SAN ANTONIO – After nearly two weeks of speculation and badgering, Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins finally had enough.
Approached Sunday about the possibility of coach Bill Self leaving the Jayhawks for Oklahoma State, Perkins held up his hand before the reporter could finish his question.
"I'm done talking about it," Perkins said. "I'm done. We're about to play for a national championship."
Perkins is right. This isn't the proper setting to discuss Self's future. Doing so would be a distraction to a team that's just one victory away from its first national title since 1988.
Still – win or lose against Memphis on Monday – soon the day will come when Perkins and Self meet to discuss Self's contract status at Kansas. Perkins has already said he plans to sweeten Self's $1.375 million per year deal.
Hopefully he'll use a lot of sugar.
After what he has accomplished at Kansas, it's time to make Self one of the highest-paid coaches in college basketball.
If Kansas doesn't, Oklahoma State certainly will.
The numbers may be far-fetched, but the buzz circulating throughout the Final Four is that Oklahoma State is prepared to offer Self a 10-year, $40 million deal that would include a $10 million bonus if Self remains in Stillwater throughout the contract's entirety.
Most of that money would come from oil tycoon and prominent Cowboys booster Boone Pickens, who during the past five years has donated more than $230 million to the school for matters relating to both athletics and academics.
Kansas doesn't have a booster with that kind of coin, and even if it did, Perkins isn't the type of athletic director to solicit money from alumni to cover the costs of coaching salaries.
Perkins wants to be the one calling the shots when it comes to personnel, so in his effort to retain Self, don't expect him to call prominent alumni such as Dana Anderson and Tom Kivisto for help. Instead Perkins will dip into the athletic department budget to enhance Self's deal. Perkins won't get into a bidding war with Pickens for Self's services – and he shouldn't.
As much as Kansas would like to keep Self, matching Pickens' offer and making Self the highest-paid coach in college athletics – Alabama football coach Nick Saban earns $4 million per year – would send the wrong message. At some point you have to do what makes the most business sense.
The Kansas gig is one of the top five jobs in the country. The Jayhawks don't need to offer $4 million per year to attract a high-caliber coach. Still, if anyone deserves the extra cash it's Self, especially if he delivers what predecessor Roy Williams couldn't.
A national title.
Even before advancing to Monday's showdown against Memphis, Self boasted quite a résumé.
Self has won eight conference titles in the past 11 seasons and reached the Elite Eight four times. This weekend marks his first appearance in the Final Four, and Kansas responded by beating the tar out of No. 1 overall seed North Carolina, 84-66.
The Jayhawks have won 50 of their past 54 games under Self, who continues to squelch the good-recruiter-bad-coach stigma that's hovered over him during his first few years in Lawrence, although it should be mentioned that he has signed six McDonald's All-Americans during his time in Lawrence – and that doesn't count Brandon Rush.
Throw in Self's charisma and charm in public, and he easily is one of the most complete packages in the world of college coaching.
Now it's time for him to be paid like it.
Florida's Billy Donovan earns more than any college coach at $3.5 million per year. No one expects Perkins to match that. But Self certainly should be the highest-paid coach in the Big 12. Right now Texas' Rick Barnes holds that title at $2 million per year.
And Self certainly should be earning more than Kansas football coach Mark Mangino, who makes about $1.5 million per season plus incentives.
"When the season is over, we're going to sit down and we're going to talk," said Self, referring to he and Perkins. "We're going to talk and get everything ironed out, so hopefully I can be here for a while. I take him at his word and he takes me at mine."
That's why Perkins doesn't seem all that worried about losing Self, whom he said walked into his office last week and said, "I'm not going anywhere."
But Roy Williams said that, too. So did Billy Gillispie at Texas A&M and Saban with the Miami Dolphins. Heck, last year Julian Wright vowed numerous times that he wouldn't leave school early for the NBA.
Sometimes feelings and emotions change – especially when someone is waving a $50 million check in front of your face.
Even if it came from two miles away at Haskell Indians College, Self would have to consider such a gaudy offer. Throw in the fact that he and his wife are Oklahoma State alums, and you can bet that there at least will be some sort of courtship from the Cowboys before Self cuts things off.
If he does at all.
I suspect Self will. Kansas is one of the premier jobs in the country. Oklahoma State is a top-40 job, and as much as he would love the money, Self also has an ego. There are too many things he still wants to accomplish, and it's too early in his career for him to take a step back.
Perhaps the Cowboys are getting the hint. News surfaced Sunday that they've discussed the opening with former Kansas, UCLA and NBA coach Larry Brown. The hire would be a great one – and heck, the Cowboys may not have to shell out as much money to get him.
Brown already is a multimillionaire.
Self, finally, is about to be, too.
- Lew Perkins