Bill Self Sr., father of Kansas Jayhawks basketball coach, dies at 82

Jesse Newell/
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Bill Self Sr., the father of Hall of Fame basketball coach Bill Self, has died at the age of 82.

A spokesperson with the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association confirmed the death of Self Sr. on Friday. According to a story in the Oklahoman, Self Sr. coached the Morris High girls basketball team to a state title in 1966. He doubled as Morris school superintendent at the time.

After winning that title, Self Sr. opened a school supply business in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He again became a superintendent, then joined the OSSAA in 1972. He worked there until 1999 and was executive director of the organization from 1991-96.

“He was superintendent of schools at age 23. That doesn’t happen very often and was a head coach at a small school. He accomplished a lot at a young age,” KU coach Bill Self told The Star’s Vahe Gregorian in an interview about Self’s dad conducted in 2018.

“He’s had so many health issues, not so much vitals and life threatening,” Self added at the time. “I think the number is like 17 or 19 orthopedic surgeries. It’s a ridiculous amount. Five or six major back surgeries. All the rotator cuffs of the knees and everything else, rheumatoid arthritis.

“It’s been unbelievable to see how he got up and went to work every day, knowing he didn’t feel well and how he’s carried himself. That’s the thing that impresses me me so much. There’s a lot of things that impress me about him, the fact he didn’t let those things stand in the way of being a great provider and fighting for it.”

Bill Self did not attend Friday’s press conference to preview the Kansas Jayhawks’ game against Kansas State on Saturday in Manhattan. Assistant coach Norm Roberts and a KU official expected Self would be at Saturday’s game.

A quote from Self’s dad is carved in stone at the Naismith Coaching Circle Statue at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Self was inducted in the Naismith Hall in 2017. His dad attended the ceremony.

“Dad, you used to tell me all the time, ‘Son, don’t worry about the mules, just load the wagon,’’’ Self said in his Hall speech. That meant, “Don’t worry about things you can’t control. Just do your job, and if you do your job well, things will work out,” Bill Jr., said at the time.

Self Sr. grew up in Hitchita, Oklahoma — a town of 300 in the east-central part of the state. The Star’s Jesse Newell was told he worked on the family farm picking cotton in the fields. Also Newell wrote that Self Sr. would tend to the vegetable garden that helped feed the surrounding community.

“That’s just how they were brought up,” Shelly Self Anderson, Self’s sister said to Newell referring to their dad. “You work hard, and nothing’s given to you. You work hard for what you get.”

Self Sr. is the person who taught his son fundamentals such as shooting off the correct foot and with his left hand. He and Shelly practiced in the driveway at the family house in Oklahoma. Shelly was a helper teaching Bill to get open off screens. Bill ultimately was a starter at Edmond Memorial High and Oklahoma State University.

“He had to work harder than most people to achieve what he wanted to achieve,” Self Sr. told Newell of his son. “He was a great, slow athlete in all sports.”

In a story often told … Self Sr. is partly responsible for his son leaving Illinois for KU.

In discussing the KU offer with his dad, Self asked his father if he really wanted to follow the highly successful Roy Williams at KU.

“You know what. You should probably stay at Illinois,” Self Sr. said in an interview with Newell. “If you’re scared to follow Roy, then that’s probably not the place for you.”

The next day, Self took the job at KU.

“That was good advice,” Self told Newell, referring to his dad’s telling it like it is.

Self said in the interview with Newell that his dad never told him he played well after a game because he scored a certain amount. Instead, he’d single out the one or two possessions when Bill didn’t try as hard as he should have.

“It wasn’t like you got brownie points for doing what your job is. I’ve always bought into that,” Self told Newell. “I think that philosophy comes from him more than anybody else.”

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