Self, Altman go way back
Kansas, Oregon coaches meeting this time with much more at stake
kansas city, mo.» Bill Self and Dana Altman first matched wits more than two decades ago, when Self was trying to turn around tiny Oral Roberts in Tulsa, Okla., and Altman was attempting the same in his first season at Creighton in Omaha.
The young coaches combined to win only 17 games that season. My, how far they have come. Both eventually succeeded in their rebuilding jobs, to the point they kept getting bigger and more glamorous offers elsewhere. Self would head off to the University of Tulsa and Illinois before arriving at Kansas, where he has the top-seeded Jayhawks one win from his third Final Four, while Altman would someday land at Oregon, which takes on Kansas for the Midwest Regional championship Saturday night.
Neither coach could have imagined it when they faced off that November night in 1994.
“I’ve known Bill for a very long time,” Altman conceded, pointing out they were also assistant coaches in the Big Eight Conference before becoming head coaches. “Bill has a way of getting the best out of each of his team . ... He’s always been at great programs and made them better.”
This might be Self ’s best team — better even than his 2008 national title team.
The Big 12 champion Jayhawks (31-5) roared into the Midwest Regional final with an average margin of victory of 30 points, dusting aside Big Ten champion Purdue by 32 on Thursday night. They played at such a high level in the second half that Boilermakers coach Matt Painter, always willing to give credit where it’s due, stopped just short of calling the Jayhawks invincible.
Senior guard Frank Mason III, the Big 12 player of the year, has become the front-runner for national player of the year. Devonte Graham has poured in 3-pointers at a recordsetting rate. And star freshman Josh Jackson has brushed off his many off-the-court issues to send his NBA draft stock soaring.
Oh, and the Jayhawks get to play No. 3 seed Oregon at the Sprint Center, the glassenclosed arena in downtown Kansas City that happens to be only a 40-minute drive from their leafy campus in Lawrence.
“We know we have a tough game ahead of us,” Oregon guard Tyler Dorsey said Friday. “They’re going to have a home-court advantage. We just have to be ready, keep taking it game by game.”
The Pac-12 powerhouse Ducks (32-5) have done a sublime job of that so far.
Whereas Kansas has run roughshod through the first three rounds, the Ducks cruised past Iona before running into trouble. It took a heart-stopping final few minutes to put away Rhode Island last weekend, and a missed 3-pointer by Michigan at the final buzzer to survive Thursday night.
But now, the Ducks sit on the precipice of their first Final Four berth since winning the inaugural 1939 championship, and Altman sits one win from reaching the first national semifinal showdown of his career, which includes a head coaching job at Kansas State.
“Dana and I have known each other a long time,” Self said. “We know that (Saturday) is going to be a highly competitive game. We’ve been fortunate that we’ve played consistently well, but it’s going to take another effort like that to advance.”
Bill Self is 416-87 as Kansas’ coach, including one of the Jayhawks’ three national titles. Kansas’ all-time NCAA Tournament record is 103-44. Jamie Squire, Getty Images
Dana Altman is 186-69 as Oregon’s coach. Chris Pietsch, The Associated Press