Why Self Keeps Banging All of Our Heads Against the Wall (for lincase)

  • @lincase

    I have distilled your question about Self to some colloquial bluntness.

    Excuse me if I have put the wrong words in your mouth. Let’s just call them mine. 🙂

    The subject is a little complicated, as anything really worth thinking about is.

    We get to be a bit reductive as fans watching results, just like the media folks do.

    When we do our part right, we discover what Self is doing, or trying to do, and we can admire him for it. And occasionally find he makes an error or two that any human being makes in real time from time to time.

    We tend to go astray, when we stop at seeing him do something apparently illogical and simply conclude he was wrong, and say, “ah ha, see, if he had done what we say then he would have won.”

    In the instances where he does something that appears illogical, it seems wise to return to “why” he would logically be doing.

    First, let me describe the team just a bit. Self has a Swiss Cheese team. It has holes everywhere.

    It has a championship grade perimeter shooting team with a championship grade point guard, but this perimeter strength of the team has serious holes. Devonte is only a credible back up to Frank, when the action is not hot and heavy, because Devonte is a true freshman, not an OAD. At the 2, Selden just HAS lost his pop and cannot get up unless he is on the end of a very long run at the hoop. Behind Selden there is Devonte, who, again, is a more credible back up at the 2, but still not strong enough to handle many opposing 2. He also has Brannen and Svi. Brannen is a great shooter with defense issues that have improved some, but not a lot, and a proclivity to shoot before he is instructed to, even by February. Svi cannot make shots in games. Svi cannot guard over a pick by February. At the 3, Self has Oubre, who keeps getting better and prettier each game, but who is not migrating into the junkyard dog Self thinks the team needs him to be to steal the extra possessions (rebounds, strips, disruption) the team needs to get more FGAs than the other team, and so score more points. At the 4, Self has Perry, a finesse scorer, who as of February his junior season, is finally just now deciding that contact is fun and productive for his game. Perry has been a microcosm of the Swiss Chesse team. He has been an unquestionable strength with a hole in it. Behind Perry there is, um, well, Jamari Traylor, who has, or used to have extraordinary explosiveness, but no knack for rebounding and no credible jump shot. And now Jamari has a hip pointer that seems to make the once explosive one, move about without even the pretense of trying to rebound. At the 5, we have, uh, hmm, well, we have Cliff Alexander, the enigma inside a riddle wrapped in a mystery. Cliff can be play for, oh, say anywhere from 16 minutes to 6 minutes, and still be on the NBA draft board. And perhaps the only person that could reach him, Mr. Oreos himself, Snacks Howard, is, um, suspended for misdemeanor cannabis possession he forgot to tell his mentor about. And when Self has to sub Cliff out, he has, uh, well, he has some options that are kind Swiss Cheese themselves. Let’s see here, he has Jamari, with the holes he has, and whom he can only go to when Jamari is not spelling Perry. And Self has Landen Lucas, who moves well, guards the post some, outlet passes well, but has no discernible offense and gets rather few rebounds, especially the offensive kind. Self gave up on Hunter Mickelson apparently because he had to make a triage choice and develop either Landen, or Hunter, and Hunter seemed not to offer as much ballast, which Self felt KU would need more from time to time, than Hunter’s better shooting. This is the inventory that Self has to try to win a B12 conference title with, and which even after losing on the road in Morgantown, finds himself still remarkably in the lead of in mid February, 2015 Common Era.

    I am not trying to knock our team, just paint an accurate picture of it from which to proceed with remarking on Self’s choices.

    Self appears to assess the Swiss Cheese this way. We can shoot the lights out over the course of a game from outside. If we could just develop our inside game to even just adequate, we could be a dangerous tournament team. If we don’t, we are little more than a blue blood program with mid major Swiss Cheese.

    A person, as humans are apparently constituted, has to believe in something to get on with it everyday; this is why we have so many religions and so many gods, and their equally extraordinary counterparts of agnosticism and atheism, and their umbrellas in epistemology–philosophy. We apparently don’t do well starting each day entirely from scratch, entirely with our memories erased, our personalities de-patterned into complete openness to receptiveness to all possibilities that random context, or Big Brother, or well meaning culture, can implant in us at the drop of a hat. Even Lao Tse, who pretty much rejected everything about conventional culture as bogus, had “a way” he got to get up with each day.

    Bill Self has a philosophy with two givens he starts each day with:

    Given 1: We can get better at what we work on.

    Given 2: When they can and do take something away from you, you have to do something else to try to survive.

    Given 2, though expressing an operant logic, is also kind of an animal faith, if you like Santayana, or maybe a postulate if you are more prone to geometry and math, but I am going to call it a theorem, for the sake of further discussion, and say it has at least three corollaries, for the sake of some kind of at least linguistic coherence.

    Corollary 1: They can’t take away our god given, or existential, rights to play defense, so we work tirelessly on defense as our cornerstone.

    Corollary 2: They can rarely take away our rebounding, so we pursue this as if it were our god given, or existential, right and work tirelessly on rebounding.

    Corollary 3: They can and do take away parts of our offense, but they can’t take away all of our offense, so we play take what they give us.

    There are three basic things worth doing offensively in the Self philosophy: play outside (shoot high effective percentage long treys), play inside (high raw percentage shoot short treys), and transition off pressure defense triggering stolen possessions and high percentage open looks at the end of a fast break (i.e., this and offensive rebounding and defensive rebounding converging to yield more total FGAs than the opponent and so more made baskets in most cases).

    If one believes one holds that any part of one’s offense can be taken away, and one believes in getting better at things, then the only logical thing to do is to make sure you execute well what you are good at, and get better at what you are bad at, because you ARE going to have to do both, sooner or later, whether you like it, or not.

    This is what Self gets up everyday believing. This is the wheel, at times it seems, even the Mandala, he does not reinvent.

    There may be no truths outside the Gates of Eden, as Bob Dylan sang, but inside the game of basketball, you gotta believe in something to get each day started and not waste one.

    Herein is the great advantage of unwavering faith, and a blue print for building with, assuming neither is completely misguided. One never wastes a day, if one wakes up with the same philosophy, and keeps working on it. One may make more, or less progress, one may make mistakes and miscalculations, one may cut errantly because of only measuring once, not twice, but, more days of work and measuring twice can correct that, and that correction contributed to the net progress in building to our goals.

    Here is the secret of all great persons. They spend more days building to their goal than the other guys do. They never waste a day, some not an hour, some like Self, not a minute.

    This getting better thing is very big medicine, when it is applied to a sound philosophy with a good blue print.

    We here that point out apparent logical truths like 3>2 are in some sense willing to junk Self’s philosophy that you have to be able to score inside and score outside, because sooner or later, they will take one away from you.

    Self says, "Fine, you take a few days off and create your new philosophy. My season has a time constraint. I blue printed the team this way and I am not wasting a single day of getting better on building from my blue print. I keep making adjustments and tweaks to try to get through game to game, but in mid February I have to make certain hard choices. If there is something we are not good at in February, then I have to play as if we were and keep working on it, AND, if there are players that just can’t get it by now, then they have to sit. If they can’t do a simple fundamental task that I ask them to do after 4 and a half months of me telling them, teaching them, coaching them, reassuring them, upbraiding them, and benching them, then I have no choice but to bench them both to keep trying to wake them up, and to keep them from doing damage to our pursuit of getting better at being a team capable of playing consistent with our philosophy, theorems and corollaries. There are not days to waste. There are no games to waste in our pursuit of our goal, which is not so much winning as becoming the team that can win. That Self wins and develops teams that can win is a testament to his ability to race and wrench simultaneously.

    But how does this justify losing a game in Morgantown that might have iced the eleventh title by not taking more treys, and by not playing your OAD center more than 6 minutes?

    Strategically speaking, Self was mastering the obvious. This team can afford to lose this game, because it is a road game and we are in the lead, and we will beat this WVU team at home, but this team cannot afford NOT to keep getting better, not to keep trying to get better, at what we are trying to become. For this team to be the best it can be in March, it HAS to:

    a.) learn when to take a trey consistent with our blue print;

    b.) learn to score inside; and

    c.) learn to beat bigger teams within the blue print of our team.

    Self believes in playing take what they give us.

    Self believes in getting better and that anything can be gotten better at.

    Self believes that this team does not need to become exceptionally good at scoring inside, just good enough, and he thinks it is within these players abilities to get that good.

    He was willing to take a road loss he could make up at home to “keep working the problem people,” as NASA’s Gene Kranz was reputedly famous for saying.

    And the team came within one of doing it.

    And that is what the team and the fans need to carry away from this game.

    WVU is a pretty strong, robust test of this team’s ability to get better at scoring inside, at playing ruggedly against a rugged opponents, at taking what they give us, even when it is NOT our strength they are giving us.

    Coach Self is staring his team down again.

    He appears to be saying something I will paraphrase as, “You all thought life wasn’t easy, wasn’t fair, because of the many disadvantaged places you came from, and the many obstacles even the prosperous among you have sprung from. Well, I am here to tell you that you are absolutely correct. Life is never fair, because the other guy always tries to take from you WHATEVER you are good at. That is how the game of basketball and the game of life are played. And you better learn it now, and you better learn it fast, because it is February 17th, and our season ends less than a month if you don’t learn the lesson, and it ends in April if you do.”

    There isn’t going to be any reliance on crutches.

    There isn’t going to be any reliance on what we are good at.

    Not until we have gotten enough better at what we are not good at–not until we do not need crutches at all.

    If we rely on crutches, they will take those away from us.

    And we can’t be champions that way.

    Thus, while we can argue that there may be other ways to skin the cat of this season, other ways to make use of the sketchy material at hand, other ways to win, other philosophies to embrace, Self’s philosophy and use of his material is sound in its own way and given what he is trying to accomplish.

    Always remember what Self said: “If I did the popular thing, I wouldn’t be around here very long.”

    He is, behind the fracture syntax and Okie dialect, a professional and when push comes to shove part of a shaman class descended from Henry Iba that believes in a particular philosophy of how to play the game.

    There will always be disagreements about such things. Forest Allen reputedly though Henry Iba was brilliant, but at a certain point he began to strongly criticism Iba for reducing the game to deliberate perfectionism of execution, the same as Allen criticized the dunk and gamblers as bad for the game, too. Note: it was probably no coincidence that Allen grew irritated with Iba, since Allen was a bon vivant and tireless experimenter with the new that believed in innovating so as to let other teams beat themselves in confrontation with the new and different. Iba was saying, I’m going to let you beat yourself with being new and different, because my deliberate perfection allows me to make fewer mistakes and biases total FGAs, FG% and defensive field goal percentage in my teams favor every time. See why Phog might have been a bit exasperated?

    We have as our coach the latest, greatest, apostle of Henry Iba’s approach to basketball that largely determined John Wooden in his adaptation of the philosophy to a full court game, Bob Knight in his fanatical commitment to precision offense, Dean Smith in his fanatical devotion to a single high low post offense (the Carolina passing game), and Larry Brown himself. And this is leaving out Iba’s hand picked disciples Doyle Parrock, Paul Hansen, Don Haskins, Jack Hartman, and Eddie Sutton. And even someone as far from the Iba tree as Ralph Miller referred to Iba in the same breath with Allen.

    When we talk here about 3>2, we are applying a deceptively simple formula as foundation shattering to the epically influential Iba school of basketball, as e-mc^2 was to Newtonian physics.

    To apply it without understanding that the Iba school of basketball is an ice berg of which we fans mostly only appreciate the small tip sticking out of the water, is to be both careless and less than serious about the game.

    I happen to think that 3>2 will over the next 30-50 years force a complete reformation of catholic basketball philosophies, but that it will be slow in coming and will almost certainly not come in the way that anyone today might simplistically expect.

    To put what I am saying in a metaphorical perspective, Einstein rewrote theoretical physics with specific and general relativity nearly about a century ago. But as a working physcist once told me in some confidence, its all very interesting what Einstein did, but when I actually figure out how a satellite must be sent to Mars, I still use Newtonian physics, and when I study particles in the CERNE accelerator I use quantum physics assumptions of paradox, spooky interaction and absence of locality that Einstein insisted absolutely could not hold. In short he was saying there was no doubt that e-mc^2 and the formalizations it was embedded in were descriptively accurate and enlightening in helping us conceptualize the universe, but human beings often have to “operate” in a universe differently than their descriptions permit. Process differs from conception. Execution differs at times from conception. And all along the way uncertainty and action on incomplete information are yielding unexpected outcomes with unforeseen consequences.

    Self and the entire Iba school of basketball are, metaphorically speaking, like contemporary physicists staying grounded with what works understandably in Newtonian physics, and what works without complete understanding, like Quantum physics, because they are in the business of getting on with it each day, of applying it each day, not just thinking about it. But they know 3>2 as surely as contemporary physicists know e=mc^2. And they think about it. But so far, it remains, however logically valid, a formalization they view as a gross oversimplification without a proven philosophical and theoretical framework underneath it.

    Working physicists say to the theoretical physicists, well, fine, but I still have to get some instruments to the Martian surface now.

    Likewise, the basketball coaches are saying, you may be right, but this season is here now, and March is less than two weeks away, and my blue print is the blue print I have to work with for this season, and I have fit it to my players the best i could, based on the philosophies that have made Bill Self win 82% for ten season, and win 10 straight conference titles and be leading for an 11th in mid February.

    Pudding is, as they say, at least a partial proof.

    And the more successful something is, wrong or right, the harder it is to give up.

  • @jaybate-1.0 Wow. Honored to have my name in the title. Certainly Coach Self has a sterling track record, but–referring to some of your other posts, do you ever wonder if lesson teaching is another word for anger, and offensive philosophy is just another words for stubbornness? I don’t want Coach Self to change completely (I do know how lucky we are to have him at Kansas), I would just like him to move a bit. 15 3-point attempts might have gotten the job done.

  • Not that I don’t agree with almost everything stated in here… but we do need to practice some patience.

    The old proverb, “be careful what you wish for… lest it come true” has never been more true.

    Here is a guy who is happy to change, almost by the second…


    Hard to watch without puking…

  • @jaybate-1.0 Interesting, thought-provoking read. I agree Self still trying to develop & sharpen some tools this team potentially has, by teaching Cliff through the quick-hook method…but look at the bright side: Cliff not on the 2yr EJ plan…

    And Lucas played because he is a BANGER. Consider Lucas a Sasha Kaun-type, but with more offense. We will need a 6’10 banger for all tourney play–so get BigLL comfortable now!

    Or, Self simply got fed up with the AWFUL rebounding, so simply put Lucas in to try & salvage THIS game.

    Story of the game is the endgame: what did we do to squander a 10pt lead? We let WVa hit 2 open 3s in their own gym, and we let Staten get untouched for a layup? And didnt a ku player miss 2 FTs in that last 4min?

    To me, this was NOT about hitting “x number” of 3s, We blew a 10pt lead. PisspoorD last few min

  • @ralster my thoughts exactly!!

  • @drgnslayr Nice graphic of Calipari, & I see what you did there by censoring his voice audio…haha! But just speaking for myself, I dont mind the Squid anymore…he’s just so different than Self or Roy, that I find him “entertaining” about the last 2yrs. I dont root for KY, but I dont mind him anymore.

    Only coaches I dislike are Scot Drew, Travis Ford, and Bruce Weber.

  • @jaybate-1.0 Sorry about the anger statement attributed to you. Sometimes get my gurus mixed up.

  • And there is no shame in losing to another royalty program like Duke or UNC, but its definitely satisfying to beat them, if we can.

    Losing to a midmajor is whats shameful…

  • @drgnslayr Scary! Thanks for reminding me again why we are fortunate at KU.

  • Using theoretical physics to explain Bill Self and his Basketball Team reminds me of the book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. There is an argument for all of this with stats to prove everyone’s point of view. Some will point to Cliff having limited minutes has cost us all of our losses in the Conference. But the eye test last night, to everyone who knows basketball, told us that Cliff would never be in his element with his inability to handle any of what WVU threw at us in the first half. There is also the human element. Landon went on twitter to apologized to the Jayhawk nation for missing his free throw. Ellis went on twitter to tell everyone that he’ is blessed to be allowed to play the game of basketball. Brannen’s defense didn’t keep him on the bench, it was his ball handling, passing and his inability to create his own shot. Huggy did do some great scouting and has the defense to carry it out. His offense got lucky with three’s that banked in and shooting lights out the rest of the time. The rebounds were explained by Seth as a necessary evil that cost them fast breaks on the other end in order to have five guys going for the board and not worrying about getting back in transition. It was a perfect storm for WVU and we lost by one point on a pretty damn good entry pass by Jamari, a better catch by Perry who’s speed and location did not allow him to dribble or try to stop. If he had tried to stop, his highly speeded up inertia would of had him landing out of bounds. 610 Sports mentioned KU Buckets on the radio this morning in the same breath as KU Sports, saying that the usual blame game from many of our fans is always embarrassing after any loss and that we feel that it is our birth right to win every game. I do love this team and I am glad that we finally figured out how to break the press and come back from 11 points on the road. I am also glad that the players have taken this loss so very hard. Coach is Coach, warts and all, and I’m glad he has been at KU for 12 years.

  • But how does this justify losing a game in Morgantown that might have iced the eleventh title by not taking more treys, and by not playing your OAD center more than 6 minutes?

    That, indeed, is the question, in this game and with this group of player, this year. And we still do not have an adequate answer. It’s not that tough:

    1. Run plays specifically to get open threes and let them fly.
    2. Play Cliff 20-25 min every game.

    If we shoot 18-22 threes instead of 11 and Cliff plays 20-25 min instead of 6 (and none the second half when we just could not get a defensive rebound), I truly believe we increase our chances to win last night’s game and EVERY game going forward.

  • @wrwlumpy Great post that keeps the big pix in perspective, & its VERY close to my personal perspective.

    I dont shed any tears for my own Jayhawk brethren fans/fellow alums when our team loses…except for maybe that 90+ yr old 'Hawk who may not be around for another season. This is such a great hobby/pastime to discuss our Hawks, first on the old site, now here. But we’ve all seen how various folks handle losses…its as variable as a Self-chalkboard-play. Were all grownups, & as heartwrenching as the final loss of a season is…we’ve seen it before. We’ll see it again.

    Who I actually get painful remorse for is the players themselves. Its kinda silly/funny, that my own competetiveness playing pickup basketball causes me to stew over missed shots or turnovers til I get to play again…but think of our KU players: Man, oh man, my heart goes out to those awesome guys who NEVER will get the chance to redeem their final loss: TRob/Tyshawn (KY), Sherron (UNI), Reed+Morri (VCU), EJ (Mich).

    If Lucas & other players took to twitter after the L, all I can tell them is: “let it prepare you. Listen to Self, see the gamefilm, understand how an entire team allowed a 10pt comeback. Then worry about next game.” Dont worry about the fans…every school’s fanbase has its whiny element, that’ll never change.

    Win or lose, most of us will be behind our Jayhawks 100%…I know I always will.


  • @ralster twitter is killing Perry!!!

  • Thats unfortunate if the Twitterazzi are crucifying Ellis. Ellis has been playing great lately, and a lot more physical.

    Why dont these people on twitter see that Ellis should never have been in that situation? Again: we let a 10pt lead evaporate. Its a team-D fail…its NOT on Ellis, nor on Self. Just like the Mich loss is absolutely not all on EJ, not even 50%. But some folks just cant/wont see things ffrom a big pix perspective.

    KU as a team worked SO hard that 2nd half, but then went soft defensively & gave up the lead, & gave WVa hope…

    I’ll quote MJ: “I’ve missed 37 potential game-winning shots…”

  • @ralster poor clock management too.

  • @Crimsonorblue22 Yep. And in the spirit of sportsmanship, we should tip our hat to Juwan Staten, kid was completely spent, couldnt even stand for the Holly Rowe interview.

    Just as we tip our hat to Hoiberg’s gameplan up in Ames.

    But seeing that effort it took Staten…I just dont see them with enough to get a W in AFH…the most omninous fact for WVa is that we solved their press. We wont start off ugly. Nor should we blow a lead…

  • @ralster I agree that it is a team D fail more than anything else. While I’ve been fascinated with the singular focus in various threads and over the course of the year on the offense - x-axis v. y-axis, outside-in vs. inside-out, 4 small, one in, freeing the 3, etc., there has been relatively little discussion re defense.

    While I share frustration in not seemingly embracing the teams strengths (and not continuing to play to our weakness on the offensive end), I’m most frustrated by our relative weakness on the defensive end - relative to past Jayhawk teams and to what one might expect from a team with a lot of L&A wings, if not in the paint. The fact is that this group of Jayhawks just isn’t fundamentally sound defensively. A lot of that can be attributed to youth (although the hated UK youngsters are playing historically good defense) - but some of it is clearly desire basketball IQ. After DVRing wins and losses, it is painfully obvious that no one on the team boxes out well - a basic tenet of fundamental basketball.

    Mason, Graham, Selden and Oubre are solid to good on the ball defenders, but none of them are defensive stoppers and Selden in particular seems to give up when his man gets by him. Oubre is the only one that routinely defends the passing lanes and initiates easy transition buckets.

    Last year we were a fundamentally poor defensive team (Ellis has actually improved markedly), but those shortcomings were masked in part due to having one real stopper in Wiggins and real rim protector in Embid. Without those this year, it becomes that much more critical that we play fundamentally sound team defense - boxing out, ball pressure, playing the passing lanes, and rotating quickly to cut off penetration.

    The end of the WVU game was a defensive breakdown - and its not the first time. We have to be able to consistently get defensive stops - which has historically been a hallmark of Jayhawk teams in the past, even when shots weren’t falling on the offensive end and points were tough to come by…

  • Good post - KU D is actually not that bad considering that we basically exchanged Wigs for Kelly and Cliff for Jo-Jo. Kelly has done fine but Cliff is a defensive on the ball liability on D, big time. But he is still our best rim protector, a better than average shot blocker, and a very good defensive re bounder.

    Overall our front court are average defenders and rebounders, at best.

    Our back court is very good as a unit but not great individually. And you are right, no stopper.

    I am actually a believer in the KU D on this team and think it has won use a boatload of games this year. Maybe we can peak defensively over the next four weeks.

    Remember guys, a D breakdown can also be due in large part to an outstanding offensive play and Staten was by far the best player on the court last night. The best player made the best play and is obviously ready for the pros with that two step spin move, with the left hand. It was simply a great play by a great player and happened very fast.

    Believe in the D! Now shoot more threes and rebound the ball and we are in good shape.

    PS Jamari and Perry almost made the play of the year. What a pass! What a catch! And why did Perry just barely miss it? Staten came all the way back and disrupted ever so slightly his rhythm and timing. Great play TWICE in eight seconds. Gotta tip the cap…

  • @jaybate-1.0 That could’ve been your longest post ever. And I enjoyed every bit of it. The Kusports honks can suck it 😉

  • @ZIG



  • @ralster

    Yep, Staten was pretty impressive. Any point guard that can stand up to KU’s defense, which as @Jesse-Newell’s recently story called attention to, has gotten pretty traditionally Self-esque in its stinginess about Defensive Field Goal percentage, deserves our respect.

  • @ralster

    Good to see you defending the realm.

  • @lincase

    Yes, I agree that 15 might have gotten the job done. And my heart is with the free the three movement.

    But when we were in the lead +10, almost won at the buzzer, and lost by only 1, though we three-phisti might wish most for a trey being a solution, almost anything might have avoided our loss in Morgantown.

    Two more made FTs.

    One more offensive rebound with a stick back sometime earlier in the game.

    One more made 3pta of the number we actually shot would have done the trick.

    One stinking strip and runout would have done it.

    Just two more foul calls on our inside treys and two more made FTs on those would have won the game.

    One more miss by WVU.

    One more turnover by WVU followed by a two point bucket.

    When a coach gets you that close, whether or not we prefer he do it with the trey, Coach Self has to have been doing something right with a young team, without a dominant inside game, to and on the road against a coach that will probably be in the BHOF,

    And this is why I am both able to explore a different way, but simultaneously say Coach Self’s approach makes sense, too, even though it sometimes takes me awhile to figure it out later.

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