LAWRENCE — This, for once, was a subject Bill Self didn’t appear eager to grab by the horns.
Self was seated before reporters Friday at Allen Fieldhouse shortly after the Jayhawks’ annual Late Night in the Phog event, which serves as the unofficial start of the Kansas men’s and women’s basketball seasons. The evening mostly featured standard fare included throughout the event’s now 35-year history — skits, scrimmages, dancing and a concert.
Only that last aspect — the main event of the evening — was anything but by-the-book.
Rap legend Snoop Dogg was the featured performer at Late Night, and his 30-plus-minute set could at the very least be described as provocative. It included explicit lyrics, scantily clad pole dancers, a mascot called "Nasty Dogg" that carried an oversized prop marijuana joint and, most notably given the program’s recent NCAA troubles, a money gun that sprayed fake dollar bills in the direction of KU players and recruiting targets in attendance and seated behind the Jayhawk bench.
Speaking roughly 45 minutes after the event’s conclusion, Self at first bit his tongue on the subject of the Snoop Dogg production.
Discussing the change in format that places the concert after the men’s scrimmage, Self gave his approval, though he stressed the word format. Asked later what he thought about the performance, Self rerouted his answer to discuss his players’ effort in the scrimmage.
“Was that a good job of just not answering the freakin’ question?” Self quipped at the end of his response.
Eventually, Self did directly discuss the concert, a performance that had already drawn criticism from national pundits well before any words left the head coach's mouth.
“I didn’t know that there was going to be anything like that,” Self said. “I was told that this was radio edited and everything else. I guess you don’t have visuals on radio. I learned that tonight. But no, that’s not the direction that anybody at our school would want that to go, at all. Regardless of the entertainment that it provided many, it was still not the right way to provide the entertainment.
“I only stayed for a couple songs. I wasn’t feeling well. I went back in the locker room. So I didn’t listen to or see the majority of what went down, but certainly I got a pretty good idea based on the first couple of songs.”
KU athletic director Jeff Long also chimed in through a subsequent statement sent to the Lawrence Journal-World, apologizing to anyone offended by Snoop Dogg’s performance.
"We made it clear to the entertainers' managers that we expected a clean version of the show and took additional steps to communicate to our fans, including moving the artist to the final act of the evening, to ensure no basketball activities would be missed if anyone did not want to stay for his show," Long said. "I take full responsibility for not understanding what acrobatic dancers are in today's entertainment world and offer my personal apology to anyone who was offended.
“We strive to create a family atmosphere at Kansas and fell short of that this evening."
In hindsight, Self’s first comments of the night appear prophetic.
Taking center court publicly for the first time since the program was delivered an NCAA notice of allegations late last month — KU was hit with five Level 1 violations including a lack of institutional control charge against Self and is in the midst of the 90-day window it has to prepare a response — Self didn’t shy away from alluding to the unflattering headlines.
“I’ve heard from some people that bad publicity is better than no publicity,” said Self, eliciting a roar from the crowd. “I actually don’t believe that for a minute, but it felt pretty good to say."
“As you guys know, we’re kind of going through some choppy waters right now,” Self said. “But I want everybody to listen to me real quick on this: We’ve been here now starting our 17th year, and I’ll tell you this, in the prior 16 years I’ve never been more proud to be the coach of your Kansas Jayhawks than I am going into this season.”
And it’s a season the head coach doesn’t seem to be putting any limitations on.
“I say this wholeheartedly,” Self told the audience, lifting his hand above his head. “I think that your expectations should be off the charts for this year.”