Interim AD Sean Lester and Basketball Coach Bill Self Hold Press Conference
Sept. 7, 2010
Joint Press Conference
Sept. 7, 2010
Interim AD Sean Lester
"Good afternoon, everybody. I think probably the most important thing right now is to pay a particular thank you to Lew Perkins for what he's done over the last seven years here at Kansas Athletics. I think if you walk around, you look at his vision. What he's provided to student athletes, the staff, facilities and just across the country, he's really put Kansas on the map in a lot of different ways. I've been with him a long time and I thank him for that. Earlier today the Chancellor contacted me. We had a meeting and she asked if I would serve as the interim Athletics Director. Lew was retiring today. I said yes and we have now been going through that process. We will be meeting later today to talk further about the things that she would like to see and how the next several months will take place. I think it's important to know that she's got a plan in place for the hiring of the next Athletics Director. I think that's a wonderful start and I'm the first part of that plan. With that, I'll turn it over to Coach Self."
Kansas Men's Basketball Head Coach Bill Self
"Well, today to me, I think I speak for the entire Athletic Department, is bittersweet. We knew that this day would come. We just thought it would come a year later. Certainly, I think, based on what I've been told visiting with Lew and the Chancellor, that the parties met today and came to a conclusion that was in the best interest of both parties to go ahead and have Lew announce his retirement effective immediately. I echo what Sean said. Lew's done an awful lot for a lot of people around here. He's come in at a time where there had to be some very unpopular decisions that were made. He certainly had the backbone and the guts to do a lot of things that maybe a lot of people would have not had the backbone or guts to do, which has played out later on, as evidenced by the improvements we made in buildings and grounds, to be very positive. The last year, as everyone knows and has been very well documented, has been a very interesting time. A part of me is a little disappointed and sad because I felt like Lew treated all of his coaches and all of his student athletes very, very well. But also a part of me is very excited about the future and the direction in which we're going. Sean is obviously the first step in that. Everybody in the department knows how much Sean's done since he's been here and knows how much Lew has leaned on him and knows what a huge role he has played with everything going on in our department and also his fellow administrators that have been so good and so qualified over time. We still have the pieces in place. I agree with what Sean said 100 percent. Having visited the Chancellor today, there is a plan, and from what I understand and from what I know, the plan is good. It's definitely a transitional period but it's also a period of great opportunity for us. I'm not really excited about the timing but I am excited about the direction so that's about where we are today."
On whether they were surprised by the announcement:
"I was shocked. I was probably as surprised as anybody because we expected this next September. I had no idea it would be today, so I'm very surprised."
"I got a call from the Chancellor at about 11:30 (a.m.) maybe. That was the first wind I got of it. Certainly, as soon as I heard from her, I called (former Athletics Director) Lew (Perkins), and he confirmed the exact thing that she told me. This all came down in a very quick manner."
On whether Lester would like the full-time position:
"Right now, my focus is on leadership within the department. The Chancellor's plan is in place, and my goal is Interim Athletics Director. I would love to be an A.D. somewhere, no question about it, and if that's Kansas, that's Kansas. But right now, my mission is Interim A.D. for the University of Kansas."
On whether Perkins recommended Lester for the job:
"(The Chancellor) did not say that to me."
On what the Chancellor's plan for the future is:
"That meeting will be later today. We did have a brief discussion today, but we will be meeting later this evening to discuss what her charge is for the next several months."
On what Perkins' legacy will be:
"I think from a person on the inside, I think his legacy will be how he has given every coach here the opportunity and resources to compete at the highest level. From a student-athlete's standpoint, I think that everyone would be in 100 percent agreement that his concern for student-athletes and their welfare far surpasses anyone I've ever been around that has held a similar position. From the outside looking in, we'll drive around campus three, five or 10 years from now and look around and say, `Man, I'm glad we got that done when we got it done.' Certainly, he was able to capitalize on a very hot time here. If he had waited to do that, then we would have no chance to be where we are right now. He has given us a chance to recruit--selling the same things that other schools are selling--that five years from now, we probably wouldn't have if he wasn't here. I think his legacy in large part will be buildings and grounds to the alumni that support this university."
On whether the present security of the Big 12 Conference had anything to do with Perkins' retirement:
"I don't know if that was part of Lew's decision-making or not. You would have to ask the Chancellor or Lew."
On if Perkins had put more on Lester's plate in recent months:
"There has been some transition over the last couple of months, giving me the opportunity to do some new things, which is good. It's been an excellent opportunity to lead the department in a different direction and continue to make this place grow."
On the Chancellor's plans for replacing Perkins:
"This is the first step, and I think her plan will be laid out in a couple of days."
"I think that is a question only (the Chancellor) should answer."
On Perkins' future plans:
"I really don't know. During the five minute phone call we had this morning, we didn't really go into that stuff. He'd been in the business a long time, and he's served several universities very well. I think that with everything that has taken place in the last 12 months and the microscope that he and the department have been under, I hope he takes some time to himself and his family to relax. I think he has deserved that."
On whether the Chancellor indicated if she wants Self's help with the selection process:
"She didn't say that. I think the Chancellor, with the help of Sean and a group of others, will have her arms pretty well wrapped around it. If she wants my input, I would be very happy to give it, but I don't think I am in a position to bring candidates to the table at all. I would certainly give input if she asked for it, but I'm not campaigning for anybody."
On criteria for the next Athletics Director:
"I think that person needs to be high-energy and understand that the product we have here is great. I've said this to Lew and our Chancellor: the Athletics Directorship at the University of Kansas is a far-better position than it was eight years ago. I do believe that we should be able to attract the perfect fit for us and what we're looking for. I want somebody who will come in here and love this place as much as we love it, and also be able to sell it and have a passion about it. I think there would be a lot of people out there very interested in doing that."
On Lester's emotions today:
"I was very surprised. I had no idea, so when you get a call to visit with the Chancellor and you don't know what it's about, then she asks you that question, it's a little surprising. I look forward to meeting with her later so we can talk more about it. I'm shocked and surprised, but also excited. It's an excellent opportunity for me and I'm going to take advantage of the opportunity."
"I know that Lew Perkins is a man of vision. He came to the University of Kansas and has made each sport better in terms of athletics and academics. He has improved the facilities to aid in recruiting student-athletes to this great institution. He has taken into account the welfare of many coaches, staff and student-athletes in such a way that he will be missed by everyone. I hope the best for Gwen and Lew. I know that they will enjoy spending time with family and friends."