On Brandon and Bill

  • Brandon Rush came home yesterday and his jersey is still not hanging in the field house. Rush and Self had not seen each other in two years and his jersey is still not hanging in the field house. Bill Self says Brandon Rush is the greatest defensive player he ever coached and his jersey is still not hanging in the field house. IMHO, Brandon Rush is still the best freshman basketball player Bill Self has ever coached at KU and his jersey is still not hanging in the field house.


    There has seemed a tension between coach and player, since the end of Brandon’s last season; that was the season Brandon was was not coming back for until a severe knee injury sent him under the knife, into rehab and then to the most heroic, spectacular and downright melodramatic recovery and ring-winning senior season in KU Basketball history.

    Brandon seemed to leave for the pros and never look back. From a fans distant view, it appeared as if he felt what he had given KU Basketball had never been adequately recognized or appreciated. It appeared that Brandon wanted some recognition, or appreciation from Self that Self was unwilling to give.

    Looking back we can only imagine how tough Self must have been on Brandon, who was going straight to the pros until the OAD rule kicked in and he at the last minute chose Self and KU.

    Self was then trying to craft his first KU team full of his own recruits. Self had inherited a running team from Roy Williams that many thought could win a ring, but that Self turned into half court grind it out club. It’s style of play never seemed fully suited to its personnel. Injuries undermined it. It got stopped at the Elite Eight–a great accomplishment few appreciated because of stratospheric, long-deferred hopes for a ring under Roy.

    That now often forgotten early team of Self’s also had a superb player on it. His name was Wayne Simien. And though fans did not quite realize it then, the massively muscular, yet still stunningly athletic Simien was (and remains) the quintessential Self Baller, even after all the greats that would follow. He carried a team on his back offensively in a way no KU player has had to do since. He earned Self’s highest offensive praise he has ever given. Self said repeatedly after Wayne finished playing: he was money on the blocks. If you could get him the ball on the low block, Wayne scored…on anyone…period.

    Self comes from the Larry Brown/Bob Knight/Eddie Sutton school of honesty about players. This school believes that truth in assessment and comparison of what was done, no matter how harsh, or how praiseworthy, cannot be violated, no matter who’s feelings get hurt. These coaches can go on and on about potential and ceiling and phenomenal kinds of skills, but on the subject of what has a player actually done? That has to be truth. Why? Because performance is finally the benchmark in any survey of the legacy of the game. Without that benchmark, no one can get better because with out the benchmark of truth, no one can know what the best was before hand and so no one can tell if someone else has raised the bar. Excellence in basketball is not a relative term within given eras of the game.

    Wayne was the best on the offensive end, even though Brandon carried the team offensively all four seasons and lead them to a ring; that had to stick in Brandon’s craw.

    And Brandon came along when Self was probably at his most maniacally driven point of his career. Self wanted his first ring bad. He had the choker label. He hadn’t won a ring and 9 titles then. He hadn’t cut Boot Camp in half yet. He hadn’t been given along term security yet. He still believed everything was necessary to obsess on, not just some things.

    And he hadn’t asked Brandon to muscle up and become a defensive Magister Ludi at the 3 in Self’s glass bead game of team defense-first ball to win a ring.

    But he had asked Brandon to sacrifice for the team and play out of position at the 3 for all of four seasons, instead of his money position–the 2. What everyone overlooks about the great Rush is that he was going to straight to the L, as the perfect NBA 2. All he needed was work on his off hand at dribbling, otherwise he had the hall of fame package. Unlike Andrew Wiggins, he could shoot 43% from trey in his sleep and guard at D1 speeds from the start.

    Harsh Truth Time: to this point, Brandon Rush was better as a Freshman than Andrew Wiggins. Self started out trying to put the team on Andrew’s back and he couldn’t carry it. Instead he had to shift it to Joel Embiid’s back. In contrast, Self didn’t put it on Rush’s back to begin with and then had to. And Rush carried that team his freshman season, at both ends.

    And this talk of Rush not knowing how to spell defense in the beginning is a lot of hogwash. Rush’s freshman defense would have made him the defensive lock down star of this year’s team.

    But in the end, Rush never seemed to feel adequately appreciated by Self and Self never seemed to feel adequately appreciated by Rush.

    And then Rush’s injury plagued pro career was over shadowed by Mario Chalmers’ XTRemely fortunate 2 ring so far pro career and Chalmers got his jersey hung.

    Chalmers was a great KU player. He made The Shot. BUT CHALMERS WAS NEVER THE BEST PLAYER ON THAT TEAM. EVER. RUSH WAS. PERIOD.

    Chalmers’ jersey was hung first, because it was good PR for recruiting in an Age of HyperHype. Hanging the jersey of a KU star on Lebron’s NBA Champion gets national media hype. It is called striking while Mario’s iron is hot; that was good for Self and KU but a slap in the face to Rush.

    So now, after the sting has worn off some, Rush comes home a few years later at NBA all star break not an all star, and humbled, and Self finally admits Rush was the best defensive player he ever had.

    On one level Self is withholding, not giving the player he road to his only ring the unconditional approval that little brothers seek before they finally grow fully up. Self is saying Wayne was better on offense.

    On another level Self is being gracious and giving his somewhat estranged player the greatest honor short of the best overall label that exists in Self Ball: best defensive player.

    It is an indirect admission that Rush was better than Chalmers, who’s jersey hangs in the field house for reasons other than who was best on the sacred wood.

    It means Rush’s old coach is waiting to hang Rush’s jersey until the Little Brother in Rush is finally extinguished and Rush can quit mourning and self pitying about how things might have gone and start being glad and grateful for how they did go. About how much money he does make and about how much his old coach does esteem him, whether or not their personalities ever did mesh as well as they should have. In the end they both did something great and lasting at KU that overrides all the rest of the might have beens.

    They should both as soon as possible be standing at center court celebrating the hanging of Brandon’s jersey and thinking the words of the immortal Lou Gehrig.

    I feel like the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

    Time waits for no one.

    Tragedy can strike at any moment.

    And then it would be too late to savor the moment together.

    Don’t let it happen, Coach.

    Don’t let it happen, Brandon.

    Rock Chalk.

  • @jaybate 1.0 really nice! Thanks for sharing.

  • @jaybate 1.0 You referenced it a couple of times, but Brandon was never a senior. He left after 3 years.

    Also, this seems to be a bit contradictory:

    “This school believes that truth in assessment and comparison of what was done, no matter how harsh, or how praiseworthy, cannot be violated, no matter who’s feelings get hurt.”

    followed later by:

    “And this talk of Rush not knowing how to spell defense in the beginning is a lot of hogwash”

    Sorry, nitpicking.

  • @icthawkfan316 A nit worth picking. I was trying to suggest that Self is a bit conflicted in Brandon’s case; that he is human and not immune to making cracks due to perceived ingratitude. But it came out inadequately specified, poorly expressed and so a nit to pick.

  • @jaybate 1.0 I miss Brandons corner three. Picture perfect every time… And the first time he dunked in transition going 360 full speed to avoid the defender. Thanks for this jb.

  • Brandon Rush was at KU for three years. But a good read nonetheless. Although I would argue that Darrell Arthur was the best player on that team.

  • I never felt there was tension between Coach Self and Rush, Rush has been back to KU several times since the '08 championship season.

    KU has very specific rules as to when a Jersey is retired and hung from the rafters at AFH. Coach Self does not have the authority to break the rules or make exceptions. The Chancellor or the Board of Regents might be able to to change the rules but I just don’t see them getting involved. If and when Brandon meets the requirements as currently defined, then and only then his Jersey will be retired and hung at AFH.

    I can probably make a decent case to retire the jerseys of several players I liked, and I am sure many forum members could do the same for other players, and if this was the case we would have more jerseys hanging from the rafters at AFH than a Kansas Sampler superstore. Having your jersey retired is not about making a case for a player we liked, it is about excellence above and beyond that we expect from all players that step on the hallowed ground we call AFH; very few achieve that status.

  • Hyperbole alert! Yes, Rush was always a great on-ball defender, especially at the end of games when he was less tired than everyone else. He was also a great shooter and a good rebounder. Outside of one Kentucky game his freshman year, he did not “carry” his team offensively - it’s hard to do that with a short left arm you can’t dribble with.

    Simien was automatic for 20 and 10. Self slowed down the racehorses, not just from dogma but so Simien could play max minutes.

    Chalmers’ jersey is in the rafters because he was MVP of the Final Four.

  • According to the Kansas Men’s Basketball Media guide:

    “The original criteria for a retired jersey included KU players named college basketball player of the year, most valuable player of the NCAA Tournament or being named a four-time All-American. The list was expanded in 1997 to include Ray Evans, who holds the distinction of being an All-American in both football and basketball.”

    “The criteria was expanded prior to the 2002-03 season to include consensus first-team All-Americans, two-time first-team All-America selections and Academic All-American of the Year.”

    Also, the 5 year rule applies, i.e. 5 years must elapse from the time the player leaves KU to the time he becomes eligible. We can Expect Cole Aldrich Jersey retired in a couple of years; he was Academic All-American Player of the Year.

  • Rules are written to yield desirable and intended outcomes. Rules are amended when desirable and intended outcomes are excluded. The rules have been amended in the past, as they should’ve been. If the rules permit Wayne Simeon and exclude Brandon Rush, then the rules need to be amended for they are producing unintended and undesirable outcomes. Rules are like generals, coaches and players: if they cannot produce desirable and intended outcomes, then they need to be changed. Any rule that keeps the best player on an NCAA championship team from having his jersey hung needs to be changed.

  • @jaybate 1.0

    Since you directly addressed my post I will directly address yours as well.

    First, it is Simien not Simeon.

    Second, the rules are created and amended to include not exclude players deserving the honor. The rules, as currently written, are pretty much in line with those from other Elite programs and pretty much cover accomplishments that are self evident and do not need subjective judgement.

    More specifically, what rule would you add or change to allow Rush Jersey to be retired? Was he the best player on the '08 Championship team? Many would say yes, and many would say no…subjective judgement…and someone else already posted that Arthur was the best player in the '08 team. Was he the Most Valuable/Important player in the '08 team? Again, many would say yes and probably the majority would say that either Chalmers (particularly in the Championship run) or RussRob (who was the team quarterback) were more valuable; again a subjective judgement. Was he the best freshman ever? No. Does he hold any KU record? None that I can think of.

    If the rules are changed for Rush, how about for other equally deserving players. How about the most valuable walk on ever, so Dr, Moody can get his jersey retired…or most points against our hated former rivals to the East? Best freshman ever? Where does it stop? There is a reason why once you start making exceptions it becomes a slippery slope. The rules are there to separate players with truly elite accomplishments from excellent players but not truly elite, making exceptions diminishes the value of the honor bestowed upon those very few players.

    I don’t have a problem with the rules a currently stated. I loved Rush at KU and I check the Utah Jazz score every night to see if he has gotten his career on track, Having said that, is his career at KU that much better than many other equally accomplished players that he alone needs an exception? The answer is obviously no.

    I get it that you think that he was the best player in that team, but again many do not think so. KU will not and should not retire a Jersey just because a player is a fan’s favorite. If that were the case, then let’s get ready to retire Kevin Young and Jeff Withey’s jerseys, since they would likely be in the top 5 in any fan’s most favorite player lists…Withey, by the way, holds the record for blocked shots in the NCAA tournament, no small feat, and has one of the very few triple doubles ever by a KU player, but I will guess his jersey will not be retired.

  • @jaybate 1.0 You know I always thought Lou Gehrig said “Today, day,day, I feel like the luckiest man on earth,earth,earth”

  • @jaybate 1.0 You say you want the rules amended for Rush: that’s open to discussion, sure. Yet your opening premise was that Self was playing favorites for Chalmers and withholding recognition from Rush. That is an indefensible position. Chalmers’ recognition was automatic given the rules in place, Rush’s wasn’t.

    Dare I say “Next”?

  • Uh oh … he said “next” to @jaybate. Hide the women and children …

  • @HighEliteMajor-LOL & CYB…

  • Rules are never changed for one person. They are changed for all persons. To talk about changing the rules for one person (Rush in this instance) is a common misdirection play used by lazy thinkers, or agenda grinders, to avoid the thinking required to change a problematic rule into an effective one. Rush is just one person among many to come in the future that would be saved from the undesirable and unintended outcome of the current rules. It is always appropriate to change rules that produce unintended and undesirable consequences. Just ask any African American person about the virtues of changing the undesirable rules about chattel slavery, or the Great Compromise, or Jim Crow. Rules that produce unintended and/or undesirable consequences need to be changed. There is really not much to discuss. Rush was a greater player than Simien, because he was the hub player of a national champion. And because of his heroic come back from injury to lead the team to a national championship. Simien’s jersey is hanging in the Fieldhouse. Rush’s is not. Therefore, the rules need to be changed. And they need to be changed regardless of how my spellchecker spells Wayne Simien’s last name. And they need to be changed regardless, if there were tension between Bill Self and Brandon Rush, or not. KU should not be held hostage to the opinions of sportswriters about which KU players’ jersies should be retired. It is an honor that should be won on the court first and foremost. And it should be decided by KU people and not by persons unaffiliated with KU. Next. 🙂

  • Chalmers eligibility for having his jersey hung under current rules was met, but I do not understand the rules to say KU HAD to hang his jersey. I believe the discretion remained with those at KU making such decisions.

  • Rush was a greater player than Simien, because he was the hub player of a national champion.

    @jaybate 1.0 I’d like you to expound on this logic a bit. On the surface, I’m not sure I agree. I loved Brandon Rush – he was a key player on a team that made an amazing run – but that doesn’t justify his jersey unless we change the rules substantially.

    I’d like to know what rule could be devised to allow his jersey without adding at least a half dozen others at the same time.

    Personally, I like the select number of jerseys hanging in the rarified air of AFH. Adding more jerseys too quickly dilutes the remarkable feat that each jersey represents.

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