GLENDALE — While the team itself may have only advanced to the Elite Eight, Kansas has had a pretty good Final Four week.
Senior guard Frank Mason III took home both the Associated Press and Oscar Robertson national player of the year honors, and on Saturday coach Bill Self was named to the 2017 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class.
Self and former Houston Rockets star Tracy McGrady headlined the 11-person class of inductees announced at the Final Four during a news conference at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The Kansas coach has an all-time record of 623-193 between stops at Oral Roberts, Tulsa, Illinois and with the Jayhawks, winning a national title and reaching the Final Four twice.
Self received the call in an odd twist of circumstance. As he was driving towards his home, his phone buzzed. When he heard he was to be inducted, he looked up and found himself on Naismith Drive in Lawrence, Kansas. He pulled off the road to understand the magnitude of the moment.
“The thing that I think hit me the soonest was the journey,” Self said. “And certainly how many people have played a significant role in helping me and putting me in a position. And the more I thought about that, the list just grows and grows and grows.”
Self joins an illustrious list of Kansas basketball figures in the hall, including Dr. James Naismith, who invented basketball. Phog Allen, who coached at Kansas, and Adolph Rupp, who played there and won four national titles while coaching at Kentucky also are in the hall. Self said just to be included in the same group of names as such coaches, as well as notable Jayhawk alums such as Wilt Chamberlain, was humbling.
“There’s not many places that can do that,” Self said. “To be part of something that’s so much bigger than an individual ever will be, and to be — your role while you’re there is to be a caretaker.”
McGrady averaged 19.6 points per game and garnered seven All-Star appearances in 15 NBA seasons after being selected straight out of Mount Zion Christian Academy with the ninth overall pick of the 1997 NBA Draft.
McGrady attributed much of his success to Sonny Vaccaro, the shoe company marketing executive who convinced a young McGrady to sign a shoe deal with Adidas out of high school. Vaccaro was best known for establishing basketball camps, including one McGrady attended.
“He made sure this guy out of this small town that nobody had a clue of, and he made sure that I was comfortable and took great care of me that whole weekend,” McGrady said of Vaccaro. “And leaving that basketball camp of Sonny Vaccaro, I was the No. 1 player in the nation when I left there.”
McGrady said he was emotional when he discovered the news, delivering it to his wife, Clerenda, with tears in his eyes. It was a difficult call to make despite the incredible news.
“I did start crying, I’ll tell you that,” McGrady said. “I was trying to call my wife once I got off the phone, but my eyes were so watery and I was so nervous I was opening up every app on my phone but the right one to make a call.”
McGrady was never able to win a title as a player — his closest run came as a reserve for the Spurs in 2013 — but felt validated to know he had made it to Springfield, Mass.
“This is my championship,” he said. “This is everything that I wanted to play for with this game that I love. Started at a young age. Today certified my basketball career, bar none.”
Other inductees include Connecticut and WNBA legend Rebecca Lobo, 2001 national champion coach Muffet McGraw of Notre Dame, high school coach Robert Hughes and ABA star George McGinnis.
International star Nikos Galis, Harlem Globetrotter player and executive Mannie Jackson and Tom Jernstedt, the former NCAA vice president considered to be the “Father of the Final Four,” also will be inducted. Jernstedt was a quarterback at Oregon, which is among the teams at the Final Four.
When Jernstedt first received the call, he didn’t think much of it. Maybe the NCAA needed help for the Final Four in Phoenix, which is underway this weekend, and wanted his guidance. Instead, it turned into life-changing news that will forever attach his name to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
“I reluctantly picked it up and was stunned and overwhelmed to receive the message that I did,” Jernstedt said.
Former Harlem Globetrotter Zack Clayton and longtime Chicago Bulls executive Jerry Krause — who helped build a dynasty in the 1990s around Michael Jordan — were honored posthumously for their contributions to the game.
Jerry Colangelo, former Phoenix Suns managing partner and the chairman of the board of the Hall of Fame, spoke glowingly about the 2017 Hall of Fame class, which will be formally enshrined in Springfield on Sept. 8.
“I know you can tell by some of the emotion, you can feel it, we certainly did last night when each of them shared their story about their journey, and we’re just excited to have this group,” Colangelo said.