Bill Self, Barack Obama talk hoops

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Kansas Jayhawks basketball coach Bill Self had a chance to talk hoops with Barack Obama during the president's trip through Kansas on Tuesday.

Self said he received an email from Obama's staff inviting him to a speech being delivered in Osawatomie, Kan., a small town about 60 miles from the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence.

Self initially declined the invitation because of the Jayhawks' game Tuesday night against Long Beach State, but he wound up meeting Obama before the president delivered a speech that touched on the economy and began to lay the groundwork for his re-election.

"You know, pretty cool. I don't suppose he emails everybody," Self said. "So I emailed back and said, 'Sorry, I have to respectfully decline. We have a game and we have to practice.' And they said, 'Well, you could come to the meet and greet.' "

Obama asked that Self go last so that they could spend a little extra time discussing hoops.

Obama is a big basketball fan who regularly plays in pickup games, and he's attended numerous games during his time in office, including a matchup last month between North Carolina and Michigan State that was played on an aircraft carrier in San Diego.

Self said he's met the past three presidents.

Bill Clinton visited Allen Fieldhouse once he left office, and Self had a chance to take his team to the White House to meet George W. Bush after it won the national championship in 2008.

"One of the coolest things I've ever experienced," Self recalled. "After he finished recognizing us in the Rose Garden, he said, 'Hey Bill, I want you, all your players, all the families, to go to the Oval Office now. I want to talk to you guys.' He spent 45 minutes taking pictures and talking to everybody. The one thing it showed me is the respect you should have for the office."

More than anything, that's why Self decided to take the drive to Osawatomie on Tuesday.

Self said he talked about a range of topics with Obama, including the president's brother-in-law, Craig Robinson, who is the coach at Oregon State. Robinson has the Beavers off to a 6-1 start.

They also chatted about Obama's annual NCAA tournament bracket, which he fills out for ESPN during March Madness. The president has picked the Jayhawks to win the national championship the past two years, only for them to get knocked out by Northern Iowa and Virginia Commonwealth.

"I asked him one favor: Don't ever pick us to win anything again," Self said. "He said, 'You cost me money.' I said, 'Not as much as you cost me.' "