Commentary | Kansas coach shows true Self at Dick Vitale Gala; Bowden holds court

adell@bradenton.comMay 19, 2013 

If Andrew Wiggins was at the Dick Vitale Gala, he likely would've pointed to Bill Self as the reason he chose Kansas.

It's all about keeping things in perspective.

Despite being the nation's top-rated basketball recruit and the Naismith High School Player of The Year, Wiggins did his signing in private among a small gathering of family and friends.

"I just followed by heart," the Huntington (W.Va.) Prep star said.

Those who spent time with Self at Friday's gala could see how heart played a role in Wiggins' decision.

Self has won a national title, has been to two Final Fours and earns a base salary is close to $4 million annually. But in many ways, he is your average Joe.

He wanted to talk more about the gala than landing a player who could win him a national title and boost his reputation as a recruiter.

"It's humbling to be here at the gala. What it does for everybody who leaves here is make you stop and think whether we are really worried about the right things," Self said. "We need to slow down, appreciate life and love on each other as opposed to be being caught up in the day-to-day hustle that we think is so important, but in the big scheme of things is irrelevant."

Wiggins figures to make the biggest splash at Kansas since Wilt Chamberlain and Danny Manning.

Born and raised in Toronto, the 6-foot-7 forward is being thought of in the same light as NBA great Steve Nash, also a Canadian. But he is a person who seeks to avoid the limelight off the court.

Self wants people to look at Wiggins as a kid just out of high school, but concedes that's going to be tough, especially at Kansas, where basketball passions run high 24 hours a day.

"In our neck of the woods, he is the biggest thing that has come to Kansas since Manning or even Chamberlain," Self said. "There is pressure on him, but I don't think you temper expectations. You might as well embrace them. He is just a kid, but I think it will make him tougher and hopefully prepare him for the future."

Self knows he likely will have Wiggins for only one season. He doesn't like the NBA rule that forces high school players to wait a year after graduation to join the league.

"I wish the kids could go if they wanted to, though there is a lot of misinformation going around. A lot of kids are ill-informed and want to believe they are ready for the NBA when they are not," Self said.

"But first of all, I am humbled to be a very small part of this (gala). As a coach, there is a next game and another season. We are very competitive with each other, so why can't we join forces and be competitive against this disease."

Bowden's secrets

The first celebrity to arrive at Friday's festivities was Bobby Bowden. The former FSU coaching icon held what you might call a small town meeting with several scribes and handed out some tidbits he might have otherwise kept to himself:

Q: Best player you ever coached?

A: "That's easy Deion Sanders. Nobody had his talent, amazing speed and athleticism."

But he didn't like to tackle?

"He didn't have to; nobody could catch a pass off him."

Your best quarterback?

"Charlie Ward, and Chris Weinke would be second. Ward led us to a national title in '93, and Chris got us one in 1999. He was 25 years old when he played for us, and it was like having a coach on the field. The players listened to him. But Charlie could do it all."

Best running back?

"Roosevelt Snipes (from Sarasota). He was the best, but couldn't stay out of trouble and only played two years for us. He had a tryout with the San Francisco 49ers. Bill Wash offered him a contract, gave him $10,000 on the spot. He took the money and left. They never saw him again."

Your best team?

"We won national championships in 1993 and 1999, but 1987 our best team. We were 11-1 with only loss, 26-25 to Miami." FSU beat Nebraska 31-28 in the Fiesta Bowl that season and finished ranked second in nation to Miami (12-0).

Unforgettable season?

"In 1981, we went on the road for five straight games. We beat Ohio State, Notre Dame and LSU and lost to Nebraska and Pittsburgh (ranked third). We were beat up after that, lost our last three games of the season (finished 6-5) and didn't get a bowl bid. In those years, we were trying to build a reputation."

Most electrifying player?

"Peter Warrick. He would've won the Heisman Trophy in 1999 if not for the incident." Warrick was arrested for allegedly underpaying for clothes at a Tallahassee store. At the time he was considered the Heisman front runner.

Martin primed

Self wasn't the only person who had what might be called a good offseason. Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin, one of the NFL's top rookies last season, couldn't hide his excitement over some of his new teammates, mainly cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Dashon Goldson.

"The additions we made in the secondary are awesome. I can't wait to see what Revis and Goldson can do. They make everybody's job easier," Martin said. "People will be expecting us to make the playoffs, and that's good. It's not extra pressure. The goal is to win the Super Bowl. Right now we are doing workouts, getting into the film room and going over the playbook and getting ready for OTAs."

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.

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