Storybook ending: Bill Self, Kansas Jayhawks win National Championship

Apr 4, 2022; New Orleans, LA, USA; Kansas Jayhawks head coach Bill Self celebrates after beating the North Carolina Tar Heels during the 2022 NCAA men's basketball tournament Final Four championship game at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 4, 2022; New Orleans, LA, USA; Kansas Jayhawks head coach Bill Self celebrates after beating the North Carolina Tar Heels during the 2022 NCAA men's basketball tournament Final Four championship game at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports /

To win a National Championship in college basketball is a special thing. It’s arguably the hardest championship to win in all of college athletics given the format of the NCAA Tournament and the parity that exists within the sport.

The Jayhawks just earned their fourth NCAA title in school history after beating the North Carolina Tar Heels 72-69, overcoming the largest deficit ever in the championship game.

Each one of the Jayhawks’ previous titles were special in different ways.

The 1952 championship was Phog Allen’s first (and only) NCAA title. The 1988 championship was one of the most improbable runs in NCAA history led by “Danny and the Miracles.” The 2008 championship was Self’s first and featured one of the most memorable shots ever made in the NCAA Tournament, “Mario’s Miracle.”

But this year’s championship may be the most special one of all.

What it means for Self

I recently wrote about what a second championship would mean for Self’s legacy and now it’s come to fruition.

Self is without a doubt now the most successful coach in Kansas history.

No disrespect to Phog Allen and all he did for Kansas and the game of basketball, but between all the conference championships, conference tournament championships, NCAA Tournament wins, and now the two national championships, Self’s resume is simply better than Allen’s and will be even stronger by the time he leaves Kansas.

Last night’s win also makes Self the best coach currently in men’s college basketball.

With Roy Williams retiring last year and Mike Krzyzewski retiring this year, there is no one currently coaching with a better list of accomplishments than Bill Self. Not Jay Wright, not Jim Boeheim, not Tom Izzo, no one.

But most importantly, this particular championship is so special because of what it means to Self and his family.

Self’s father, Bill Self Sr., whom Bill Self called his hero during his Hall of Fame induction speech, passed away in January earlier this year.

Losing the man that inspired him to coach and helped convince him to take the job at Kansas in 2003, was a significant moment in Self’s life and this season.

For Self to honor his late father by winning the national championship nearly two months after his passing, it doesn’t get any more special than that.

Past finishes avenged

Last week, we talked about how there were a couple of opportunities for KU to earn some revenge during this Final Four weekend and boy did they get it.

On Saturday, the Jayhawks handily beat the Villanova Wildcats – avenging the 2016 and 2018 teams’ whose seasons were ended by Villanova in heartbreaking fashion.

The Jayhawks have also made the Final Four every time it’s been hosted in New Orleans since 1993. Those previous three trips all ended in heartbreak as well, but not this year.

Whatever type of New Orleans voodoo existed with this team in previous years was wiped away with the win last night.

For some of the older Jayhawk generations, last nights’ win against North Carolina also avenged a crushing loss nearly 60 years ago to the Tar Heels in the 1957 National Championship.

The game went to triple overtime and featured KU’s brightest star, Wilt Chamberlain. The Tar Heels triple-teamed Chamberlain and held on to the ball to prevent him from scoring.

It wasn’t against the rules at the time because there was no shot clock, but it was seen as a dirty tactic that ended the Jayhawks’ title hopes. When Chamberlain returned to Kansas to have his jersey retired in 1998, he called the game the most difficult loss of his life.

Now the late Chamberlain can rest easy because his Jayhawks finally got their revenge.

Furthermore, last night’s win was special because it helped ease the pain of the 2020 NCAA Tournament that was canceled due to COVID.

That Kansas team, featuring Devon Dotson, Marcus Garrett, and Udoka Azubuike, was going to be the No. 1 overall seed and the favorite to cut down the nets. But they never got their chance.

Winning the national championship last night does not completely erase that pain, but you can tell by the reaction of Dotson following the game when Self handed him a 2022 National Champs hat and said, “This should be yours,” the win meant a lot to him too.

What lies ahead

Another reason why this championship may be the most special of them all is because of the timing of when it was captured.

The Kansas basketball program is still under NCAA investigation and it’s likely they’ll (finally) know their punishment in the very near future.

It’s unclear what penalties will be handed down to the national champs, but if there is a 2023 postseason ban, that just makes this year’s championship that much sweeter.

If KU is going to be out of the tournament for a year or two, what better way to go out then going out on top?

Seeing NCAA President Mark Emmert – who is viewed by many Kansas fans as enemy No. 1 for his seemingly relentless persecution of Self and the Kansas program over the past few years – hand over the championship trophy last night was almost as good of a feeling as winning the game itself.

To many Kansas basketball fans – and probably Bill Self – winning the national championship last night felt like the ultimate “stick-it” moment to Emmert and the NCAA.

Regardless of the path it took to get here, the demons that were overcome, and the uncertainty that lies ahead, the 2022 season for the Kansas Jayhawks will forever be remembered by their coach, their players, and their fans as one of the most special seasons in school history, thanks to last night’s storybook ending.