Bill Self is universally regarded as a big-time recruiter, one of the best in college basketball. The coach of the newly crowned NCAA championship team once signed Dee Brown, Luther Head, Deron Williams and most of the players who took Illinois to second place in the 2005 NCAA tournament and wooed Julian Wright and Sherron Collins to Kansas.
But Self isn't the most accomplished salesman who ever sold a high school prospect on spending four years in Lawrence, Kan.
Meet Sam Miranda.
In an era before cell phones, text messaging and other outside influences such as the Internet, summer coaches and street agents, Miranda served as Ted Owens' assistant coach and recruiter from 1963 to 1976. His primary responsibility? Recruiting talent in Illinois, from Chicago to East St. Louis.
Miranda knew the state well. An all-stater at Collinsville in 1948, he played for Branch McCracken at Indiana. He coached at Galatia for one year, Vandalia for two years and Kankakee for five years. Then he was an assistant coach at New Mexico for two years before joining Owens at Kansas.
It didn't take him long to make an impact. He had persuaded Collinsville star Rodger Bohnenstiehl to commit to New Mexico. But when Miranda left to Kansas, Bohnenstiehl followed. And that was just the beginning.
"I was from Illinois and knew it was a great basketball state," Miranda said. "I knew a lot of high school coaches. I figured we had to outwork people. I was on the phone every night from 7 to 10 talking to players in Illinois. We had practice on Friday afternoon. Afterward, I'd catch a flight in Kansas City, fly to Illinois, see a game, visit with parents, go to dinner, then fly back on a 12:45 flight to Kansas City."
Nobody was more successful. Miranda wooed JoJo White from St. Louis to Kansas. White wanted to go to Cincinnati because of Oscar Robertson. But Cincinnati couldn't get film on him. "You don't have to see him play," a coach told Miranda. "He can play." Miranda didn't hesitate to make an offer.
"I went to Kansas because I couldn't talk to any other coaches. I was always on the phone with Sam," White later said.
Miranda also recruited Bob and Tom Kivisto out of East Aurora, Tom, now an oilman in Tulsa, Okla., donated millions of dollars to renovate Kansas' football stadium. He also recruited Rich Bradshaw (Marshall), Roger Brown (Englewood) and Donnie Von Moore (Kenwood) out of Chicago, Roger Morningstar from Dundee, Dave Robisch from Springfield, Dale Greenlee from Rockford Guilford, Tommie Smith from Kewanee and Rick Suttle from East St. Louis Assumption.
Oh, he lost a few along the way. Collinsville great Tom Parker was set to attend Kansas, then was wooed by Adolph Rupp and Joe B. Hall to Kentucky. Marion's Greg Starrick also opted for Kentucky.
"I once stayed in Joliet for a week to recruit Roger Powell," Miranda recalled. "I saw his mother every morning and took them out to dinner at night. He signed with Kansas but didn't pass the test. He ended up at Illinois State."
Now retired and living in Lawrence, Kan., Miranda admires Self, who has a philosophy of recruiting in Illinois. His predecessor, Roy Williams, preferred California. "Self believes there is nobody he can't get," Miranda said.
"I always felt the key point was to sell yourself. There always was one person in the family that you had to get on your side. If you sold him or her, chances are you would get the kid. I'd talk about Kansas' success and Wilt Chamberlain. Everybody had heard of Wilt."