BLOG: WVU’s Bob Huggins offers his heartfelt get well wishes to Kansas coach Bill Self after Thursday’s KU win


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West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins, left, and Kansas head coach Bill Self laugh before the tip of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, February 25, 2023, at the Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan. (AP Photo/Nick Krug)

Kansas City, Mo. — There’s never really a right time to hear that someone — anyone — has been hospitalized for a potentially frightening situation that could affect their long-term health.

But for those of us in the storytelling business, in a way Thursday was the right day to get that news on the Kansas basketball beat.

The day started with the news that KU Coach Bill Self was in the University of Kansas Hospital and ended with the news that Self was fine and would be fine, but that he was done for the week.

That’s about the best result you could have wished for in this situation. But things got a little better when you realized that the very team Self’s Jayhawks would face Thursday was coached by Self’s longtime friend Bob Huggins.

The connection between the two men is significant and real. They’re friends, off the court and out of competition. And they probably would be if they were both mechanics or chemical engineers, or if one was a world-class pianist and the other sold minnows for a living.

The two guys just click. And they get each other in ways that go beyond coaching.

KU defeated West Virginia for the third time this season, winning Thursday’s game by a convincing 78-61 score to advance to Friday’s semifinals. From afar and through acting head coach Norm Roberts, Self made it clear he was damn proud of how his team played and handled a scary situation.

Later that evening, Huggins made it clear from close quarters that he, too, was proud of Self for listening to his body and not dismissing something potentially devastating out of stupid pride in competitiveness.

“I’ve been through these things and it’s not fun, you know,” Huggins said of his own past hospitalizations. “I think it would be really difficult for Bill at this time of year because he’s trying to get another run for a national championship and he’s in the state he’s in now, I think that would be very difficult. He’s a great competitor, a formidable competitor.”

It remains to be seen if Self can or will return for his team’s run through the NCAA tournament, which will almost certainly begin next Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa, with his Jayhawks ranked No. 1 in one of the four regions.

But aside from all the competitive issues at play, Huggins wants his friend to take care of himself and get well soon, more than anything, they say.

“I’m not a very good listener,” Huggins said. “They told me come here and be honest. I’m honest. I’m not a very good listener. There are times when you really don’t have a choice, and I’ve been through that. I had no choice. I was in the hospital with a whole bunch of tubes and someone would come in every 15 minutes and slip me something. I want Bill to get well, you know. I want to say as soon as he can, but really, I think what I need to say or want to say is I want him to come out of it like he’s always been. If that makes sense.”

As for the basketball elements of Thursday’s promotion, Huggins said he was very impressed with the way the Kansas coaching staff and players performed their best even when Self was not in the building.

“I don’t think they did anything else,” Huggins said. “Bill is truly one of the greatest coaches of all time. If you stop and think about it, he’s a Hall of Famer guy for a reason, and he’s won countless games in Kansas there. They stood at the top of the ladder year after year after year after year. You know, and he has Joe (Dooley) on the bench. Joe was a head coach himself. Norm (Roberts) was a head coach. There are probably a few more down there that I can’t think of right now. But he has a great staff. He has a great staff. He’s doing a great job. I think they are good guys. You are good guys to be around. I know I have a great relationship with all of the staff.”

After the game, Roberts mentioned his past connections and familiarity with Huggins as they both coached in the Big East, not to mention the years they faced each other in the Big 12.

Roberts didn’t mention Huggins’ feelings about himself, but he clearly illustrated one of the elements he, Huggins and countless others have always admired in the KU coach.

“Coach talked to us about focusing on the things that we can control and that’s what we’ve tried to do as employees,” Roberts said. “It’s definitely different (than during coaching in November when Self was serving a ban). But what we’re trying to do with our boys is one moment at a time, one game at a time. Our boys, they are mature. And they knew this is a time when we must unite.”

His message to the players about their head coach before the game was also classic self-material.

“He’s watching,” Roberts told them. “He’s watching you and he’ll jump on your tail when he gets back.”

Count Huggins is among the many, many people who hope this will happen sooner rather than later.


Climbing a mountain: With Self in the hospital, No. 3 Kansas slips past West Virginia into the Big 12 semifinals


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Written by Matt Tait

A Colorado native, Matt moved to Lawrence in 1988 and has been in town ever since. He graduated from Lawrence High in 1996 and from the University of Kansas in 2000 with a degree in journalism. After covering KU-Sport for University Daily Kansan and, Matt joined World Company (and later Ogden Publications) in 2001 and has held various positions at the newspaper and over the past 20+ years. In 2018 he became Journal-World Sports Editor. Throughout his career, Matt has won multiple local and national awards from both the Associated Press Sports Editors and the Kansas Press Association. In 2021, he was named Kansas Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. Matt lives in Lawrence with his wife Allison and their two daughters, Kate and Molly. When not covering KU-Sport, he enjoys spending his time playing basketball and golf, listening to and writing music, and traveling the world with friends and family.

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