Look, it was the heat of the moment. We both said things we didn’t mean. Neither of us handled the situation well. Let’s just be happy we’re back together.
And so it was with the break-up and reconciliation between Brandon Rush and the Kansas basketball program. Or was it John Mayer and Jessica Simpson?
Last week’s announcement that Rush would be returning to KU for his junior season created a deluge of warm, fuzzy feelings rarely seen in this day and age of underclassmen jumping to the NBA, whether they really should or not. Bad knee or no, it seemed like everyone was happy.
“We’re just glad he’s back,” Darnell Jackson said. “He’s a big key to this team.”
Darrell Arthur said, “We got him back. That’s a good thing. When we get him healthy, we’ll be ready for our goal, and that’s a national championship.”
Even Rush was about as giddy as a guy can get in a prepared statement issued through KU sports information: "We have a great team returning and I love my teammates…The people at Kansas and the fans have treated me so well. It is hard to pass up the opportunity to experience another year of that."
He even went so far as to say that he thought all along that he would probably return to school. Easy there, Brandon. No reason to say anything outrageous there.
Through all these good feelings, however, one key person has remained conspicuously reserved.
KU head coach Bill Self has spoken at length about how Rush utilized the system the way it was intended to see just where he would fall in the draft.
Self has gone on and on about how Rush’s health is first and foremost and that the young man will get the best care anywhere.
Self’s talked about how Rush can use this year to address some limitations in his game and improve his stock dramatically.
But we have yet to hear Self gush about how glad he is that Rush is back.
Brandon Rush may be about to experience tough love, Bill Self-style.
Right or wrong, the coach made his feelings about Rush’s decision-making process known via the media after it happened. It wasn’t pretty. And while Self can speak coachspeak when he must, he’s never been a man who manufactures a quote when he doesn’t mean it or a reaction when it isn’t genuine.
I expect Rush to be made to earn his spot on the team all over again.
This isn’t a spiteful thing, and I am in now way suggesting there’s a rift between Self and Rush. If anyone understands how young men can decide something one minute and do the exact opposite the next, it’s Bill Self.
What I am suggesting, though, is that Self cares enough about Rush, Rush’s future and that of the 2007-08 Jayhawks to play the cold-hearted, jilted one here who demands that relationships be rebuilt and that trust and respect be re-earned. After all, Rush’s bags were packed and the U-Haul was rented. He was gonzo. Why should he be welcomed back, carte blanche?
Now that he is back, he needs to kiss the right rings and show he truly wants to be back. And he knows the best way to do that is to average 18 and 9 this season and lead his team to a Final Four.
Self also knows this. He also knows being a coach isn’t a popularity contest, and even though he’s a player’s coach, Self knows what buttons to push with each player and when to push them.
Brandon Rush is at his best when he’s making people laugh, playing practical jokes, having fun – in short, when everyone’s happy.
If Bill Self is as good a motivator as I think he is, expect him to make Rush’s immediate return, well, difficult.