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Coach Bill Self is determined to stay at KU ‘for a long time’ despite health scare

Kansas head coach Bill Self calls directions to his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas Tech in Lawrence, Kan., Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023.
Reed Hoffmann
Associated Press
Kansas head coach Bill Self calls directions to his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas Tech in Lawrence, Kan., Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023. On Wednesday, he addressed the health issues that sidelined him during the postseason.

On Wednesday, Self addressed the heart issue that sidelined him during college basketball’s postseason and said he needs to make some "lifestyle" changes to protect his health and continue leading the University of Kansas men's basketball program.

The day before the annual Kansas Jayhawks men’s basketball spring banquet — a day for the team to celebrate its achievements — Coach Bill Self said it was time to address the news of his health.

By doing so Wednesday morning, Self also made his intentions at the University of Kansas abundantly clear, given a chance the last month to reflect on being sidelined during college basketball’s postseason because of a heart issue.

“The one thing I can tell you without question: I miss my job. I love my job and I want to do my job for a long time,” Self declared.

Self said he experienced chest tightness and balance issues the day before the Jayhawks were scheduled to play their Big 12 tournament quarterfinal game against West Virginia. That night after addressing the media at T-Mobile Center in downtown Kansas City, Self checked into the hospital.

“It was something I had never experienced before,” said Self. “But it was never to the point that I felt like I was in danger. I was in such good care and all that stuff. I just knew I wasn’t right.”

A day later, KU announced that Self would not coach the remainder of the conference tournament. Ultimately he didn’t coach another game for the remainder of the 2022-23 season.

Through a statement released by KU, the University of Kansas Health system emphasized that Self did not suffer a heart attack. But Self later revealed that he had two stents placed to ease an artery blockage.

The Jayhawks’ season ended in the second round against Arkansas at the Des Moines, Iowa, regional site.

“The risk of my blood pressure elevating was something they (his doctors) saw as a potential major concern,” said Self. “That (possibility of coaching) was eliminated. We had to win the Arkansas game for me to coach in the West regional,” said Self.

But could KU have beaten the Razorbacks had Self been courtside?

“The reason that we weren’t successful against Arkansas had nothing to do, in my opinion, of me not being there,” said Self, who watched the two NCAA tournament games against Howard University and Arkansas from his hotel room.

He didn’t, however, come out of the experience empty-handed. Outside of coaching from courtside, Self said he developed an appreciation of KU’s most fervent fans.

“I don’t know how parents do it. Seriously. How can really invested fans do it?” he asked. “When you have no control, it’s hard to be objective.”

Though he has coached the Jayhawks to a pair of NCAA basketball championships, Self believes there’s much more to be done with the basketball program. To achieve that, he realizes, Self said he needs to make some necessary lifestyle changes related to his health, although he didn’t offer any specifics Wednesday.

“I think I have to wake up a little bit and do some things from a lifestyle standpoint, a personal habit standpoint, that I’ve been very, very, very inconsistent with my entire adult life,” he said.

Self also reached out to those who contacted him in some form to extend well-wishes through his ordeal.

“I’d like to express my gratitude and sincere heartfelt thanks for all the support that we’ve received over the last several weeks,” he said.

Sports have an economic and social impact on our community and, as a sports reporter, I go beyond the scores and statistics. I also bring the human element to the sports figures who have a hand in shaping the future of not only their respective teams but our town. Reach me at gregechlin@aol.com.
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