#1 Kansas vs #1 Memphis National Championship 2008 (Part 3)
Sunday, April 1, 2012
New Orleans, La. — Bill Self’s start in coaching is probably well known by now. A guard on the Oklahoma State basketball team, he worked at a Kansas basketball camp one summer led by then-coach Larry Brown. He suffered an injury in a counselor’s scrimmage and feeling bad, Brown told Self to ask him if he ever needed anything.
Self wanted to coach, and there was an opening on Brown’s staff. A young coach by the name of John Vincent Calipari just left to become an assistant at Pittsburgh.
Photo by Chris Neal
Kentucky’s Head Coach John Calipari takes the ball away from Doron Lamb during Saturday night’s semi-final game against Louisville.
A few years prior, Kansas coach Ted Owens offered Calipari the chance to volunteer with the team. He lived with an assistant coach, served food to campers at Jayhawker Towers and survived on those meals after the campers had made their rounds. He even met his wife at Kansas and says he has great memories of Lawrence.
Both coaches can trace their humble beginnings back to 1651 Naismith Drive, but the roads taken since then have seemed so different.
Self methodically climbed up the college coaching ladder while Calipari sandwiched a stint in the NBA between head coaching jobs at mid-majors. He recruited well at Memphis and has gotten even better at Kentucky. Self called him the best salesman in the sport.
Now their paths cross in the National Championship again, fours years after one of the greatest championship games of all time.
“I said after they beat us in 2008, if there was going to be any coach or school that was going to beat us in that venue,” Calipari said Sunday. “I would have said, let it be Kansas.”
He hasn’t seen the tape of that game, though. Its shattered remains were left on the side of the road after being hurled out of the Memphis bus on the way to the San Antonio airport. Self, on the other hand, once watched the game 50 straight days while working out.
Four seasons later, Calipari’s Wildcats are the best team in the land. Self leads a squad that wasn’t supposed to be playing in April this season and Kentucky is favored by more than a few buckets.
“If we play like we did last night in the first half,” Self said Sunday of his semifinal victory over Ohio State. “It probably won’t be a good deal for us.”
The Jayhawks have lived on the edge the last month with a rotation of seven upperclassmen.
Kentucky has dominated college basketball since November with some of the best underclassmen in years. Some have thought they could compete with an NBA team and the Kentucky players said they believed they were this good since the beginning of the season.
Self and Calipari’s roads from Lawrence to New Orleans were anything but similar. But here they are, two completely different storylines playing out at the two winningest schools of all time.
“I think it’s going to be special,” Self said. “The bluest of blue bloods.”
— Edited by Pat Strathman
#1 Kansas vs #1 Memphis National Championship 2008 (Part 4)
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