KU coach Bill Self had another heart procedure months before hospitalization in March
After losing eight players to the NCAA transfer portal — and gaining four from that same pool of players during a two month overhaul of the Kansas basketball roster — Bill Self vacationed Thursday at his family’s beach house in Florida.
A bit of rest and recovery has seemingly come at a perfect time for the 60-year-old, 21st-year KU men’s basketball coach, who has been working at whirlwind pace since the 2022-23 season ended with a loss to Arkansas on March 18 in Des Moines, Iowa.
The same person who had a heart catheterization to treat blocked arteries in his heart on March 8 will be welcoming members of his 2023-24 Jayhawk team to campus for summer school and summer workouts in just a matter of days — June 6.
“I’m fine now. I feel good,” Self, who used the word “energized” to describe his current frame of mind, stated on Thursday, delaying a walk on the sand to appear on the Field of 68 podcast hosted by Jeff Goodman and Rob Dauster.
Self, who talked extensively about the heart problem that kept him from coaching the Jayhawks in the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments to local reporters on April 5, added an additional detail on Thursday.
He initially had a heart procedure during the fall of 2022.
“I’ve had a heart issue going back to the fall that I didn’t let anybody know about. I had a valve replaced — aorta valve replaced — which is pretty common,” Self said on the podcast. “I mean it’s not like it’s a huge deal. It happens with a lot of folks and was told I would feel better immediately.”
“I just felt OK. I didn’t ever feel better immediately. I had some lingering things kind of going on,” Self added. “The day before the Big 12 tournament I had an episode where obviously it became much more than what it had been. I got great care. They took me to KU Med center and KU Hospital. I got a couple stents put in there immediately.”
There had been talk Self might be able to coach the No. 1-seeded Jayhawks in the 2023 NCAAs. That didn’t happen, though he did attend practice sessions before KU’s first-round win over Howard and second-round loss to Arkansas.
“It was more of a balance situation with me,” Self said Thursday. “It was obviously impacted by my heart. It really affected my balance in a way where I thought I could coach until I stood up and did a quick movement and then I’d kind of get disoriented or whatever. They (medical team) wouldn’t let me coach, which was probably a wise decision for everybody.
“My team probably played better. Norm (Roberts, KU assistant) got us to the finals of the Big 12 tournament. We played well but the bottom line was as bad as I wanted to be out there — I coached the team in practice — I was slower. I could tell I wasn’t quite right. They told me I should lay off. If we were fortunate enough to advance I think I could have gone the next week in Vegas when we would have taken on Connecticut (in the Sweet 16).”
Self called the heart scare “a learning experience. I’ve taken a lot of things for granted in my life health wise and I’m sure a lot of folks have. Now it has made me think a little bit, dive into some things maybe like eat right (and) exercise.”
Self was asked if the current state of college basketball, which includes navigating the transfer portal and NIL, would make him think long and hard about how long he wants to coach.
“I have thought about it, but it was more that it was forced on me to think about it here recently,” Self said. “I took about a month or six weeks and reflected and thought a lot about it. And the one thing that I have found out in the time in which I had my episode was how much I missed it. With me I think it kind of helped make my long-term decision a little clearer in that I’ve missed this and I enjoy it.
“As much as today’s game has changed and as much uncertainty as there is with our sport in college basketball, and all the things that are going on, I think in some way it has kind of re-energized me, because if you don’t change, you’re going to get left behind.”
Self — he said on the podcast he expected to lose “five or six (players) just to be real candid” in the portal but did not expect Zuby Ejiofor and Ernest Udeh to leave the program — said of the portal and NIL: “The bottom line is we’re not putting the toothpaste back in the tube. So we’ve got to learn to adjust. It’s like coaching when there was no shot clock (and then changing) to the 35 second clock, or there’s no three-point line to the three-point line, and the adjustments that old school had to make. The best coaches our sport have ever known, the Eddie Suttons of the world, had to adjust and do it so successfully. I think it is kind of the same way now but it’s just off-the-court adjustments as much as it is on-the-court adjustments.”
The work on the portal has paid off, Self indicated.
The team has gained Hunter Dickinson, Arterio Morris, Nick Timberlake and Parker Braun and lost Ejiofor, Udeh, Bobby Pettiford, Kyle Cuffe, Zach Clemence, Cam Martin, Joseph Yesufu and MJ Rice.
“The portal over time, I don’t know it’s going to be good for us. I don’t see it being good for our sport over time,” Self said. “But for this one particular year, it was good. It was good for Kansas.”