Would Bill Self ever leave for the NBA? He’s ‘not saying never’
Bill Self has established himself as one of the best coaches in America, taking an already elite basketball program on an incredibly impressive run. In his first decade in Lawrence, Self has won a national title, made another championship game, three other Elite Eights, and has claimed at least a share of the Big 12 conference crown in each of the last nine seasons.
So, it makes sense, especially in light of previous elite NBA coaches either having taken the plunge in the pros or at least been broached by the idea, for Self’s name to surface in terms of a jump in levels. Self was inducted Monday night into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, and gave a surprisingly candid answer to the latest general inquiry.
“It hasn’t really tempted me because I haven’t had that many people talk to me about it,” Self told The Oklahoman. “But at some point and time, sure, I think it would [tempt me]. It would be great to be able to match wits with the best athletes in the world, but I’m certainly happy where I’m at.
“I’m not saying I never would [coach in the NBA] but I’m locked in.”
For most, one attraction of a move to the pro level is the potential jump in salary. Butler’s Brad Stevens just banked a huge pay day by taking the Boston Celtics head coach job, and even if that doesn’t work out for him, there will be no shortage of major suitors for Stevens should he choose to return to the college game.
Self is different in that way because he’s already being paid like an elite NBA coach. In The Oklahoman’s writeup, it was noted that Self signed an extension last season that will guarantee him $52 million over 10 years, not including incentives. There aren’t a lot of coaches in the NBA banking that much a year, let alone with the long-term job security Self has earned (and deserves) in Lawrence.
So, as he said, the move likely would be made more for the personal challenge and newness of the opportunity. And it should work, all things considered. Self’s overall coaching concepts would transition decently to the pros, and he’s getting more hands-on experience with lottery-pick talent last season and this, when he snared Ben McLemore and now Andrew Wiggins.
The question really is whether the right job opens up at the right time. With all the intrigue about whether Stevens can cut it at the highest level, it would almost be more interesting to see whether a long-time college coach with Self’s credentials could make a smooth transition. If you believe Self, that may not be a pipe dream, and it would be an interesting test case for college hoops going forward.