With Bill Self earning his 400th career win recently, it made me take a minute to step back and remind myself how lucky we are as Kansas fans to have him as the head coach. The University of Kansas is one of the elite basketball schools in the nation, I don't think anyone would argue with that. Take the last three coaches for the Jayhawks, Larry Brown and Roy Williams are already in the Naismith Hall of Fame. Bill Self is well on his way to earning that honor. How many schools can claim to have three Hall of Fame coaches total? The last three coaches in Lawrence are Hall of Famers, not to mention the Hall of Fame does carry the name of another former Kansas coach. Attempts to replace a Hall of Fame coach rarely work out as well as it has at Kansas.
For example, Indiana is still trying to find their stride and get back to top program status since they have moved on from Bob Knight. The first attempt to move along was Mike Davis. Davis coached at Indiana for six seasons and won 115 games, just a little under 20 games a year. Though in his last four years at Indiana he couldn't get to twenty wins. They moved on to Kelvin Sampson who had some success, going 42-15 to start. Then it all fell apart for him and the school. Sampson couldn't follow the rules again and was forced out. The fact that Sampson wasn't the cleanest to start can't be overlooked, Indiana felt they were forced to take a risk to get back to where they wanted to be (looking you Kentucky). It's not that easy. Indiana's now on their third coach, Tom Crean. Crean was a hire that everyone loved. Marquette was a program that was averaging over 20 wins a season and made some noise in March a few times. The jury is still out on this hire for Indiana, Crean's dealing with all kinds of issues thanks to Sampson and has only managed 15 wins in the last two years.
North Carolina wasn't immune to this problem when they replaced their Hall of Fame coach. When Dean Smith retired in October of 1997, the Tar Heels didn't have much time to find a replacement. The decision to hire long time assistant Bill Guthridge was made and they signed him to a five year contract to show he wasn't an "interim" coach. The first year was great for the Tar Heels as they won 34 games and made the Final Four. However, the next year they would be upset by the #14 seed Weber State in the NCAA Tournament.* The following season Carolina found themselves outside the top 25 a few times and on the bubble, though they did make a heck of a run in the tournament. Guthridge retired from coaching following the 2000 season and Carolina was back looking for a solid replacement. Enter Matt Doherty, former Kansas assistant and Notre Dame head coach. Things got fairly ugly with Doherty and I'm not going to go through much of it, lets just say it wasn't a success. After Doherty was forced out, North Carolina once AGAIN turns to Kansas for a coach, even though the coach didn't give a shit about North Carolina. Turns out, Roy Williams couldn't turn the job down again and took over. Outside of their struggles this year, Williams was a great hire for the Tar Heels.
*Anyone else remember the Weber State game? Harold Arceneaux was a stud in their two tournament games. 36 points against Carolina and 32 against Florida.
Kentucky found themselves looking for a coach that would keep them at the top of the basketball world after Rick Pitino left for the NBA. Tubby Smith was the first coach they turned to and they found success with him. Tubby won a National Championship in 1998 and made four Elite Eight appearances. However, Kentucky fans had grown tired of Smith's defense first play and recruiting by the end. After Tubby left town, Kentucky turned to a hot prospect named Billy Gillespie. We know how that turned out, so I'm not going to rehash much of it. Billy G was 39-26 in two seasons at Kentucky before being fired by the administration. Kentucky is now proud of hiring a coach that has had TWO Final Fours erased from history. Lets give this one five years before we call it a success.
Moving on to Kansas, Larry Brown wins a National Championship and leaves town in 1988. The program is left on probation and will miss the NCAA tournament in 1989. Roy Williams is hired, Williams won 25+ games for the next 10 seasons and became one of the best in the business. If you've made it this far, you realize how difficult that is to do when taking over a top level program and being the first guy to replace the Hall of Famer. After taking the Jayhawks to the National Title game in 2003, Williams decides to head back to Carolina and Kansas was left to find another coach to replace another Hall of Famer. Names thrown about to replace Williams included Mark Few, Tom Crean, Mike Brey, and Bill Self. Kansas hired Bill Self and the rest is history. Bill Self has won five straight Big 12 titles and one National Championship, so far. Roy Williams was named "Coach of the Decade" for 2000-2010 by many publications. At the pace Bill Self is on, his name would have to be considered for the years 2005-2015. No other school is even close to being able to say that about their last two coaches.