about stepping up in pressure-filled conference games.

Bill Self joined KCSP in Kansas City with Bob Fescoe to discuss the Kansas Jayhawks improving through their non-conference schedule, playing under the pressure of winning eight straight regular-season championships in the Big 12, leaning on senior leadership during conference play this season and the emergence of senior forward Kevin Young.

What did you take away from the non-conference portion of the schedule?

“Well we got better. I didn’t think we were very good in November. That was pretty evident, and when December got here, we started playing a little bit better and guys started understanding the roles more and of course we had the one huge win in Columbus and got tested at the end against Temple, which was great for us. But all it does is set the table for the conference season and, of course, that is very important to us and as it is everybody, and we put a lot of value in trying to win the league and hopefully we can have some success and get off to a good start.”

Is it more pressure on the kids to win eight straight regular-season championships in the Big 12?

“I have no idea. It may be. It may be more pressure, but if you can’t operate under a little more duress then you probably aren’t going to play in a lot of games meaning a lot. I don’t mind the pressure; I don’t think our players mind the pressure. It’s important to play games even when you are in the top five of the country, which we are not. But in year’s past, when we were, you are everybody’s biggest game and that kind of stuff. That’s the kind of pressure you want because it teaches you how to play games when it really counts, and I love to have the best players and I’d love to play with a ‘free pass’ and total freedom the whole year, but it just doesn’t happen that way around here, so you might as well embrace it. I think our players embrace that.”

Are you leaning on the four starting seniors on this team? You don’t get that often in this day and age of college basketball?

“No you don’t. We got four good ones. They’ve all been battle-tested and they are going to screw up and we are going to tell them the wrong things to do and all that stuff. It is nice that you can run some guys out there that, no matter what the circumstance or situation, is at least the appearance so far this season is that it will be OK. We didn’t finish the game right at all against Michigan State and this is no excuse, but we also didn’t have Kevin Young, and that makes a big difference, especially in late-game situations, so I am excited for them. I am excited about their potential, but in no way, shape or form am I thinking that we arrived or I am giddy about it because I know how hard it is to win in this league, and people on the outside may not know that. The league is not down. We’ve had some bad losses in the non-conference of the league and we contributed to that, but the league is not down. You wait and see. Five out of 10 will get in the NCAA tournament and there will be a lot of games that will raise a lot of eyebrows throughout the league race and we’ll be a part of several of them. We just gotta figure out a way to win them.”

Why has Kevin Young been able to pick it up and play so well?

“I think a year off doesn’t help anybody. I’m not talking a year off being redshirted, I am talking about a year off when you don’t play ball because he took a year off playing basketball competitively. It took him a little while. A lot of times with transfers, the most you get out of them is a half a year with most of them, because it’s totally new to them and they are trying to fit in and trying to play and not think. Second half of the year last year, he was pretty good, and in the first half of the year, in the Ohio State game, he was great, but he was inconsistent and I think he was more comfortable with what we do. I’d like to think he is more comfortable with me and I think I understand his game better. I think a lot of the times it is on coaches to understand you want a guy to be this or that, but it really doesn’t fit him to be exactly what you want him to be, so you tweak it and see all the good things he brings to the table, as opposed to the things he is not bringing that you would really like from a prototypical standpoint. And I think I’ve adjusted my thoughts with him and some of those things.”

Listen to Bill Self on KCSP in Kansas City here

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