When you are successful, it's only natural that people will search for a reason to criticize. A reason to chip away at what you've accomplished, expose your flaws and find chinks in the armor. For Bill Self and Kansas in general, one such area is the NBA Draft.
Self and Kansas as a whole have often faced criticism of late due to the fact that they recruit and attract top level talent, but that talent doesn't always translate to top flight NBA careers. This year Xavier Henry actually became the first ever one-and-done Jayhawk.
Paul Pierce is likely the most identifiable Jayhawk in the NBA after winning a Finals MVP award and now continuing to play well on the back end of a very successful career with the Celtics. At the same time you have players like Raef LaFrentz, Jacque Vaughn and Scot Pollard from the same Jayhawks teams who have never found that same level of notoriety despite very long and profitable stints in the NBA.
The Roy Williams era at Kansas can also lay claim to a sought after journeyman in Drew Gooden, and two fairly solid contributors out of Iowa in Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich.
More recently the Bill Self led Jayhawks have placed Darnell Jackson, Julian Wright, Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers and Wayen Simien ('05-'07) in the pros. Outside of the NBA, Sasha Kaun makes a successful living playing basketball in his home country of Russia while Russell Robinson continues his journey playing professionally in the NBDL.
Do any of these names necessarily jump off the page? Maybe not, but these players have been given a shot to further their careers at the highest level and part of the reason why is because of what they were able to take away from their time at Kansas.
If a school afforded you the opportunity to play two, three or four years and move on for an additional opportunity to make a living at the highest level possible would you take it?
Critics point to 11 McDonald's All-Americans and "zero" NBA success stories. No Kansas isn't full of Paul Pierce type stories, but how many other programs can gloat multiple players of that caliber? Duke is probably one of the more successful programs in this regard, but there are more examples of programs and even player of the year-caliber producers at the collegiate level who struggle in the NBA.
The NBA is a grueling exercise of survival. One minute you are the next best thing, the next you are expendable. The most important thing a coach can likely do is prepare his player for the difficulties and challenges they will face in the NBA ideally ensuring some level of long term success. The second most important thing a university or coach can do is provide the pedigree to give them every advantage to get that chance. Kansas and Self can do that.
For it's part Kansas currently ranks in the top 10 in terms of players on an NBA roster from the same program. In fact, former Jayhawks represented over a quarter of all Big 12 players on an opening day NBA roster at the start of the 2009-2010 season.
The average length of an NBA career currently rests around 4.75 seasons. Exceed that and you've beaten the odds. Ideally you've given yourself a nice head start in life and you can go on to face the next step in the journey.
Kansas will very likely continue to draw criticism for their lack of perceived success in this department. While that criticism continues however, there likely won't be a team or a coach in the Big 12(-2) that will be able to claim as many players in an NBA uniform as Self and Kansas.