DES MOINES, Iowa — Kansas went through practice Friday with coach Bill Self but without clarity whether Self would work for the Jayhawks in their second-round NCAA tournament game against Arkansas on Saturday.
“It’s a day-to-day situation with him … We will see what happens,” said Norm Roberts, who replaced Self as Jayhawks coach for their past four games, including Thursday’s first-round win over Howard.
Self, 60, went to a hospital last week complaining of chest tightness and balance concerns. He underwent a heart catheterization and had two stents placed for the treatment of blocked arteries and was discharged from the University of Kansas Health System on Sunday.
Roberts has been coaching with Self for all but seven seasons since the two first worked together at Oral Roberts University in 1995. Included along the way were stops for the two of them at Tulsa, Illinois and Kansas.
So if there’s anyone who knows Self’s wishes, it’s Roberts, who broke with Self for only six seasons as head coach at St. John’s and one as an assistant at Florida.
“We have been together for almost 25 years, so we probably do finish each other’s sentences in basketball terms,” Roberts said. “I do try to think of what he would want to do. If it’s a situation of getting the ball inside, if it’s a situation of trapping the ball screen, where we would want to attack, those things we talk about a lot before the game begins on how we want to attack, what we want to do, how we want to play the game. So I just revisit that in my head and coach that way.”
Roberts, 57, also replaced Self for four games during the season when Self was suspended by Kansas as part of self-imposed sanctions surrounding the FBI investigation into college basketball corruption.
“It’s no drop-off,” Kansas guard Kevin McCullar Jr. said. “Coach [Roberts] knows what he’s doing and he’s a mirror image of Coach Self. He gets us the game plan and we go out there and execute.
“I would say it’s his passion and his will to win and wanting to win, how competitive he is. His pregame speeches get you pretty pumped up. You want to go out there and run through a brick wall sometimes.”
Self has been attending Kansas practices since the Jayhawks arrived in Des Moines. Roberts said that because he has, the Jayhawks’ routine hasn’t changed much.
“It’s the same that we always do,” Roberts said. “We have scouting reports. We meet probably two times a night and go over different scenarios and what we want to do and how he wants us to play both offensively and defensively. So we haven’t had any extra meetings and those things. As a staff we always collaborate and work together and everybody has input on what we think would be the best situation for us.”